Today is a big day in the Dating Dad household; it’s back to school day. The day when I pack my children off with their shiny new lunchboxes and polished shoes to go back into school after the long summer break. Of course, this year it’s been longer than most summers as it started way back in April 1882, but however long it’s been the September ritual is the same every year even if the classroom arrangements are different now.
And I’m sad.
I say this not in order to garner any sympathy at all or to receive well-meaning messages to tell me I’m doing a fine job, but today is another milestone I am facing on my own and differently to how I envisaged it.
These moments were ones I thought would be shared as a complete nuclear family, with their mother and I spending the evening before swapping little comments about how they’ll settle in, whether they’ll be okay with the new environment there, how tired they’ll be and more as we ironed their uniforms and dug out their lunchboxes and PE kits.
This year is even more poignant in that my youngest son moves from infant to junior school. He is my last child, so it’s a milestone for me in that I’ll never have a kid of my own in the infants again. He’s got his new uniform to wear and will go from being the eldest in his little part of the school to one of the youngest in a bigger part of it. I never pictured myself going through these milestones alone.
It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things; I’ll no doubt take some photos of him and all of them beaming in anticipation as we leave the house to start our familiar morning journey. I may even share these with friends and family on social media, as if any of them really care about seeing yet another kid dressed in a pretty standard uniform getting ready to go back to school. I expect my timeline will be flooded with similar photos in fact, most of which I’ll click the like button for without ever really giving them a second glance.
But the thing is that I will care about mine, and so will their mum. We were meant to care together, share these moments together and look back on them in thirty years time when our grandchildren are packed off to school for their own first days. Obviously that’s never going to happen now, and whilst I am overall okay with life and the hand I’ve been dealt it doesn’t mean I don’t ever wish it could have been different and I could be plugged back into it with no memory of reality whatsoever.
These are the times when being a single parent is hard, when your own emotions and worries and excitement about things to do with your children are at their peak and where there really is only one other person who can feel the same way as you at that moment, yet knowing that you will never be able to share it all with them again.
I’m sure if I’d met someone a lot sooner and she’d grown close to the children then she too may have felt similarly, but I didn’t so I’m left, once again, facing it well but facing it alone. As hard as that is, I at least know that I’m doing well and doing the best I can by myself. That’s enough, if nothing else.
So this is a shout-out to all the single parents out there who are going through all of these milestones, big and small, without someone else there to bounce off, without an ear to listen to your worries or a calming word to allay your fears. Keep listening to the little voices in your own head which tell you that you’ve got this – you really have – and keep knowing that as long as your kids have got you taking photos of them in their uniform, packing their lunchboxes and worrying how they’ll fit in with their new class then they’ve got all the parent they need in their life.
Power to the parents.