It’s one of those perfect mornings, my favourite kind – the sun shining brightly through the hazy morning sky, a lovely chat with B over breakfast, coffee, feeling full of energy and motivation and can’t wait for my session with R and then attack Alice for a few hours, but best of all: Monkey is back today!
Because I never believed children belong to mummy alone when the shit called ‘divorce’ hits the fan, my ex-husband and I share care, alternating the weeks Friday to Friday. As crappy a husband as he was (and I’m sure I was a crappy wife – we were just wrong for each other), he is a committed and dedicated father, so to my mind there was no reason to do things any differently. And as a result, instead of the one miserable home where my son spent his first two years, with two deeply unhappy parents, he now has two happy homes and two happy parents. Infinitely better, in my view, than the alternative.
And what do we have? We have the most cheerful and confident child you could imagine. Joyful, exuberant and so smart he scares me. Every time we’ve had parents’ evenings at his school, it’s the same thing every time – he’s top of the class and he is a popular kid who is confident and secure in himself. I don’t much care for popularity, all I care about is that he is happy, and that I am pretty sure he is – it’s plain to see. What I admire the most in my little Monkey is his great empathy and sense of justice, it’s beautiful. From day one, despite always being part of the popular clique, he’s also always been the one to include the shy, the quiet and the little different kids, those who might otherwise end up bullied. That makes me incredibly proud.
I loved the time during his Reception year – actually there are two things I remember in particular:
Monkey used to have long hair, and as a result – in combination with being damn cute – people always mistook him for a girl. Those gorgeous blond locks would bounce around his head when he ran around, and I quickly lost count of the times people, even strangers, would tell me I should contact a child modelling agency or generally commenting on how cute he was. (Still is, just now he actually looks like a boy). So anyway, there he was in his first year of school, amongst the youngest kids, having just turned five. I wasn’t there of course, but his teacher relayed the story to me. A group of older boys had teased him because of his long hair. Monkey had turned around and point blank informed them that “boys can have long hair too. My name is [Monkey], are you joining us for football?” And that was it. So strong was (and is) his sense of self and value, that nothing gets to him – he simply shot down the jibe and that was that, no one picked on him again.
And any time since Reception and to now, everyone knows [Monkey]. He’d casually stroll through the school yard with me when I was picking him up, and would have “hi [Monkey]s” from all directions. He is a character and everyone at school seems to know him.
But the time that once and for all cemented how boundlessly proud I am of my son, was when – also during the Reception year – there was this little Spanish kid who’d just joined the class, having just moved over from Spain and spoke little to no English. As the kids were queueing up ready to go to class, I stood around with the rest of the parents. Monkey with his boisterous group of friends of course. Then this lady came up and introduced herself and asked if I was [Monkey]’s mother. She pointed out her son, the new kid, who awkwardly stood there on his own while all the other kids were busy with their by then established little groups of mates.
“He wants to go and stand with your son”, she explained.
I called Monkey over, we introduced the two boys, and then Monkey took the boy by the hand and had him join his little crew. And from that day onward, Monkey’s teacher told us, Monkey always had this kid under his wing, helping him in lessons and ensured he was always included in play. It’s stuff like that, that sometimes makes me wonder how I could possibly be the mother of a child this empathetic, caring and considerate. Gosh, I could just weep with joy.
But I’m not saying it’s always been easy. Of course I have felt guilt countless times over how I couldn’t provide Monkey with the nuclear family and mummy and daddy together forever. But what I do know is this – a child needs a loving, happy and calm home. If that happens to be TWO homes, that doesn’t matter. I even consulted experts when I was getting divorced, including a child psychologist, and thankfully they confirmed to me what I knew in my heart – so we took that route. I ignored my own feelings (trust me, the weeks Monkey’s not with me – the ache in my heart is enough to split it in two) and put my child’s wellbeing first rather than for selfish reasons restricting my ex to every other weekend with his son (and effectively wrecking their relationship), as any mother would do and I know that this was best for Monkey. My ex and I both had jobs with hours and flexibility that fit with the drop-offs and pick-ups at school. And the proof is there for all to see, in this exuberant, cheerful and ever so chatty little boy, who always seems to be smiling and whose eyes always have that cheeky little glint.
So there are two kinds of Friday mornings – the ones when I drop Monkey off and my heart aches because I know he won’t be with me for a week, and then you have ones like this one, when my heart is shooting fireworks out of happiness knowing my reason for being will be back with me again.