Dear Dave

Sunday 8 April 2007

A new dawn

Dear Dave,

Happy Easter!

I had planned on writing about this being a special Easter for me. Things have been going pretty well lately. I've had several months of decent sleep. This correspondence has given me a bit of purpose outside of direct parental action. The days are getting longer. An end to seven years of nappies looks like a possibility. Sunday is here. The stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. Death is defeated. God is with us! It all feels like a new beginning...

That's what I'd been planning to write, anyway. Then I caught a stinking cold, the kids caught it too, the potty-training led to a household sock shortage and I felt so tired that I dozed off in a softplay. I leant against a foam shape and rested my eyes for a moment. The next I knew, I was dreaming of a nightmare world of primary colours where small children roam free and there is an ever-present danger of drowning in a pit full of plastic balls. I awoke to a reality that was very similar except a five-year-old that I had never seen before was barking at me in a Germanic language and prodding me with an enormous padded snail. For one hazy, flu-filled moment I thought I had fallen into a psychology experiment, a foreign arts film or, worst-case scenario, a painting by Edvard Munch. It wasn't good. I rounded up my children and headed home.

Since then, I've been muddling along as best I can until I'm well, looking to just get through each day without my daughter leaking too much.

Marie gives me various indicators that everything is not going entirely to plan:
  • She points out the obvious. "Your socks wet, Daddy!"
  • She exclaims, "Pee!" as if wondering where it came from and what it's doing in her socks.
  • She lets out an, "Oh, no," giving the impression she's forgotten to pay her Visa bill this month. Or remembered that she has no clean socks left.
  • She mutters, "I go to toilet. I not go in shower." This thought is, of course, akin to shutting the stable door after the horse has urinated (in its socks).
  • She smiles to herself and then wiggles her bottom as if settling down into a nice warm cushion. Mmmmmm. Squishy... (Doesn't require fresh socks, at least).
  • She points at the pee streaming out her shoes.

It's a long time since a toxic spill around the house was a disaster or even particularly unpleasant but cleaning it up is an effort I could do without when I'm ill. Quite often when I tell people that I'm a housedad they ask me something along the lines of, "So you enjoy that then?" There's pressure to justify my existence by saying, "Yes, it's fantastic. It's a fulfilling roller-coaster ride of discovery, challenge, fun and hugs. I'd recommend it to anyone." To say anything else might be to confirm their suspicion that a stay at home dad is against all the laws of God and man. To suggest that children can be ungrateful, hard work and irritating can cause shock and outrage. The truth is, though, that there are days in any job when things could be better. Being ill, dealing with ill children through the night and then trying to hold it all together during the day isn't challenging - it's exhausting.

This time, the trauma should be over quickly, however. A day or two, and we'll all be well. Another week or so and Marie will have the idea. Then the changing unit can go and there'll be room for me to have a desk again - somewhere for me to sneak off to in order to write, surf and play Half-Life. Hurrah!

There have been times in the past few years, though, when it has seemed like the cloud would never pass. It was like the despair of a perpetual Good Friday. I went months at a time without a proper night of sleep. I had to cope with a wife with post-natal depression. I had to deal with depression myself. I couldn't see an end to it. Only trusting to God that there would be an end, kept me getting out of bed.

Being a housedad is fantastic. It is a fulfilling roller-coaster ride of discovery, challenge, fun and hugs. But I'd never recommend it to everyone. Being a dad, never mind a housedad, can be tough. We have to be prepared to admit that, talk to those around us and get support when we need it. Just knowing we're not alone can be a great help. Take care of yourself, OK?

All things considered and fleeting set-backs aside, this is still a special Easter for me. The issues I face as a parent may well become more difficult as the kids get older but a lot of the hard graft is past. (Oh, goodness, decent sleep makes so much difference!) I'll get more and more time and space to myself. I'll have some energy to spare. I might even have dry socks. Wouldn't that be great?

All the best to the family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace from the Son of Peace to you.
This Easter and always...

Yours in a woman's world,


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