Today I’m in sole charge of the kids. Nothing unusual there, but my wife worries about being away from the children for so long.
It’s not a reflection on my child rearing abilities, she doesn’t think that I’m going to lose them or that I’ll burn the house down. She knows I’m a good dad and that I can be trusted to cope with the kids on my own for the day. She just worries that one of the kids will get lost or that the house will burn down while she’s not here! There’s a big difference between the two.
Kids wander off. It’s a fact of life. I did it when I was young! It didn’t mean that my mum was a bad parent or that she neglected me, I just wandered off and got lost.
Sometimes fires just happen. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, they can be the result of faulty wiring, power surges, too many plugs in an extension cord.
My wife fears that these things will happen if she’s not here. Not because of me, but because she’s not here. It’s part of her depression. It’s something she struggles with even though she knows that her presence doesn’t guarantee our children’s safety any more than mine does. We could have a crack team of professional babysitters and a fire crew on standby and she’d still only be at ease if she was here.
I think that some dads would find this upsetting, but I understand it’s not borne from a lack of trust, but a need to be in control. Not in charge, but in control. She needs to be on hand because she’d feel awful if something did happen. She’d blame herself just because she wasn’t there.
So, am I wrapping the kids up in cotton wool and monitoring them more closely than ever? Am I moving every potentially dangerous object out of reach and padding all the table corners?
This morning the kids have been wearing my hats which are huge on them and droop over their eyes. They’ve been chucking the sofa cushions on the floor and jumping off the sofa onto them. They’ve been ducking under the table and chasing each other around the chairs. The floor is covered in plastic play food, one of the slipperiest substances known to man!
This is normal. This is what would happen if my wife was at home, and it’s what my children expect. I wouldn’t change anything, and if they bump their heads or fall over I’ll deal with it. We may have tears, we may have tantrums, but we’ll have fun and my kids won’t grow up in fear of hurting themselves. They’ll take risks, they’ll enjoy themselves, and they won’t need mummy to kiss them better every time they scrape a knee.
My wife will never stop worrying about leaving them, but then again, neither will I.