My nephew is a godsend. He is the most beautiful little cherubic 3 year old with chubby Raphaelian little cheeks and curly yellow hair that you will ever meet (of course, I’m not biased at all- how dare you suggest such a thing.)
My brother has him two days a week whilst Brandon’s mother has him full time, and since my brother is staying with me at the moment I get to see quite a lot of my favourite little person. As with most 3 year olds, he is a ball of non stop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle loving energy. It’s quite a sight to behold, him jumping over nothing but air, using belts as lifelines to save me from the sofa which is clearly not a sofa at all, but a dangerous life threatening precipice.
When he is here with us, or with my mother he is well behaved- all be it slightly mischievous. He doesn’t hit, he doesn’t shout. He doesn’t push his luck and he is full of sweet innocent one liners. Recently it was his birthday, I took it upon myself to make him a cake from scratch. He was overjoyed. At least I like to think it was joy causing those tears in his eyes and not absolute fear of this blue and white monster of a being with a flame on it’s head lurching toward him whilst everyone did in the room did this strange ritualistic chant.
We had been at the zoo all day, my nephew, my brother, our parents and I. It was a lovely day. He looked at the Meerkats and was a joy really.
Seeing him for these periods of time- the high points, the weekends were we do fun things and take him to fun places, I had never really thought how it was when he was at home with his mother. It didn’t occur to me that his behaviour would change or that he would be different to how we see him. I realise now that it was extremely ignorant of me to think that he would be as cherubic as he is with us all of the time. An unfair expectation to say the least- he is a 3 year old boy after all.
There have been a couple of times in the recent weeks that I have been to see Brandon at his mothers house. Cue Jekyll and Hyde toddler tantrums, fist throwing and leg kicking awe. It’s all ‘I want to watch’, ‘I need this’, ‘Stop doing that!’. I’d like to say at this point that Brandon’s mother is a good mother. She is hardworking, she tries hard to give him all the things he wants. His attitude with her is ‘If I keep shouting, she will give me what I want.’Clearly a tried and tested method, at the end of her tether she will usually give in. She knows that she is a master of her own demise but is stuck in a relentless loop.
It’s not for me to question how she disciplines him- it’s not my place and it would be inappropriate. My main point is that this must be a very common problem among broken families. Whilst the full time parent is there on the day to day school run basis, the everyday days of life, the ‘part-time’ parent often has the time and the opportunity to have the fun days, the zoo and swimming days, the cinema days.
If I look back on my own early childhood, I recall much more vividly the weekends and the smiles and laughter I shared with my father as he made the most of his precious time with me. I do remember good times with my mother- but fewer stick out in my mind.
It can’t be easy to be the consistent one, the one who is there to remind them to do their homework or brush their teeth, or the one who works a lot in order to provide a good life, at the expense of quality time.
This isn’t to say that both sides don’t have their downfalls. I know my brother would give anything to be there to put Brandon to bed every night and wish him good morning. It seems to me this single parent gig is a double edged sword, no matter what side of it you are on.
As I’m 3 months away from embarking on this journey myself, I can only say one thing.
I hope these are tears of joy in my eyes and not fear!