OK, so being a lone father

By Paul Lester, November 19, 2009

I decided that, because I’d been writing this column for over a year, it was time to do one about my children. They were delighted. When I told them on the way home from school that they would be the focus of an article in the JC they were very impressed, albeit a little concerned about the literary merit or otherwise of the content.

Oops, no, sorry – I just nodded off and dreamed I had a completely different set of kids. Actually, the first thing mine said when I told them was: “How much of the money are we going to get?”

I should, before we go any further, introduce my progeny, which appropriately rhymes with prodigy (warning: this will not be a nachas-free zone).

Ben, 11, is the brainy one who can tell you things about the Lamborghini Murcielago you don’t need, or indeed can’t afford, to know; Ethan, nine, is the helpful one who can cook a three-course meal blindfold; and Talia, six, is the loud one who, when she’s older, wants to work for the Noise Abatement Society — as the Noise. They’re all quite grown-up, which is handy, because I’m not. Ever since my wife and I split up, there have been a lot of night terrors and sleeping with the light on — mine, not theirs. Needy? Guilty as charged. Me insecure? Put it this way: on the days that they go back to their mum’s, it’s me that suffers from Separation Anxiety Disorder.

I’m not much better when they’re here. If a friend of mine pops over, the one demanding more attention — either from the friend or my kids, I don’t care which — is usually me. And when that friend has gone it’s me that asks the un-askable. “So... Uncle Pete, then,” I nervously venture, referring to anyone over the age of 16 as uncle or aunt. “Is he — cough, splutter — more fun than me?”

To this I get a variety of responses. “It depends what you mean by fun,” says Ben, brainily. “Have a cup of tea,” suggests Ethan, helpfully — and cunningly — changing the subject. “Eeeeeeeee!!!” shrieks Talia, noisily.

Most divorced dads probably take the opportunity to deck out their home like a space-age bachelor pad and generally erase all signs that they’re anything but a swinging lothario from a ’70s Brut advert. And most normal divorced dads probably like to keep news about the kids quiet.

I’m a little different to most divorced dads. My children don’t cramp my style, I cramp theirs. And if it’s a choice between going on a date or going to the park with the kids, I would always go for the option with the slide, although now that I think of it, for sheer vertiginous thrill-seeking, my love life has begun to resemble the Ripsaw ride at Alton Towers.

Recently, I had what was on paper the ideal solution: take a date to the local playground along with the kids. It was a disaster.

I got no attention whatsoever. They wanted her to push them on the swings, and she got all the cuddles. I was reduced to throwing a tantrum and rolling around on the grass like a spoiled infant.

“So immature,” tutted Ben. “There’ll be no tea for you when we get home,” scolded Ethan. “Eeeeeeeee!!!” shrieked Talia, thankfully demonstrating that I was only the second most juvenile person in the park.

Last updated: 11:28am, November 19 2009