It’s ‘Single Dad Week’ in our household and there have been no casualties so far. Result!
I’m two days in to my six-day stint as a single dad of three while Heather is away with work in South Africa. Sitrep: so far, so good.
To be fair, aside from saying goodbye at the airport, the first couple of days were always going to be the easiest.
Even the trip to and from Heathrow was lacking in tears from either Heather or the kids, as all three of them took her departure in their stride despite a long delay while British Airways sorted out overnight accommodation for her after her flight was cancelled at short notice.
We arrived home to be greeted by Grandma and Grandpa, who had kindly offered to come down for a couple of days. So any loneliness was soon offset by excitement at the prospect of someone else to play games and read bedtime stories with.
In addition to providing me with extra helping hands, it also meant the kids were on their best behaviour and eager to impress. On Monday morning, they were ready to go fully 40 minutes early – in an unprecedented turn of events, I had to ask them to take their coats and shoes off. This has never happened before. (And it will probably never happen again.)
And when I arrived home after work, a beaming Kara was waiting at the open door calling, “Daddy! Welcome ho-ome!” having had an energetic day basking in her grandparents’ undivided attention.
The kids’ dinner was followed by board games with Grandpa and Top Gear and other programmes with me before stories and bed.
This morning, however, I could see the tide starting to shift. The children always get progressively more tired as the week goes on, so this morning there were some tears and mildly fractured tempers mixed in with the smiles.
This is normal in our household but exacerbated by the excitement of having visitors. The kids weren’t bad by any means but the slippery slope has begun. At least their grandparents got to enjoy them at their best, while I’ve had some time to refine my new morning routine ready for the rest of the week.
By Friday, I may require military reinforcements, though. Or, at the very least, a lot of wine.
So now it’s just me and a daily rhythm of getting everyone out of the door at 7:45am so that I can drop the boys off at the child minder’s, take Kara to preschool, drive to work for as close to 9:00am as the vagaries of the M4 will permit, leave at 4:30pm to do the preschool and after-school club pick-ups, get some food into the boys, shepherd them all into bed and get everything ready to do it all again the following morning. Rinse and repeat until the weekend rolls around and Heather returns.
It should make for an interesting few days. I’m getting used to picking up daily routines that Heather normally manages: an accumulation of little things such as getting the kids’ clothes and bags ready for the next morning. They’re unfamiliar to me so I’m slower and less efficient than her, but I’m speeding up with each passing day. That will be offset by the kids getting more tired and less co-operative as the week progresses, but that’s not news to me so it won’t come as a surprise.
In a perverse way, I’m looking forward to the grandparent-free balance of my week. While it’s been lovely to have my parents available to help, it almost makes life too easy for me and also sets unrealistic expectations for the kids, who quickly become accustomed to having three accommodating adults to wait on them hand and foot and offer a nice shiatsu massage on demand.
#SingleDadWeek Grandma and Grandpa have gone home. No more indulgence. Tomorrow sees the start of Boot Camp. Oh, hang on, that’s X Factor
— Slouching Thatcham (@thatchamdad) March 3, 2015
But for the next few days it will be just me in control. (In control? As if!) Not everything will get done the moment it is asked for as I whirl around the house sorting out dirty plates and washing and emptying the bins and the million-and-one other little jobs that Heather and I normally manage between us. The kids will get annoyed and I will get annoyed and I won’t have the security blanket of having someone else to pass them off to when they’re constantly nagging me and I just need a five-minute time-out because Daddy’s got a splitting headache, okay?
If the start of the week was a holiday camp for the kids, the rest of it will probably be more like boot camp. Only with poorer customer service. And more shouting.
It’ll be okay, though. Things will go wrong, sure. But I’m still looking forward to it, helped by the fact that there is light at the end of the tunnel – it is only four more days, after all!
So much of my positive mood is down to confidence – not something that ordinarily comes naturally to me. But having looked after both boys for nine days previously and regularly marshalled all three kids for a day here and there, I’ve evolved from a position of worrying about getting things right to not worrying if the odd little thing goes wrong.
Or, to put it another way, I no longer worry about trying to be a perfect dad – just a good one. And that’s fine by me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a large pile/small mountain of laundry to sift through to find some school clothes for tomorrow …