The ONLY Dad in the Playground
This month you will hear a lot about children starting or returning to school, and the impact it has both on them and their parents. If you switch on the radio or TV you will likely hear mothers being asked for their take on the latest school year, the change of routine, the latest curriculum, the difficulties of letting go and sending a child to school for the first time… the list goes on. And yes I purposefully said mothers because, though I hope to be corrected, we (or at least the media) seem to assume they are the gatekeepers of such thoughts and feelings. I hope you don’t mind my cynicism, but when you’re a single Dad it does sometimes feel like the media only thinks about parenting through a mother’s lens.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you a little about how a Dad feels during this time.
**Spoiler alert; we have the exact same thoughts and feelings as mothers.**
Coping with the day in day out
For me, this September sees my youngest start school and my eldest return to school. I worry about our youngest; he’s quite a sensitive quiet child just as I was. Will he fit in, will he cope with this day in day out, will he make friends and will he gain independence away from our eldest when they’re in the same building? It’s hard and scary to send an introverted child to school. It’s doubly hard when you’re a separated parent and any issues they have settling in you need to try and sort across the parent divide. Further I won’t get eyes on them every night to see how they’re doing, I will just have to trust. Letting go like this is so hard and I may never get used to it.
For my eldest, questions linger like will he like his new teacher, will he get his head down and keep learning, how will he transition from holiday to school time? As for doing this separated; will we do a better job this year of sharing information between parents, and ensuring school admin and our children’s social lives run smoothly?
And then there’s me.
This marks the month when I will no longer have a day off to spend exclusively with my youngest. My routine for 30 months as a part-time working Dad at home with the children part of the week is uprooted and I have to adjust to a new routine, see my children even less, and all this while worrying about how they will get on.
I wish I could leave you with something I’ve learnt about this, but it’s new to me and I will only learn about this by doing (maybe in June I can fill you in on the answers!). What I will say is this; Dad’s have to deal with all the same worries and concerns that any parent has to with school, we just might show it differently. If you see a Dad in the playground, know that you can talk to him about all the same issues any parent faces when their children are at school. It can feel a bit of an isolated experience being a Dad in the playground.
Finally, the return to school is only made harder by separation. Do your best to trust that the other parent will do just as good a job as you would around the school when you can’t be there. Try not to blame each other if something goes wrong and seek solutions that let your children know that you’re both engaged in their education.
Good luck to all parents for academic year 2019/20!
About the Author
60:40 Dad, has two boys (4 and 5yrs). He has been separated from the Mother of his children for two years now and his children live with him 40% of the time.
60:40 Dad works part time allowing him the flexibility to spend some weekdays with my children, to be there for school drop off and pick ups and try and make things balance.
60:40 Dad is keeping his real name private to avoid shining the internet’s spotlight on his children.