My dad would have been 92 this week, but his body didn’t want to stay around that long. He was a devoted da and a workaholic. He taught me:
*To do what I love for a living (he wrote/edited over 100 books)
*Travel opens your mind
*A sense of humour will help you in the darkest days of your life
*A good swim in the ocean can clear your mind
*Hard work is good for the soul
*A tough childhood doesn’t define the rest of your life
*Even if you haven’t had your own dad, you can achieve a lot
*Dancing a slow tango in the kitchen is magical
*Kids raised by single mums are tough
*A full fridge means you are doing really well
*Stray dogs are worth rescuing
*Some days we must get up and go to work even when we think we can’t
*Singing love songs is great for families
*Lovingly made freshly squeezed orange juice is better than an expensive restaurant breakfast
*Taking your kids back to your old childhood haunts opens their eyes
*Listening to the stories people tell you will help you learn about the world
*Love is a verb
*Singing to your kids at bedtime may soothe them or freak them out
*Saying yes to new opportunities is scary but worth it
*Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
16 years without him have gone by in a flash. I would sacrifice a few of my toes to see one of his cheeky smiles, hear his laugh and have a hug.
My dad was the Prince of Kings Cross
We say I love you, and if we’re still together on Boxing Day, Easter Wednesday, the day after the kid goes back to school we may survive as a couple by detaching from your teen’s nightmare behaviour
Your son looks like Elvis but he sings like a drunk footballer
I adore you but your brother’s second wife’s extended family will poison me slowly with their frozen coleslaw
I’d really like to grow old with you but your son’s new girlfriend has a voice that curdles milk and I can’t bring myself to help you raise her kids
Your touch is tough to resist but the complaints from your mother and her coven of neighbours about my cooking have reduced my brain capacity
You soothe my jangled nerves but your child’s penchant for snakes is a reptile too far
I really like your daughter but another netball match will kill my will to live
I love you but I can’t add another mother in law to my collection
Shakespeare described step parenting best:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom
Apparently today is Reptile Awareness Day. I didn’t know there was a day held especially to recognise ex mother in laws and some of the toads I’ve been out with. One of the best things about divorce is shedding the asps attached to exes, it’s very ssss-satisfying when you no longer have to spend your time with ssss-snakes. Some species of reptile need to be threatened with extinction. Where are my crocodile skin shoes?
Another day, another break up of a ‘star’ marriage, be it Johnny Whatsit or a ‘celebrity’ personal trainer; these are the ‘men’ who walk away from their children and run to someone else who may be younger, or prettier and aren’t burdened with looking after his children. Meanwhile who takes the kids to school, helps with their homework, washes their sports uniforms? While the little boys are taking selfies with their girlfriends on red carpets and jetting off on fun holidays, the women who are left behind are the ones dedicating themselves to child rearing. What does it do to a teenage girl to see Daddy running off with someone young enough to be her elder sister? Yawn.
Are these the role models we want for our boys? Males who’ve been in relationships that lasted less time than a bottle of Morning Fresh detergent (that stuff lasts ages). Guys who can’t hang around when the going gets tough in a marriage? Ask anyone who has been married for a long time and they’ll tell you that the going gets tough at some point in a long term relationship. Good blokes can you have a word with your mates? Please tell them that kids need their dads. I don’t want to male bash, I know some fabulous fathers, but I’m not meeting a lot of deadbeat mummies. 32% of babies in the United States are born to single mothers, and in 2006 mothers headed 87% of one-parent families with children under 15 years in Australia.
Parenting isn’t glamorous, it isn’t fun a lot of the time, it’s about making tough decisions and showing kids there are boundaries to their behaviour. To do that you have to be in the same space as children. Being there for a kid means physically showing up, cleaning up their vomit in the middle of the night, sitting through school concerts even when you’re bored, showing kids that as a parent you want to be in their lives for all the important moments. Any monkey can take their children to a cafe. Fathers who think that going to a trendy hairdresser is more important than being with their kids are not attractive. Yes, the rules of the game are being redefined but parenting isn’t something you can opt in and out of and decide to sit out on the bench for a few years, you’re either there or you’re not. Kids are tough bosses, they notice when you don’t show up for parenting duty. I meet many teenagers with mental health issues, and troubled adolescents are being admitted to hospitals in greater numbers than ever before; I truly believe that family breakdown plays a part. A lot of these kids crave time with absent parents. As a survivor of domestic violence I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship forever, but I really don’t think modern men are trying hard enough to keep it together for the kids or themselves.
Divorce is painful for kids. So if your relationship is faltering from the burdens of modern life, not enough time or money or extended family to give you a break from the relentless pressure of work, child rearing, nursing ageing parents and paying the bills, get thee to a good counsellor.
All the research apparently says that kids from broken families do fine eventually. But there are a lot of tears, heartache and wasted energy between now and the mysterious destination called eventually.
This week I went to the movies to see Blue Jasmine with a fellow gay divorcee, and I think this Woody Allen film should come with a trigger warning. If you’ve ever been in a long term relationship which turned out to be a total lie, Jasmine may freak with your head. Every time Jasmine’s anxiety made her pop a Xanax, I kept looking at the audience before I could decide whether to laugh, cry or yell out, ‘Yes! This is what a relationship with a narcissist will do to you.’ Cate Blanchett is brilliant as Jasmine but I didn’t laugh much as it was so close to home. I was reminded of my own hospitalisations and escape four years ago. I left the theatre feeling very anxious and I’m glad my friend and I had a chance to ‘debrief’ afterwards. When she remarked, “That was just like our relationships, except on a grander scale,” I finally felt like I could laugh.
Tina Turner was born today in 1939. She is one of my heroes. When I was a teenager I read Tina Turner’s memoir I, Tina and I was inspired by her strength and resilience. Now I have recovered from my own abusive relationship with the help of a domestic violence counsellor, I realise how strong Tina Turner must have been to withstand regular abuse, be a mother and go on stage acting like nothing had happened for years. She is a role model for women everywhere.
I have learned from reading about Tina’s beatings at the hands of Ike that I must sing my own song, which is part Sinead O’Connor, part Miss Piggy and part Karen Carpenter on crack. Happy Birthday Tina, I love your voice and your spirit