Having written five blogs pretty much setting the scene and banging on a lot about my lovely wife, it’s probably time to finally address the reason why I’m writing all this stuff in the first place.
At the age of 38, I’ve been tasked with bringing up my three-year-old daughter on my own. Well, I say ‘on my own’, I do have a great support network in place to help me, but you know what I mean.
The situation I’m faced with isn’t all that rare. Plenty of people are tasked with bringing up children alone due to marriage break-ups and such like, as well as those like myself who have been widowed.
Nevertheless, statistically there aren’t many widowed guys in their 30s put in this situation and although I’m aware of one or two through the various support groups I’ve encountered so far, it seems even more rare that those affected have children as young as Grace.
As I’ve said before, the fact Nicola was terminally ill for nearly a year meant we knew this situation was coming at some point, so we were able to plan various aspects of it and she was in a position to discuss certain things with me in advance.
But on the whole, her belief was that while she was obviously devastated that she wasn’t going to be able to see the little girl she doted on grow up, she had every faith I’d do a grand job.
No pressure, then
I did my best while Nicola was alive to prove to her that I’d be just fine. From the day Grace was born I was a very hands-on dad so I’ve always taken on plenty of responsibility, particularly as I had to while Nicola was ill anyway, but clearly this was going to be a very different kind of scenario.
I’d therefore get frustrated sometimes when I didn’t handle something all that well or wasn’t able to do a fundamental parental job sufficiently, fearing that Nicola would somehow lose confidence in me moving forward. Realistically, I had no real need to feel that way, but it’s just how things were in my mind.
Grace and I are incredibly close. She’s always been a ‘Daddy’s girl’ and whilst she was of course equally as close to her mum, the fact that since Nicola died Grace has seamlessly adapted to it being just ‘me and her’ has helped a great deal.
I’ll talk about how Grace has coped with losing Nicola in a separate blog, but for now I’ll just say that initially, she’s handled it better than I thought she might.
That in turn has helped me and others who have been so saddened by what’s happened. Grace has been a constant therapy due to her happy and fun-loving nature and without her I’m nigh on certain we’d all be in a very different place psychologically to where we find ourselves now.
We’ve always had to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible for Grace. She’d got very used to her mum being ill as she was just 11-months-old when Nicola was first diagnosed, but thanks to the support I’ve had we’ve managed to minimise disruption to her overall development.
That was of paramount importance too when Nicola died. Within a couple of weeks, Grace started nursery and preparing for that proved a welcome distraction from everything else going on. We’d had to essentially quarantine Grace from hugely social situations like playgroups and so on due to the risk of infection; she always picked up colds etc but passing those on to Nicola could cause lots of problems and on one occasion did so. Thankfully Nicola emerged, just, to fight on.
So, I wasn’t sure how she’d get on at nursery but, thankfully, she loves it and has already wowed her teacher with how bright she is. I know I’m biased, but for a child who has just turned three she’s very clever and I think her supervisors were quite taken aback on her first day when, for example, she was the only one who could spell her name, write it down and pick it out on a list of others!
The fact that’s the case is also a big help. Developmentally, the sort of situation Grace has found herself in from a very young age could have had a negative effect, but Nicola – who taught four and five-year-old children for a living – was always keen to ensure she was learning at every opportunity so thankfully it’s been quite a seamless transition into the school environment.
I can also hold quite advanced conversations with Grace too which has helped when it’s come to explaining just what’s happened to her mum. Again, I’ll go over all of that in a separate blog, but the fact she can converse like she can and already ask quite pertinent questions means that the daunting job of trying to help her understand has been made just a little easier.
So all of those factors have been a big help. Don’t get me wrong, at three-years-old there remains an awful lot Grace won’t understand, nor should she be expected to, and we’re having to approach some aspects accordingly, but I’m of the opinion that she’s actually a good age to be experiencing this because she’s old enough to have some memories of Nicola and understand the basics, yet perhaps not old enough to be too adversely affected by what’s happened. Time will tell, I guess.
Far from being daunted by the journey ahead, I’m actually relishing it. I’ll do as much as I can with Grace on a daddy-daughter level and generate as many great experiences as I can for her throughout her childhood. It will be hard work, there’s no question about that, but proper parenting is hard work for anyone no matter what the circumstances so I just need to make things work for us.
I’m utterly devastated that Nicola isn’t on this journey with me, but I owe it to her to ensure that Grace will flourish.