This week. The same week every year. Where my wife flies off overseas, and I get the house to myself for three days and nights to overheat the Xbox and overcook the meat feast pizza. Except this year is not the same. This year I am not alone. The boy is here. I am dabbling with single parenthood. I am a single parent adoptive stay at home dad.
It was a week I had originally been looking forward to, but that was before the boy moved in. I love spending time with the boy, but the realities of stay at home dadness sometimes stray a little further than my pre-dad fantasies.
I quickly realised that this doesn’t matter though. This week is not about me.
The lead up to the week was stressful, for all of us, for a variety of reasons. It always is, this time of the year; my wife taking responsibility as she does for all that is happening at the office.
One thing an adopted boy doesn’t need is stress. He has seen enough to last a lifetime, and his parents should subject him to nothing close to stress so quickly into placement. Adoption cannot stop life though, you cannot alter everything.
The three days as a result, started with the boy eyeing me wistfully…
Wifers had booked a taxi at 4am, so with a groggy wave of the hand, I bid her farewell. I kept my alarm on, so as not to break routine too much. 7am, and I awoke to squeeze in a shower before I returned to a boy pensively staring at his teddy, and look up at me with a face bearing the weight of the world.
My heart was broken for him, and I desperately wanted to shift his mind to something devoid of worry, and filled with colour, light and magic.
I tried throughout the day, but the spark ever present in his eyes had dimmed ever so slightly, and he held me, just an ounce tighter than the day before.
I stuck to his routine, and even managed to get him to laugh once or twice, but he was different that day, and a sadness swept over me. I hated that the boy felt low, but I hated even more, that I couldn’t resolve it.
I rose to a totally new day, and a revitalised son. Again managing a shower before his eyes fluttered, I returned to the room to be greeted with his Cheshire cat grin that we were now so accustomed to.
Our social worker was visiting, so the boy and I tidied up, and by that of course, I mean the boy wreaked havoc, and I followed him with a hoover. Today I was glad though. His impish little grin and the mischievous twinkle in his eye had returned with gusto. I never thought I would be so relieved of that fact.
The day went well, sunshine and fresh air, playfulness and laughter. I put him to bed confident that his stress had all but disappeared.
Today was treat day. I took him to see some exotic birds. To fill his brain with new adventures and let him soak up some brand new information, that would hopefully provide him with joyful memories and rich subjects for his dreams.
He enjoyed it, mostly, and his signs of attachment showed he had made incredible gains. As he was lapping it up though, I was going downhill.
A feeling akin to a hangover grew and by the journey home I had all windows down to save me from passing out in the car.
By the time we had returned, I was good for little other than lying on the couch. Strong medication provided a two hour respite; enough time for me to feed the boy. I was not the father I was previously though, and he knew it.
The bedtime routine was laboured, and when I put him down his eyes were wide open. There was no chance of him sleeping at that point.
The drugs had worn off, and I was preparing myself for a mission.
The doorbell pinged to life.
I lumbered downstairs and opened up the door.
My wife stood there as tired as I was, but I have rarely been so glad to see her.
I greeted her with a hazy smile, and explained the boy was awake.
She offered to go and see him, and he welcomed her with his traditional beaming smile. I was pleased for both of them, possibly hoping that equilibrium would now be restored.
Most of all however, I felt my breath slow down, and a heavy hand retreat from my shoulder. My shift was over, and the constant responsibility had ended; if only for a short time.
His excitement spilled over, and the night turned into a battle after all. To share the front line with my wife though, was something I will be eternally grateful for. A stay at home dad I am. A single parent father I am not.
I awoke the next morning though, having learned something about myself. I awoke with a new found respect for real single parents. Their shift is never over.