How a separated dad used alone time to deal with his new situation and prepare him and his children for their future.
After my separation, when my kids and I were on our own, it was weird. Not because we were on our own, or I was looking after them. No, there was an absence, not because someone was out and about doing something and would be back soon, but because our family was different now.
My ex moved in with her parents and the kids would be without their mum half the time and without me half the time. For a few weeks, the kids and I stayed in the only home they had known, before moving to a different place very nearby. It was a very odd few weeks. Patterns established in a home over an almost 7 year period, like who sits where on the lounge, what you cook on a Tuesday night for dinner, what show you’re gonna watch—it was all up for grabs now!
I was ok with all of that.
I wasn’t ok being without my kids half the time.
Those last few weeks in the old place were a blur of helping the kids dealing with the situation, finding a new place to live, cleaning up 7 years of crap on my own, sorting through all the kids stuff and packing up 3 lives and then some. The day to day stuff was fine, because I’d looked after the kids anyway. But my own grief, my children’s grief, and a house move on top of being away from my kids a few nights a week was brutal.
But in an odd way, I kind of embraced it. And I continue to embrace it in a different way now. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had a magic wand and could’ve prevented it all from happening, but that’s not reality. I knew that the only real way for the three of us to get through this was facing it head on.
On the days I’ve got the kids, I’m with them, 100%. We get up to all manner of shenanigans together, hang out having a massive tickle fight, go bushwalking, or just do nothing—together. It’s awesome! And when I’m not with them I hang out with friends, see other people, but importantly—and this is key—I spend time on my own!
I took the time to be on my own (and I’m not just talking romantically, I mean even away from friends). I wasn’t/am not a hermit, but I purposely took the time to be alone, on my lounge, or walking, or riding my bike. Mourning my lost future, mourning that my kids have lost forever the special security of a mum and dad in a happy home. I’d think on how to tackle an issue the kids were struggling with. Sometimes just chilling. Sometimes crying my eyes out. Just taking time out to think, to grieve, to try and understand what my new life would be.
And I don’t think it would have happened as successfully if I hadn’t taken that time up front. Just bitten the bullet and embraced the abyss!
It’s a big change going from spending almost every minute the kids are not in school with them, to… not. You don’t adapt to that overnight. That’s a big ass change to deal with! I had to learn what that was going to be like and it took time.
For instance, I miss out on seeing my kids at play. While that’s certainly happened before, I get a more “distant” explanation of those things now. My ex gets the same. We both miss out. We don’t get the detail of their every day anymore and our kids miss out on having us in person. I don’t miss any big “events”, I’m more talking about the daily stuff—the stuff of life and childhood—that it’d be nice to be a little closer to.
It’d be nice to experience that detail first hand. The joy on my daughter’s face when she “invents” a new joke. Or my son’s face and the wonder in his voice when he discovers he can click his fingers after trying and failing for so long! But I don’t anymore. I’m only close to it when I’m there because that’s our family now.
That will take a while to adapt to. It’s the thing I hate the most. Not being able to participate as much as I’d like to because they’re not with me that day. Not being able to watch them at play. Soon enough, they’re not going to want to play with me, or have me watch them play. They want it now, I want it now, but it can only happen half the time. Bummer. But that’s the brave new world their mum and I have made for them…
I obviously don’t get to tuck my kids into bed every night any more. I don’t get to run into their bedroom in the middle of the night when they call out. Or change the sheets at two in the morning when my little guy wets the bed. Who in their right mind misses that? Well… I imagine most parents that don’t get to see their kids every night, understand it.
Alone time did serve me well. I was always pretty together but it was a good opportunity to reflect. Nowadays, I don’t need as much of that alone time. I’ll take it and I enjoy it, but the processing it enabled me to do is more an entrenched thing now.
I know what my life is, and I’m ok with it. I still don’t like not being with my kids and I hate that they hurt, but the only healthy way for them to deal with it is by facing it head on too.
That might take the form of a quiet chat, an explanation (suitable for their age) on a tricky question they ask me.
Some time drawing in their Book of Feelings.
It might take tickling them until they are unable to breathe. Or a big ass cuddle/wrestle/tickle!
It may take a Tuesday Morning Dance Off (Uptown Funk is a current fave, alongside 99 Red Balloons) before school with a friend.
That alone time really didn’t just serve me. It allowed me to serve my kids too.