In some respects we thrived. In others we merely survived. But I’m glad to report that Single Dad Week drew to a close with all children still present and accounted for. I counted them all out and I counted them all back.*
Six days. Three children. One father, keeping it all together (barely) with a combination of seat-of-the-pants brinksmanship and plentiful supplies of paracetamol and pinot noir.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. (It was mostly rioja rather than pinot noir.)
Truth be told, I enjoyed my taster of single parenthood. Two days in, I was feeling pretty comfortable. Breakfast time became a daily highlight. And I was even able to joke about the pressure of getting everyone out of the door every morning.
However, the real stars of the week were the kids themselves. They may only be seven, five and not-quite-three, but I couldn’t have asked for much more of them during what was a tiring week all around. Isaac the mature and responsible big brother. Toby the mummy’s boy, who quietly dealt with Heather’s absence by snuggling up to me instead and being generally helpful in so many ways. And last but by no means least Kara, who took the lack of Mummy in her stride and didn’t throw a single diva strop throughout six days (setting a new personal best by five days, 23 hours and 55 minutes).
The three of them did things together, they did things separately, they did things both with and without me such as (more or less) getting themselves dressed on time. For a trio of kids who are all very close to their mother, fuss was kept to a minimum and I only had to tell them off on a handful of occasions.
We had breakfast together. We did bath-time and bedtime together. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games and smiles at every turn …
… But even when tiredness and boredom gave way to grumpiness and the occasional sibling niggle, they were never beyond my ability to control. It was almost as if they’d made some kind of secret pact between them in which they agreed to not to give me a hard time.
All three of them were stars and fully deserved the suitcase full of presents that Heather brought back for them from Johannesburg.
Of course, it was no surprise when they all flocked to Heather the moment she walked through our front door on Saturday morning. But I did notice that none of them ignored me completely. And my favourite moment of the entire week came later that day when Toby – normally the least tactile and empathetic of our children – sidled up to me, threw his arms around me to give me a cuddle and said with a little smile, “Thank you, Daddy. I had a really good time.”
Really, I didn’t do anything special last week. But the kids did, proving to me just how grown-up they’re becoming.
Actually, I like to think all four of us grew up a little bit over the course of six days.
* A reference to the BBC’s Brian Hanrahan’s most famous report during the Falklands War. Just because.