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.
Last weekend Alexander’s girls visited on Saturday and we went out for pizza with one of my children. I went home with them later that evening and came back home on Sunday morning. It was probably just the right amount of time to spend together. This coming weekend A’s mum is having the girls and we arranged to have a short weekend break on our own, without children. Our first!
The fact that A is now a full time parent is gradually sinking in. He says he does the domestic routine on autopilot. His employers are family friendly and he works from home a couple of days in the week. He might have a short afternoon nap before making tea for them and then getting them ready for bed – they are amazingly docile and biddable to his 8pm cut off time when they may keep themselves quietly occupied until sleep takes over. In this way he manages to have the rest of the evening to himself.
The schools haven’t quite got used to his being in loco parentis quite yet. Having been used to dealing with the ex, the crazy and unreasonable woman, they’d become accustomed to issuing diktats it seems and did the same to A recently. But these minor blips should resolve themselves over time. And all the organisations involved in the girls’ welfare should come to respect his parenting abilities.
Last night I went round to spend the evening with him and his girls. The older one indicated an interest in making stress balls and I suggested a method and we made a couple together. Tonight he told me she started making more and he had to dissuade her from making one for each person in her class.
Meanwhile I keep busy with that lazy bread making method requiring no kneading. We chat on WhatsApp while apart and plan the future. It may mean he moves closer to me, whilst still keeping his own separate household. At the moment, that sounds ideal for I’m still gradually getting used to the idea of living together when there are such young children involved.
The relationship has intensified. I have met A’s children more often and there had been a plan last week when A arranged that I’d spend some of the school half term holidays with them. Unfortunately his ex had become unreasonable and threatened to take her life, resulting in the police being called and A having to step in and parent full time.
Of course the emotional well-being of young blameless lives takes precedence. I am no needy jealous girlfriend and fully appreciate that this may be a permanent scenario. He had been reluctant in the past to take on the children full time because of course they would have been devastated at losing contact with their mother. But it has become clear that said mother is in no fit state to healthily parent and after the emotional rollercoaster the children had been through it is now important that A provides them with the stability they sorely need. It doesn’t mean that A feels less for me or I him, even if in reality we might see less of each other.
He is conscious that when we first set out to date each other he had been a part-time father – having his children one weekday and every other weekend, something like 10-12 days a month. We had become drawn to each other resulting in tentative discussions of sharing a fuller relationship. We began to date each other exclusively a month into the beginning and by December last year were spending every free evening with each other – that is, at least 20 evenings and two whole weekends a month. We are aware that the change in his circumstances means that we will have to revise what we had previously thought was possible.
Do I want to live with a man and his young under 10s? My own children are practically grown up now, the youngest approaching adulthood this year. This is a question I cannot fully answer yet. Do I want to continue to date Alexander? This is an easy one. I had not appreciated until the whole thing with his ex came to a head how generous, kind and patient and strong he had been – no matter how unreasonable her behaviour had been, he had never played the blame game. That may be the reason why she had continued behaving in even more extreme ways each time.