Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Who do you love the best? Me or your Dad?

I was driving my youngest (11) back from school today, when he asked whether he was going to his Dad's the following day.

No, I said, you're coming to mine.

Then there was silence.

At which point, the evil gremlin inside me started to mither: he's silent because he's wishing he's going to his Dad's.  He likes his Dad's house better than mine.  His Dad is more fun than me.  He loves his Dad more than me.

I have these inner dialogues often and they chew me up.  Even when I was married, happily married, I was anxious that I was never as good a parent as their father.  I was always the practical one; I would cook, clean, wash up, clean their clothes, iron, do the school runs, attend parents' evening, food and clothes shop - a typical female role.

Their Dad was always the one who played with them, who seriously enjoyed their company.  I used to blame the fact that I was always busy for not being able to devote much time to them, but if I'm honest, I was bored by their games and lost patience easily when they started to grump.  I felt - feel - extremely guilty about this.  I can honestly say that I love my boys with an intensity that is beyond words, and yet sometimes, spending more than half an hour with them in a block can send me round the twist and reaching for the valium.

So today, the silence in the car set off all my guilt alarms.  I then did a bad thing.  I probed deeper.

"So," I said, "Do you mind coming to mine tomorrow night?"

"No", he said, "You've got an Xbox."

Never has a four letter word given me such delight.  Getting that Xbox a few months ago cleaned me out, but boy, if that scores me a few points, then it was worth Every. Single. Penny.

(I am a bad person.)

But I didn't let it end there.  I let out a little cough. "Ahem. what else do you like about staying here?"

"Well - your teas are much better.  And I've got a double bed.  And a cat."

Now, this is where I should have stopped.  This is when I should have said to myself, that's great, he loves me, he gets fed well with me and he loves his cat.  Stop.

But bugger me, the gremlin wasn't having any of that.  He wanted to know all sort of other things.  So before I knew what was happening, I'd already spurted out,

"So what's better at your Dad's house, then?"


And, wishing I hadn't asked the honest question, I listened to the honest reply.

"Dad gives us more treats." (Mental note - that's why they're getting fat.) "He's also a bit kinder." (WHAT?) "He gets me a drink when I ask, rather than me having to get it myself." (Oh.  Ok.)  "He's got a bigger garden." (That's true.)  "And he also spends more time with us."

Oh.  Guilt.  Shame.  I am a shit mother.

The only way I could handle this was to tell my son that he was completely right, that his Dad does spend more time with them, and that he is very good at that.  I did not have any excuse for my own behaviour, for how I feel when I play boardgames with them; how I am not interested in the Xbox in any way.

I deeply wish I was a better, kinder, more patient person.  I am going to try harder.

I am going to suggest a board game.  Right now.  And when I suggest it, I shall smile and pretend it's what I really, really want to do.  And I will continue to smile right the way through it, even if it's Risk and lasts for a hundred years.  And my smile will not turn into a grimace.  And I will be gracious when I lose horribly.

Because I want to try to be the best mum I could possibly be.

Even if it sends me completely nuts.


  1. If it makes you feel any better i mostly hate playing with my kids and have also written a post on it before! All my son wants to do is have me push cars around the floor all day and 5 minutes doing that seems like 5 hours ;) You sounds like a very normal, and good mum to me!

    1. Thanks so much for that - it means an awful lot! I remember the car pushing thing too - interminable - and also 'playing trains'. AAARRRRGGGHHH!

  2. Oh god, I could've written that!
    I separated from my son's father when he was almost 2 and I have been full of a sense of inadequacy ever since.
    Thank you for your honesty.

    1. Thanks Delta Girl. It's tough, innit? :-(

  3. Lottie you sound like me! I got so bored playing so I always took my children out and we had season tickets for all the local attractions. I also liked cooking with them. Hubby liked playing a bit more and making things and camping. BUT that's why they have 2 parents isn't it?? If both Mum and Dad did the same things with the child it would be pretty dull and there would be a gap that no parent covered. If each parent is good for something different to the other then more things happen.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Pappers. I do cook with them, although less so now that there both (almost) teenagers. You're right, I suppose my ex and I cover all bases for them, but I wish I was a bit more generously patient with them!

  4. Could you maybe find something that you DO like doing, and do it with them? My parents refused to play Monopoly, I didn't really mind. There are so many activities and things to do now, there must be something you could do together.

    1. You're right Coco - I do take them out. That's my thing. Walks, bike rides, swimming. Also, my eldest has a penchant for cooking (like Pappers was saying), which is good.

  5. Aha! So perhaps this is a winter thing your ex has got brownie points for as all your great activities sound like they demand a bit of half decent weather! I wonder whether this has anything to do with having boys..I know I get VERY easily bored with trains, cars and Thomas the Sodding Tank Engine! But on the other hand maybe I would have gotten very easily bored with dolls, pushchairs and teddy bears tea parties (actually that makes me feel quite nostaligic!). And then theres the tween and teen years with boys - the fear!

    Its really hard work being a good parent when it involves immersing yourselves in your children's activities. I decided recently to try and live a bit more mindfully and that includes taking the time to do a bit more immersing but that is bloody hard sometimes when you're left alone (or in your case, always alone) with two of them - different demands, all the practical tasks you have to get done as well. You're definitely not alone.

  6. God damn it, if he's 11, he blooming well should get his own drink! Mine is 4 and I make him get his own drink.
    But ooooh I know how you feel. I'm a single mum with chores galore and I beat myself up about not playing with them more. Not made any easier by the fact my ex is an evil *ahem* and so who states he'll be taking me back to court for residency as soon as the children can choose. They're 3 & 4, and apparently at 8 they get a choice.
    Lovely to have that hanging over my head. Thanks for this.

  7. Ah this made me laugh out loud - and like Delta Girl, I could have written this!!! Mind you, we've gone full circle - my two grumpy teens now throw strops about not wanting to go to their Dad's, something I never imagined for one nanosecond would ever happen!


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