Being “Daddy”

Me and Tristan at Cefn Mably Farm Park, September 2013.

First, some background. If you dig through the archives you’ll notice that there were some posts a few years ago about me having acquired a family. They’re here and here. They were written in 2010 and a lot has changed since then. We’re no longer a family; me and Tristan’s mother are both single parents as of a year ago. I moved out of the house we all shared and since then I have been on some kind of journey to discover what the fuck I’m doing and how to be the best dad that I can be, basically.

I’m not going to go into anything to do with the relationship, why it ended or how it’s been since then as I feel this is mostly irrelevant, but I will say that trying to start a new life when you have to see that person (almost) every single day muddies things quite a bit, to the point where sometimes I wish there was a network of pipes that we could package the kiddo into and he just plops on to my living room sofa.

The very first arrangement that we made was custody, and that we share as close to 50/50 as we could, so a plan was formed that we each have him every other evening, and weekends are alternated. A part-time dad was never what I wanted to be, but this was making the best of a bad situation; I get him Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday and Saturday or else on Sunday.

I’ve learned a lot about life as a single parent in the past 12 months, the biggest thing was that you need two bedrooms if you have a child over the age of two. I got my first apartment, it was very urban twenty-something year old with one bedroom and a lounge/kitchen. Perfect for the new bachelor. A pain for the father to a toddler. Tristan had to sleep with me, and he wouldn’t go to sleep without me in there with him, so that meant me having the same bed time as a 2-year-old every other day for 10 months.
We’ve just moved into a two bedroom house and everything is infinitely easier.
Sometimes he comes to stay while I’m working (I work from home), so we can’t go out, but with his own space he doesn’t demand all of my attention, he’s happy to play with his toys in his room while I get on with my business.

Finally, Tristan has his own room at my house.

I know that we have quite a unique situation, so working out my parenting style has been part of what I’ve been going through too. All parents I know that have split up seem to have an arrangement where mum takes full responsibility and dad pops in every now and again, mostly on weekends. I think that going the way that we did is the best for Tristan, but I get that it’s not available to everyone. I have however met a few that don’t think our agreement is a very good one. Some people (who I might add, don’t have children) think that being at two different houses throughout the week has the potential destabilise him and that it isn’t a long-term solution. The long-term part, only time will tell, but right now I can tell you that Tristan is happy, healthy and enjoys his time with both of us. There are no fits when it’s time to for him to go to his mother’s house, and I haven’t heard of any when he’s coming my way. He’s confident and comfortable when he’s at my house, even the new one. He’ll go to his bedroom or the living room to play, go to the bathroom to pee (he’s potty training), and he’ll go to the fridge to ask for something to eat/drink when he wants something. He isn’t shy, and doesn’t appear to feel he’s in unfamiliar surroundings.

For me, I’ll admit that having him around as often as he is has made things a little more difficult, particularly that part about working out what my new trajectory in life should be, and going through all the emotions a break-up brings; as well as moving out, moving in, and all while trying to keep everything else together. I’m lucky that my job has been very flexible, and that I don’t have to go to the office in Bristol any more. Dating is difficult, and Facebook appears to think that I should be dating other single mums. I won’t lay the blame on having a child for dating being difficult, as easy as that would be, I think that lies quite firmly in my corner, and being a difficult person. As for the social life, I now appreciate the times that I get to be with friends and to do things. Overall, this year has gained me new friendships, showed me who my real friends are and I’ve had experiences that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise, all while keeping a healthy relationship with my son.

I look forward to when it’s time for us to be together, everything else stops and we hang out, it’s quality time unlike we had when we lived together. We go places, we do things; we walk in the park, we go for lunch at the pub, we go to soft-play, we go to the bookshop and the toy shop, and we just hang out at home playing with the great toy collection we’ve built up in the past year. I think we have a great relationship. I don’t think I’ve ever been mad at him, but I’m definitely not too soft on him, no way is he having Kinder Bueno before dinner and I’m not tidying up his toys on my own. Getting to watch him grow up from close proximity is something I’m thankful for.

Goofing around, as we do, October 2013.

Overlooking Colin’s books

I will have lived in Cardiff city centre for two years next month and it’s safe for me to say that I have enjoyed almost every minute of it.

I realised it was time to get a place of my very own after house-sharing for a while, I knew it had to be somewhere central for several reasons (but mainly because I do not want to have to own a car or learn to drive).

So, while you’re parking your cars on your driveways and entering your houses through white UPVC doors, I enter mine through a relatively artless grey door opposite Dorothy’s fish shop on the eponymous “Chippy Lane”, furtively tapping in the code in case anyone is watching.

Living so centrally comes with its upsides. It’s close to most of the best restaurants in Cardiff, with establishments such as La Brasserie on the same block and Yo! Sushi just around the corner and if ever I feel like catching a movie I am never more than 2 minutes walking distance from two of the largest cinemas in the city.

From the privacy of my balcony I have seen the St David’s 2 shopping centre, John Lewis and the new Cardiff Central Library rise from the ground. I have seen Welsh rugby players viciously assaulted after a night on the booze and witnessed enough alcohol fuelled altercations to quell any desire I might have had to watch a round of boxing again. I have been awoken on a Saturday morning by choruses of hooters and singing fans during the dozens of match days that have passed by during my tenure; an atmosphere that can easily be likened to the tangible buzz experienced by ordinary people in ordinary streets on VE Day, 1945.

I have witnessed (and documented) businesses coming and going, such as the ill-fated Fab Mash and the excellent Wok to Walk. I was invited by Apple to be inside at the opening of St David’s 2 and have eaten and drank at nearly every single restaurant, pub and bar in the CF10 postcode area. I’ve had it good and I’ve made the most of it.

The problems which naturally go hand in hand with residing in such a high profile area are fairly self-evident. Drunken party people shouting and screaming until at least 5am every morning (if not later) and piles of polystyrene trays adorning what is my “front garden” every match day being just two examples.

I have consciously attempted to make living in this area as safe and serene as possible for everyone who has chosen to try it out by setting up a residents committee. I try to encourage this committee to meet as often as possible; the only problem is that most tenants rarely stay as long as me. They seem easily scared away by the noise and characters of the night-time.

Stepping off of the street, in through the door and up into a lift does sometimes seem like entering Narnia – especially if you do it at 1am on a Saturday morning. Up here I have a new (built in 2003) apartment with a modern kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms – all the mod-cons, a far cry from the battered sausages and rissoles down there.

Once you close the double-glazed doors, draw the curtains and sit down in front of the telly you could be in any suburb, anywhere. Soundproofing is clearly a matter that the original builders didn’t skimp on and for that I am grateful.

There have been annoyances and frustrations (as you would expect) since the area has been a massive building site for at least the last five years;  like road closures and dug up streets as the works went on to spruce up St Mary Street, meaning that I never knew if my Sainsbury’s delivery driver could get to me or not.

But, with this I have witnessed the capital grow and many changes for the better have come of it. St Mary Street now looks much better. The partial pedestrianisation has worked out well and from what I hear is to be completed later this year.

Trade is now flourishing in the nearby arcades and St David’s 2 is welcoming millions of visitors, shoppers and eaters. A world away from the throng of temporary fences, hard hats and cranes that comprised it just 6 months ago.

Cardiff is coming of age. Amenities are being added all the time that make it viable to make a home here, like the opening of Tesco and Sainsbury’s on St Mary Street, both of which close at 11pm.

A year ago I was cooking a chilli and realised that I did not have an onion. It was 9pm and I walked the streets trying to find one, with no luck. There was nowhere to buy regular groceries; M&S on Queen Street closes at 6pm and Sainsbury’s 8pm. I would have had to walk to Grangetown or Cathays had I not had the bright idea to ask a kindly chip-shop owner at The Red Onion (yes, really) if I could buy one from him. I explained my dilemma and he gave it to me, refusing to accept any money. Now that’s community spirit!

Living in Cardiff city centre could, I suppose, be likened to Manhattan living, but on a smaller scale and without the glitz and glamour of Broadway (although we do have St David’s Hall and the New Theatre).

Now that there is a little one on the way it is time to leave this all behind.

I will be sad to leave.