It now feels like we’ve known one another forever, A and I. In our separate households we entertain each other – he comes to mine when the children are off his hands and I go to his when I have a spare overnight. In between we message and play app games or we might even arrange a date.
The familiarity though, has thrown up a less than savoury characteristic in myself; I completely forgot his birthday last month. To be fair, we were on holiday together and differences in time zones and getting over jet lag etc may have been the reason. However, the fact that even in the preparations for the holiday beforehand, I’d not made provision for the day smacks highly of carelessness on my part. Friends tell me it was utterly inexcusable and thus chastised, I have also not allowed myself to forget it.
A has been brilliant throughout about it all. He has not held a single grudge and took it very well on the day – treating the whole thing with humour and generosity. I hate to think I might have disappointed him and wonder what else, how else I might have done so.
But here’s the thing about monogamy or any other relationship – people have to rub along. We find ourselves to have a smoother path with less of the rough compared to our past relationships and are happy to continue as we are.
Still together, still happy, constantly pinching ourselves. Not living any closer to each other, maintaining separate households, but managing to meet up at least twice a week, occasionally on our own although more often with young ‘uns in tow. We managed to have a couple of holidays abroad – Paris in spring, Kiev in August and Sofia to come. Bristol again this weekend after dropping tiddlers off at their grandmother’s.
We’re together as often as we can without neglecting our dependents and it’s neither too much nor too little time that we spend in each other’s company.
I may have it all I find – a happy love life, a good enough job, a home, children who love me, a faithful dog and a few friends. Everything is in balance.
Are you a poet, he asked
I suppose I am, of sorts
Tell me your name, you look familiar
I do and he says I knew it I remember now
I know you
To say I was surprised is an understatement
But as the evening wore on
That is what everyone tells each other
A kind of false flattery
No one means any of it
I leave the function early and go home
To my real life, my real love
It’s been six months. We’re still hot for each other. Things have changed slightly though and we see each other twice a week, sometimes three, young children are nearly always around, although occasionally we get to go to the theatre or do grown up things on our own but more and more we now try and integrate the children on both sides into each other’s weekends.
He told me it’s hard being a full-time dad. I’ll bet it is. It’s relentless, the washing, the cooking, the feeding, the tears, refereeing sibling rivalry, packing school lunches, going to work after walking sleepy children to school breakfast clubs, checking trains to pick up from after-school clubs on time, having to find out about 11-plus exams, helping them cope with anxieties over the changes to their routines – going to work is probably a walk in the park. Wondering how the heck I got here on my own. I don’t know the half of it as I’ve never ever had to be a full time single parent myself.
And of course sometimes it’s downright depressing and he says he gets really angry at the ex. I can only imagine that must be hard because blaming someone else is not what he does normally. I’m on his side totally. I am amazed when he makes excuses for her unreliability.
The one chink of positivity is that now he calls the shots as far as how he wants to parent. He can be the role model for his children and besides the stability and normality that he gives them he can also show them what it’s like to try new things. There’s strength in being able to ask for help or even hire help. I agree with him that to be a sane and normal father he deserves some time out occasionally. But setting all these thints up takes time and patience.
I’m full of admiration for this man and his optimism. I’d be an idiot not to stick around.
Another weekend away, but a first in other ways. This time we drove the girls to grandma Catherine’s who had tea ready for them and fish pie for us. It had been raining heavily in the last hour of the journey but we stopped off to get some wine and flowers. The little one came into the shop with me while Alexander stayed in the car with the other. When we arrived the children had their tea before us so that we could have ours later. We stayed up with Cathy having drunk about two and a half bottles of first a white, and then a fizzy rosé from the Test valley and finally a blended red of merlot and cab sauv. It was another convivial evening with tales of happier times as well as those unfortunate dates who have been consigned to the past but occasionally crop up to remind us why they had been unsuitable.
In the morning Ella came into our bed and it felt sweet and cosy to be playing happy families once again with tiddlers. Later when we were getting ready to leave for some grownup time, A’s older girl, Sasha gave me a hug and it felt warm and happy. The young things have accepted me into their lives and I am so grateful for their unquestioning and unreserved welcome. A’s mother has been lovely too in this and offering to have his children.
We drove on quiet country lanes passing beautiful rolling pasture. The Wiltshire landscape is not spoken about much even though it holds its own next to its better-known sisters, with a fair few stunning moments when sun, sky and cloud played their parts.
We had gone to Bristol just to be on our own for a bit, watch Othello at the Factory Theatre, have meals at places with as few children as possible. I asked him if he would consider getting a tattoo with me. We giggled over getting ones with stoats. On Sunday morning we did a few touristy things and had a pub lunch at Clifton. It had been another successful outing.
I remember Max’s email enquiry as to our secret to happy coupling. I want to tell him that it comes mainly from confidence in one’s ability to select the right partner and having found him/her to continue with the knowledge that we wanted the same happy outcomes. Is it really as simple as that? It has yet to sink in and so I leave the reply for another time.