Wednesday, December 12, 2007

About their father

Last night I was telling my husband about the comment I received on my latest post. It was from an anonymous father, pointing out, very kindly, that I never mention the role of fathers in parenting.

“I didn’t know I had any male readers” I told James. I was brushing my teeth and he was in the bedroom so I could not see his face.

“Anyway I published it and spent ages thinking about the best way to reply, because really it is a blog for mothers, but he is right that I never mention you, and I often say ‘mother’ when I could say ‘parent’… why are you laughing?”

James is not usually a practical joker so when he did finally show me his face it was particularly full of glee.

“I thought you would know it was me immediately”, he didn’t apologise, “I didn’t think you’d publish it.” He was positively reveling in his deceit.

We had a good laugh but although he denies it, he obviously read the post and thought “Hang on! What about me?” So this post is all about James, the beautiful father of my children. Seeing as he hates me writing about him, I am also getting my own back. Killing two birds with one stone.

James is right. I forgot to mention yesterday that there are two pairs of welcoming arms to greet Jemima when she wakes in the night. Or that, every lunchtime, he comes home from work (a very good reason never to leave Cambodia) and cuddles Bella and plays with Jemima. Or that last night while I was feeding Bella and getting ready to meet a friend, James dealt with a very tired and contrary Jemima, never once losing his calm as she refused to brush her teeth, get her pyjamas on and get into bed. I left them curled up together, Jemima falling asleep in his arms.

There are two things I will always be thankful for now that I have children: that I am still in love with their father and that he shares my views on parenting. To begin with I suppose I lead the show a bit, simply because I was at home doing it all while James was out of the house for 12 hours a day (a very good reason never to go back to England). But he’s never had an issue with co-sleeping, me breastfeeding a walking, talking two-year-old toddler… James even dealt with the nappy bucket when he got back from work for god’s sake! By the time Bella was born he could no longer imagine using a cot or a buggy again. (We do use a buggy from time to time – Jemima sits in it with Bella on her lap. It’s very sweet.)

James is the kind of father who would much rather just climb into bed with his child in the middle of the night, than teach her to go back to sleep alone. One who will always hold his baby rather than put her down. If I try to picture him with the kids, he has Bella jiggling about on his lap during dinner, or slung over one shoulder at a barbeque, or he’s lying on the floor playing with Jemima. He’s not really interested in reading about why or how to get it right, positive parenting just comes naturally to him.

James’s work has always involved regular travel. When we first arrived in Phnom Penh he was away in the region more than he was here for a while. Now he has a new job which is Cambodia-focused only, he makes much shorter trips. I don’t mind him travelling, it is in his blood so to deprive him of it would be cruel. But boy are the days long! His absences give me a glimpse now and then into the life of a single mother, particularly here where we have no family around us. I really empathise with and admire any woman who goes it alone with children. Having another pair of hands is obviously a huge help, but what really keeps you sane is having someone to debrief with at the end of the day, a bit of adult perspective around the house, and someone with whom to discuss the news.

I think this is enough. I feel satisfied that I have had my revenge. Do remember though, when I write about ‘me’, I probably often mean ‘us’.
If you like this post read this.


maddy said...

Georgie, I am so glad you wrote this post.
Reading your previous post, The way we love our babies, made me wish that I'd also done some things differently (in the same vein as you, regarding patience) and then reading about your resolve to try and iron out any impatience (for want of a better word) mirrors a resolve I seem to make on an almost daily basis. It made me feel quite sad that I do find myself yelling, virtually daily, at my 4 year old who wants morning to begin at 5am - I co-sleep with my 19 month old (or at least he starts off in a cot, but is usually in bed with me by 11pm, and then wakes up needing cuddles at least 3 more times). I thought "why can't I be more like Georgie, more patient, more open-armed etc etc?"
Well, this post reminded me of why and I'm so glad you wrote it - I have been a single mother in a foreign land (with no family around) for a year now and as you so rightly pointed out having the support of the children's father (as you have in James) makes SO much difference.
I don't feel so bad now. x

Sophie S said...

Georgie - I'm enjoying your blog so much! It's simply beautiful, and the way you write is compelling. The gorgeous person you are shines through the words you write :)

The father stuff has given me food for thought. What you said about James and the way he is with the children matches so closely the way my partner is with our son, and I realise I haven't been nearly as appreciate as I could have been. Perhaps I'm a tad jealous!

With love to you all


Georgie said...

Hello and thank you all for great comments. Yes we should be appreciative you are right Sophie and Tara, as Maddy's comment shows. And Maddy, please remember those were resolves (to be warm and kind and open-armed) - not every day realities! I am trying but if it makes you feel better I fail every day :-) Next time we all melt down I will make sure to write about it so you know and know you are normal. I remember you telling me years ago how you sat in your daughter's room while she fell asleep. Sounds like lovely parenting to me. I bet you are a beautiful loving mother and you have every excuse to lose it from time to time. Whereas I should just wait til James comes home and then leave the house!

M said...

You and Tara are so lucky to have a really good relationship with your wonderful partners who love fatherhood. More than that, your children are extremely fortunate in this respect. I wonder if any of your readers cannot reply or feel deeply sad because they do not have such a relationship with their partners? The relationship between the parents or partners caring for the babies is a primary one and is, essentially, separate from their relationship to the babies. If a 'marriage' is not going well, if the mother or father is deeply troubled about this, it overshadows the relationship with the children. Indeed, the children may have arrived and 'taken over' their parents' lives, as children MUST do, before they have succeeded in resolving their problems or parting company and thus the children could seem to be an added burden, a trap, a replacement for the affection wanted by one or both parents from one another. This is a sad but surely not an uncommon situation where an adult partnership has not become satisfying or where the adults are in essential ways still 'children' themselves. The happy partnerships described by motherland and 'Tara' may seem enviable and unachievable to some readers and thus their children are bound not to benefit in the lovely way that is being described in this blog? Is this worth a discussion? The single parent, male or female, may have to work all day, may be also deeply troubled by the reason for their singleness in parenthood. The world of Motherland may be seen as a kind of ideal paradise, wonderful and what all children deserve to have, but unfortunately so many do not.

Georgie said...

Dear M

Thank you for this and I agree with everything you say. Of course there must be readers out there with this experience, indeed some of them have written to me sharing their experiences.

I hope that they will find the positivity and honesty in this blog helpful, rather than a hindrance. But I also imagine they will benefit from sharing with other mothers in the same situation as they are. I can only write about what I know.

In defence of single mothers though (I cannot comment on those in unhappy relationships), I know some who are doing a brilliant job of raising their children and I admire them greatly.

I hope people will see by the different posts I put up that sometimes I fail miserably and sometimes I get it right but that for me being a mother is all about learning from our children and our peers and being open to change.

As parents and adults we can and need to responsibility for our situation and try to do the best for our children. This can be very hard and often it won't be good enough for the parent or the child. I do not write to judge, but to encourage, simply because I believe we can all help each other and learn through shared experiences regardless of our different situations.

I must add that although I am very fortunate and appreciate my situation greatly, I would not call it paradise. My close family and friends are miles away, I can't stand the climate where I live, and wish I was back home several times each week! Not to mention the fact that I am a struggling and unsuccessful/unpaid at any rate writer in my spare time! My main goal is to make sure my own feelings about all this do not affect my children's happiness.

Thank you for your valuable comment and for reminding us of how blessed we are.