After answering a question, ”What’s the saddest thing your child told you while you were struggling financially?’‘ I was told I had answered the wrong question when I gave my answer. The reader said my answer should have been to the question ‘‘What’s the most inspiring thing your child has told you…..”
You decide. Sad or inspiring?
We have all heard about people going through ‘A nasty divorce.’ I can tell you I was one of those people who went through one. I do not wish it on anybody. This article is not about the divorce. It is about the two little people who it affected the most. And yet were the most courageous and kind-hearted children I am blessed to know.
As a parent going through a divorce, you look at situations through your perspective. No matter how you try, you can not see it from the child’s perspective. You are not them. I have seen many children in the middle of a divorce and helped them through it the best way I can. In its simplest terms. It is pure shit for the child.
I was disturbed to find out my children were told by the so-called ‘caring friends’ that they would get ”two of everything.” The friends told them, ”The best thing about your parents splitting up, is you get lots of stuff. Like two lots of Christmas presents.”
I am sure they meant well but in all honesty that was not going to happen. Divorce stripped my finances to the point I could not afford to eat. And these people are telling my children about all the presents they are going to get.
While Dad refused to pay any maintenance, it was down to me to provide for the children. My children and I moved into rented accommodation. I lost my business too as it was a business from my previous home. With no income, I had to fend for three of us.
It is a great way to lose weight as I did not eat but I made sure my children did. Obviously, I do not recommend this weight loss programme. I have a Daughter, and a Son and both are loving and caring. My Son will give you his last penny if he thinks it will help.
Ten days after moving into the rented accommodation, my son had a birthday. He was turning 11. I could not take him anywhere like I used to. They used to get experiences for their birthdays. So, I decided to have his friends over, and they could have water fights in the garden.
I was feeling the guilt, and it feels crap. But somehow I became the ‘‘Best Mum ever.’‘ My Son said so, so it must be true. All the boys attending left saying, ‘‘This is the best party ever!” All it took was a garden, lots of water and crap food.
My Son had received birthday money from many people. It totalled £90. Over the next year, I continually asked ‘‘Are you going to spend your birthday money?”
His reply was always ”You can have it.”
My reply was always ”I don’t need it, it’s your money. Go and get something you want.”
He never touched it. If he saw that I needed something he’d bring his money to me and say ”Here you go.”
Of course, I never took it. Just before his next birthday when he’d be turning 12 years old, he was also starting high school. He walked into the living room with a plastic bag and seemed a little excited. ‘‘Mum, look what I got,” he said. From the bag, he pulled a new high school tie out and said ”I bought my tie for school.” Slightly confused I said ‘‘Why have you bought your tie for school? Where did you get the money from?”
He replied, ”I used my birthday money.” I was shocked. ‘‘No, No, No, I am getting your uniform. I will give you the money back.” I could not believe what he said next. It seemed he was telling me off or putting me in my place.
”It is not your responsibility. I’m the one wearing the tie, not you. I had the money, and I wanted to help you. It is my uniform, not yours. I will spend my birthday money on what I want to.”
I explained how it is my responsibility, but he would not listen.
Well, my chest nearly burst with pride and I held in the tears as that would have led to him teasing me. My children and I have a lot of banter with each other. Me crying would have given them ammunition for years. Always the joker that he is, with a huge smile he said, ‘‘I’ve got to be your favourite child now, right?”
Our first Christmas just the three of us and I had no idea what I was going to do. I managed to get him a small race track that had two cars. And a second-hand Play station. I knew he would be happy with both of those gifts.
To see his face when he opened the presents was my gift. He was stunned at the play station and pleaded ‘‘Mum, please can I set it up? I know how to do it’. Please’, Please.”
We had been given an old T.V from a friend, and I wasn’t sure the play station would work with that particular T.V.
”Course you can, but I’m not sure it will go on this T.V,” I replied.
He was so happy when he had hooked it all up by himself. But then the dreaded words came, ”Mum, it doesn’t work.” You got to be frickin kidding me. I stayed calm and only panicked privately in my head. Maybe he hadn’t connected it properly?
After going through it together, we worked out the controller was broken. I felt awful. I was very apologetic and promised I would get it sorted after Christmas day. My son smiled and said, ”It’s fine. I can play with my race track. I love racing cars. I’ve always wanted one.” I felt relieved and watched him set up his track. Then the second bolt of failure came when he shouts ‘‘Do we have batteries?”
The second mortgage most parents deal with is batteries. I look up at the ceiling and sigh before I ravage the draw. The draw we all have that contains everything of no use. I can’t see any. I am frantically moving things around. ”Please, please, please magically appear to me now,” I demand.
As I am not a magician, the batteries did not magically appear. I did not have any batteries. I looked around the house to see if I had batteries in something else. None anywhere. He has a second hand broken play station and a race track he can’t use because I have no batteries.
I was not given a tiara for Mother of the year that day. How do I feel now? A failure. A complete f*cking failure. I held in the tears as I did not want to put my weeping on his shoulders. Again the apologies came flooding out of me. ‘‘I’m sorry.” I didn’t even have alcohol to drown my sorrows as I could not afford any.
He says, ”Mum, it’s fine. I get to annoy my sister, and that’s my favourite thing to do in the world.” I still felt crap. The day came to an end and as it did both children gave me the tightest hug. I had to ask them to let go as they were strangling me.
My Daughter kept repeating, ”Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.’‘ My Son, ”This was the best Christmas ever!”
”The best Christmas ever!” That was hard to believe, and I was sure they were saying it for my benefit. They must have read ‘failure’ on my face in the day. I laughed and said ”No way this was your best Christmas ever. You guys had nothing to play with.”
They looked at me, and both were frowning. ‘‘It was the best Christmas because it was just us 3 and we were allowed to help with everything.”
Brace yourself, ”Don’t cry, DO NOT CRY!” I tell myself. Remember they will tease me. Tease me for years to come. As a youngster, I had amazing family Christmases. It was always about the family being together and all the games we played. There were lots of us.
The first Christmas it was the three of us, I was the biggest winner. My gifts were never under the tree. They came wrapped up in two little smiling faces. A 12 and 11-year-old put me before themselves. How did they manage that? That will always beat any material gift. Two pre-teens made sure I never felt like a failure. They made me feel like I was the best parent and not the worst parent.
When they test me in other areas of life, and they do. I remember what beautiful spirits they are. I won’t be happy if you tell them what I have said because I feel they will use it as leverage to get their own way one day.
Then I was told ”They are how you taught them to be.”