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Roots and Wings

When I gave birth to my three children, I knew I had signed up for life. That no matter what, I would, from that day forward, be a mother. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have always said that even if I never did another thing right in my life, I have been a good mother and have raised three beautiful human beings.

I’m now 47, and my children are no longer small. At 21, 19 and 11 only one of them ‘needs’ me in the practical sense; to feed her, and clothe her, and house her. The older two are adults in their own right – my eldest daughter is now a mother herself, and has given me a beautiful grandson, and is expecting another child in September. She lives 40 miles away with her fiancé and son, and has her own life.

My son, although still living at home, has a thriving social life and a full time job, and some days I feel like we’re ships that pass in the night and although I miss having my ‘little boy’ around as much, I am happy and grateful that he has friends, and earns his own money and lives his own life. It is the way it is meant to be, and as much as watching your children grow up and, essentially, away from you is painful, it is the natural order of things and proof that you, as a parent, have done a good job. I once read that as parents we need only give our children two things – roots, and wings. I have given them both.

Which is why it hurts me so much that their father really doesn’t seem to give a damn.

My youngest daughter (from my second marriage) hasn’t seen her father for eight years, but that is for good reason and for another day. My first husband, who I divorced 14 years ago, has always had full access to our children, and up until they knew better I facilitated contact between them, made excuses for him, and have been the one to arrange visits between them. But, as is always the case with children, they grow up and start to realise that all is not as it seems. And that has broken my heart, because they have had to face the truth that, as much as he probably does love them, he doesn’t care that much. It seems that, once his financial obligations ended so did his parental responsibilities, and I’m not referring to the ones set out in law, but rather the moral responsibilities, the emotional ones, the ones that show that, no matter what, he has their back. Because he doesn’t.

As they have grown, so has the distance between my children and their father, although geographically we are closer to him than we have been in 14 years. We live a mere 45 minute drive away, and yet visits per year can be counted on one hand. There can be weeks, even months without any contact between them – he will say, when challenged, that it shouldn’t be up to him to contact them when in reality he rarely replies to them when they have called or sent a text message.

When my daughter sent him a message to tell him she was expecting her second child, it took him 48 hours to reply. Did he congratulate her? No, his response was ‘well thanks for making me feel old’. And he then wonders why they don’t bother with him.

I suspect a lot of it is to do with the relationship he is in. His girlfriend is in her 20s, while he is in his late 40s, and the idea of grandchildren doesn’t fit nicely in with his ‘image’. When he was with the woman who was ultimately to blame for the breakdown of our marriage, he was a better father. She ensured he saw the children, she made an effort with them and was instrumental in him making an effort. And I am grateful to her for that. But since Lady Karma paid him a visit (she ran off with his best friend), and he took up with the present one, he has failed the children, and now the grandchildren.

But, ultimately, he will pay the price, not our children, nor the grandchildren. He will start to wonder why he didn’t know that our son had his passing out parade for the police force, and that all the photographs from that day are of me and my son. He won’t understand that nobody told him that our grandson fractured his leg last week, and will be in plaster for his 2nd birthday. When he sees the photos and videos of the same birthday party will he understand why he wasn’t invited when he sees the rest of the family there? Does he even feel it that when our grandson was born he didn’t see him for the first couple of weeks, while I was at the hospital in the early hours of the morning, holding my daughter’s hand along with my son in law while she brought a precious new life into the world? It’s not for lack of trying on the children’s part – nor on my part when they were younger. But there comes a point in everyone’s lives when they just give up trying. They shouldn’t have to beg their own father to be a part of their lives, he should be begging them to allow him in.

The years of sacrifice, and they have been sacrifices I was happy to make, have given me the three best friends anyone could ask for. Whereas once it was me and my firstborn child, we are now two women, united in motherhood, and it is a joy to watch her blossoming into the most beautiful, natural mother. My boy, who once swore that he would one day marry me, is now a handsome man, who towers above me and uses that height to drop kisses on my forehead, and is never ashamed to show his love and affection for me in public, the same man who tells anyone who asks that I am his hero. And my little girl, who has never had her father in her life, is my constant companion, and whose world falls apart should we have an argument because the one person whose opinion matters to her is her mother’s. There is an unbreakable bond, borne out of years of struggling but knowing that nothing and nobody would ever make me give up on them, of never having much money but always being rich in love, and attention and affection. That is something that their father will never have, because you can’t build on something without solid foundations. No matter what money he gives them for birthdays, or Christmas, it will never be enough to buy the closeness we have built together over the years, because they will always feel the disappointment in him that he, himself, has created.

What I have with my children is priceless, and one day he will realise that. But by then it will be too late.

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