ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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The Final Countdown

So that’s Halloween over with, Guy Fawkes Night out of the way, so it’s the final countdown to Christmas. That’s how Jake sees it anyway.

Of course there is nothing in the shops that would make him think any differently. The witches and fireworks hanging from the ceiling of our local supermarket have been replaced by santas and reindeer; and the Christmas goods, present since the beginning of September, have now been moved into even more prominent positions. The excitement is palpable as Jake pours over toy catalogues and makes snowman collages; and everything that he ‘wants’ has been put on an (ever-changing) mental list. It is only a matter of time until the big day now, and the fact that we are due to have snow in December is likely to only ramp the excitement up even further.

I do not want to blame Jake for this. Although he does not watch anything but the BBC, he is still prey to the tentacles of the advertiser on billboards, the sides of buses and trams; as well as in shops and, yes, through school and various community events. I do not blame him because he is actually usually very satisfied with a haul of Christmas/ birthday presents which seem modest in comparison with many of his peers. He is also very good at receiving presents: “just what I always wanted” he will genuinely say.

It would be easy to turn this into a riff on how kids do not know how lucky they are, and how I did not have this, that and the other in my day. But actually I do not want to say this, nor do I want to say it to the boys because in many respects childhood is no different then as it is now, and while I would like to think that I did not anticipate Christmas until the week before, I know that this is not true and I know that a part of me looked forward to Christmas months and months before (and part of me also mourned its passing for another year once it was over).

I think it is often very easy to judge things through our adult eyes and conveniently forget how we were when we were young, probably because we put such things out of our minds when we were teenagers: how embarrassing to have fallen for the “Santa trick”.

So I do not begrudge the boys their Christmas build-up because such events are milestones in our own histories, milestones that are good to remember. I remember many childhood Christmases vividly. I look forward to taking them to see Santa, and I look forward to seeing the look on their faces when they see their stockings magically filled with toys. I know it is not what Christmas is all about but it is certainly part of it

Jake loves the build up to Christmas, oh and he has also been asking about when he can have his chocolate eggs for Easter.


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Discovering Sam

In my recent post, A Tale of Two Mondays, I described how I now looked after Sam on a Monday: to varying effect. I hope though that it was obvious from that piece that, however the day turns out, I am really enjoying my time with him. He is now at that stage where he is starting to be able to communicate with us, and is learning new words everyday (brektoid for breakfast being my current favourite). We are also able to see his personality coming through more and more, which is great.

This is particularly pleasing for me because I feel that it has taken me longer to get to know him than was the case with Jake. When we had just Jake I could spend all my spare time with him, but this has just not been possible with Sam because he has always tended to cling more to Karen, while Jake became much more of a Daddy’s boy once Sam came along; Jake saw just what the arrival of Sam meant for him quite quickly. Combine this with a job where I was away a lot and I felt that I hardly got to know Sam for the first 18 months of his life; which made me quite sad sometimes.

However, one of the unexpected positive side effects of taking redundancy at the end of 2011 was that I was able to spend more time with Sam, and especially on the half days when he was not at nursery and Jake was; and latterly on Mondays now Jake has started school. This has very much been a two way process and from seemingly being ‘the other one who seems to live with us but does not have any milk to offer’, he now seems to accept me much more and seems to be very happy to spend time with me.

Since having the boys it has really struck me that developing a reciprocal relationship with children is more of a two way process than I had previously realised. It is obvious that this is the case on one level, but I did not previously understand that if you want to have the trust of children and receive their affection you really have to put the time in with them and develop that relationship.

I see this, particularly with Sam, when we have visitors. If someone spends time with him and really attempts to connect with him they attain ‘doodah’ status. Doodah is what Sam calls anyone who he wants to relate to but does not know their name. If people do not bother with him so much then the ‘doodah’ is withheld.

I feel very lucky that I have the opportunity to see my children grow up in a way that some fathers do not. I am able to be around nearly every day to take Jake to school, and pick him up the majority of evenings; and we can have breakfast and our evening meal together as a family nearly every night. I have time to spend with Sam on Mondays, and with both boys at the weekends (when Karen has to work). I get to develop my relationship with them much more than if I was in a different city every week as was the case before.

I have got to discover more of Jake, and particularly more of Sam this year than I would have otherwise done; and in doing so also found out a lot more about myself. I am very fortunate, and I recommend it.


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Angry

As I write this I am angry. I have been angry for quite some time now and think that it is about time that I expressed that I am angry through this blog. I am not angry with the boys, or Karen (the usual subjects I write about), but angry about the Jimmy Savile case.

I am angry because people knew what was going on and did nothing about it, and many of those who lionised him are now trying to pin the blame on others or say that they knew all along.

I am angry because he preyed on many people who were the most vulnerable and most trusting in our society. People who he purported to support through his charitable work, which now seem to be a front for him to be able to abuse them.

I am angry because every case of abuse is a life scarred, and there are a lot of lives involved here.

I am angry because he died before he could be brought to justice for what he did and was given that sickening funeral procession around Leeds, including his ‘lying in state’ at the Queen’s Hotel.

I am angry because individuals will now try and introduce spurious stories, taking away some of the focus from the genuine victims who deserve our collective support.

I am angry because it will mark more erosion of parental confidence in allowing our children freedom, not knowing who we can trust. So, while I want to allow my children as much freedom to roam and find out about themselves, I will now have to think twice about it. The fact that he ‘hid in plain sight’ also chills me.

I am angry because he has, on more than one occasion, been in the same room as Jake (at a park cafe we used to frequent): a cafe that was always full of children where he used to hold court. I am so relieved that I always found him too creepy to approach.

Of lesser importance I am also angry because part of my childhood has been taken away. A person who I thought, at the time, was being nice to people like me turned out to be a monster, along with Gary Glitter, whose records I bought when I was between 9 and 12 (makes me shudder just thinking about it). Although it gradually became clear to me, and many of my friends, that Savile was someone who was rather creepy: especially having seen him around Leeds on occasion.

I am angry because it makes me think twice about my trust in human nature. Not only that someone can act in such a depraved, systematic and calculating way; but that he also abused other people’s trust in him and it makes me wonder how I would have reacted if I had had something to do with him. Would I have be similarly starstruck, and have been taken in by his charisma? I would like to think not, but the doubt is enough to again make me shudder.

I feel that as a society we have taken quite a jolt with the conversion of Savile from charismatic and ceaseless charity worker to serial abuser of the very vulnerable people he was supposed to be supporting; using the power he gained as a prolific fundraiser to ‘blackmail’ institutions into giving him access to those who they were supposed to be protecting. It is somehow more understandable when, as is more usual, a monster emerges who has ‘kept themselves to themselves’, but for such a public figure to get away with it for so long is something I find very difficult to comprehend. Just as shocking it looks like investigations are spreading out to involve other celebrities, further undermining our trust in those we put on a pedestal.

As a parent, then, this whole affair has hit me very hard. I am not normally an angry person but I can hardly think of what I would do if I found out that something had happened to one of the boys. It is a scenario that I do not really want to think about, and should not need to, but having this at the very centre of our society forces me to, and that really scares me.

I hope that something positive can come out of this whole affair. That perhaps children (and adults) will feel more able to report cases of abuse and it will lead to a more open revulsion in such things in such a way that will not allow people to hide in plain sight in the future. I do wonder though whether this will be a less free society, and then we must ask whether this is a price worth paying.

The unmasking of this monster will lead to change at many levels. It will make us re-assess risk in relation to our children since it creates paranoia. It may change our relationship with the idea of celebrity (which, in itself, may not be a bad thing). It will make us more aware of the possibility of abuse, and I hope that this will lead institutions such as hospitals, children’s homes, prisons and broadcasters to make sure that they are never in the same position to allow this to happen ever again. Above all I hope that it does create the environment for genuine victims of abuse to come forward and receive the trust, support and closure that they need.

Finally, I hope that our children do not suffer as a result of this greater perception of risk and no doubt things will calm down. But at the moment it is a scary situation that makes me very angry and very wary, and I feel changed by it in ways that I am yet to fully comprehend.