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Learning to ride—A single father’s reflection

DKM, Trincity, Trinidad and Tobago

“What am I going to do now?” That was the question that wracked my brain.  On the morning of that Friday in November, I had begun the day married.  Now, at its end, I was no longer married. My wife had passed away. After 18 years together and within sight of my half century, the marriage ended and I had sole responsibility of our two children.  He was 13 and she 11 and they were about to experience a severe collapse of their world as mine had done. How am I going to make this work?  Can I?  What started as a solid two-wheeled bicycle was now a unicycle and I had to learn to ride.

Three years on, we’re still alive and finding our way; still learning and figuring it out.  Some mornings I wonder, “Who are these people in the house? Where did the children go?”

Our boy was always the football ‘peong’ and could outline the top four teams in the English Premier and Spanish La Liga.  The overall UEFA standings and team movements rolled out of him like he was a prepped broadcaster.  History events and dates? Not so much.  Worse still was verb conjugation or foreign words.  But where did he get this sense of relative justice and fair play?  Who are these guys with whom he walks downtown to meet me at the office?

Our little miss was always excitable and loved music.  She played pan before SEA and would recite her notes everywhere.  I could see a tenor pan in the house before long.  She entered secondary school bringing no primary school companions and I tried to spin it as chance to make more than a hundred new friends.  Two years before, that would have been that.  Daddy said so and it would be so.  Now, she was sceptical.  I had to work to convince her.  When did that start?

Siblings fight.  As a brother, I am accustomed to the ways of sibling rivalry.  As a dad, seeing the grounds for the conflicts, I wonder to myself, “Were we so?”.  I know that uneasy ‘peace accords’ break out from time to time and I have come to realise that they ‘keep secret’ for each other.  Simple things like finishing another’s breakfast so I don’t fly off the handle.  Wasting food trips me off.

Before, as the dad, my job was to ferry us all to and from fun spots.  Now, I have to identify them too.  Pre-SEA, a drive to another part of the country might be exciting and fun.  Now, as teenagers, it only means no WIFI, unless they hotspot my phone on the sly. Sneaky. Very sneaky.

We have always been a driving family.  All similar parents these days know the drill—drive to lessons, wait at extra-curricular activities.  It seems I drive every day.  It is convenient.  There are times though I wonder whether I do them a disservice.  I know I must teach them to ‘travel’—use public transport. The cotton wool coating must be unwound.  The real question is, “Am I ready?”.

Nothing stays put in life.  It never has.  Life spared, a seven year old will become 17 and then cross 27 and so on.  Looming large ahead is the driving child.  He has already asked me to teach him and I will oblige, eventually.  But I know where this will lead.  It will graduate from “Can I go?” to “Can I borrow the keys” to “If I had my own….”

Then I will have to learn again.  This time, how to sleep.