Photo: Circus skills class
As this pregnancy draws closer to the end, I’ve found myself thinking about how different John’s early childhood’s been from what Ian and I had wanted – particularly what I’ve done and how I’ve engaged with John as a mother.
We all have grand plans of the childhood we hope to give our kids. Play dates, sports activities, educational outings, visits to library readings, heading to the playground all sit in on the plan – whatever falls within our means financially and time availability. And often our wishes don’t fit our means.
In hindsight, widowhood has also had an impact. In some ways, it’s given me the means to provide John with these activities than I possibly would have had. I put some of Ian’s estate aside to pay for activities, and by studying part time rather than working, have had the time to give him.
But simply getting out of the house. Socialising with other parents.
That’s been much tougher.
And it doesn’t help I wasn’t the most social creature before Ian died, let alone after.
As much as I wanted to do the playgroup and library story-time thing, when I forced myself out of the house, I just couldn’t gel with the groups I found. I did enjoy my interactions with one playgroup, but that was at my church, and I was there as a helper, not parent! Not quite the point…
I’m glad I found two activities that have given us some routine and helped me break out of the rut of actually getting out of the house.
One is swimming lessons, which in Australia isn’t considered so much a ‘fun’ thing to do, but a life skill. Thankfully we’d started this when John was 6 months old, well before Ian got sick, so it was simply a continuation of an existing activity. The other mum’s in John’s current class are a hoot, and the kids all get along, so much so that we extend the morning to a playdate in the playground after the lesson. We grab a coffee, the kids have snacks and burn off any residual energy (which there always seems to be a lot…). We get to talk school preparations, renovations, shopping, work and study achievements and frustrations. I don’t feel like a solo parent amongst these women, even though they’re all married and I’m the only one un-partnered.
The other group is John’s circus skills class. He climbed early and loves swinging and jumping from heights… I figure he should probably learn how to do it properly and safely!
Photo: Why we do circus skills class (how I've avoided a trip to emergency for a serious injury is beyond me...)
We’ve been doing this for about a year now and I’ve had to swap session times to accommodate my studies, so it’s not been as easy to make mom-friends, but now that the kids are getting older and don’t need our help so much we have more time to chat.
So although I feel guilty about what I’m not giving him, he’s got a couple of things he enjoys.
Patrick will probably have a very different early childhood. It’s highly likely that about the age John was when I stopped working after Ian’s death, will be about the age Patrick will be when I go back to work.
But just as I’ve needed to take the last couple of years off out of the workplace, in 18 months or so, I’ll really need to head back in. Heck, if was wasn’t about to give birth in the next month or so, I’d most likely have looked for work opportunities already.
All this balancing of what I want to give the boys, and what I need to do to give it to them and where the compromises lie is no different in the big picture sense to what my married friends with kids are juggling.
There’s just that extra big gaping absence compounding the guilt associated with the compromises made.