Shopping with the Olds

I went to the mall with my aged parents to do some Christmas shopping.

Note to self: find some excuse next time to avoid going with aged parents to the mall to do Christmas shopping.

I don’t dislike my parents–I love them very much. All the more so because they’re allowing me to live under their roof until my property settlement is finalised. In fact, I don’t mind sitting with them in a car or at lunch and hearing them squabble over the smallest and most ridiculous things, as long-term married couples do.

Here’s some other things I don’t mind, either:

  • I don’t mind adding my mother’s mobile phone number into my dad’s phone directory because he didn’t realise he deleted it and doesn’t know how to get it back.
  • I don’t mind that my father buys innumerable pairs of underpants every time he goes out (he has a draw full of new, unopened, old man undies, and insists on getting more. Just in case of an underpants apocalypse, I guess. You can never have too many pairs of undies when the s$&@ hits the fan at the end of the world).
  • I don’t mind that my Mum insists on telling me how to drive, even though she can’t drive herself.
  • I don’t mind that by lunchtime I’ve done most of my shopping and they’ve bought one pair of socks.
  • I don’t mind that dad asks me to buy him the new Simon Scarrow book for Christmas, then goes and purchases it anyway without telling me, literally ten minutes after he asked me to get it.
  • I don’t mind that my mother argues with me over the price of a DVD box set I’m planning to purchase as a gift, because she thinks I’m too poor to afford it.
  • I don’t even mind sitting in the backseat on the long drive home as my parents have an extended phone conversation with a friend on loudspeaker without ever acknowledging to them that I’m there.

Shopping with the olds. I don’t mind it at all.

But I think I’ll go shopping on my own, next time.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

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Fatherhood – Never-ending Love and Never-ending Guilt

Every time I drop my teenage son off at his mother’s after staying with me for the weekend, he waves me off with a look of intense poignancy that tears me apart. He has stayed over almost every weekend since he was six months old. I am his father and his friend. And I’m also guilt-stricken because I can’t be there for him all the time, the way I think I should be.

I’m sure that many fathers feel some kind of “survivor’s guilt”, the same way I do. I’m sure that they look back at their time with their kids and blame themselves if something didn’t work out the way they expected, or if their kid went off the rails. Perhaps they fall in to the tried-and-true blame game: “oh, it’s obviously his mother’s fault, because I only had him on weekends”.

But that’s an easy out. Responsibility is part of the job of being a father. We help to raise, to develop, to forge our children and what they believe, how they act, and ultimately the kind of adult they become.

Every father loves their children. Every father feels responsible for them, no matter how small a part they may play in their upbringing. Often we blame ourselves, and sometimes we’re right to do so, sometimes we’re not.

For a long time I was the stable influence in my son’s life. I had the stable relationship, the stable home environment, the stable job. His mother flitted here and there, never in one place for too long, moving from one relationship to the next and moving my son from school to school at her convenience. Now, through some bitterly ironic twist of the knife, I’m the unstable one, without a home, without a job, without money, without the confidence and influence I previously projected. My son’s mother now has the stable home, the stable relationship, the steady income. She’s now the picture of solidity and commitment that I used to be.

Do I resent it? A little. But I’m also happy that she’s finally found someone she loves, has finally settled down. I’m glad that my son has another father figure, one who is currently far more responsible and upstanding than me.

At one point, I attempted to take my life. Afterwards, I spoke to a psychologist who advised me that I would have been giving my son a life sentence if I had succeeded. She was right, of course. All too often we don’t think about the impact these things have on those around us. We are overtaken by our sadness, pain and selfishness, and don’t care about the consequences. I still feel guilty about the potential impact a successful attempt  may have had on my son.

My son remains the most important person in my life. Sometimes I’m not as attentive as I should be. Sometimes I miss his phone calls because I’m doing something else. Sometimes I’m too critical of him. Sometimes I worry about my own problems more than I worry about him. Sometimes I think that I’m the worst father that ever lived because I’m not there for him when I should be.

But my son loves me. He misses me when I’m not around. He knows that I love him and that I will always be there for him. And when he waves goodbye to me after I drop him off, he knows we’ll be back together next weekend, no matter what.

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