In that fairytale, people didn’t die; people didn’t change; people didn’t leave and people didn’t cry.
In my first year of living that fairytale, everything fell apart.
My beautiful daughter was born, my beloved father died and my ‘partner’ forced me to make the choice to do it on my own.
Single parenthood hit me like a brick and a cushion. It knocked me to the ground and buoyed me through every day. It’s the choice I had to make and I made with my heart, my brain and my hands.
I still believed that fairytale existed somewhere, and I was determined to find out. As it turned out, time and time again, it wasn’t anywhere I looked.
One day, my fairytale walked in to my office and said: “we should date”.
Understandably, the prospect of a future together scared us both. So we worked at it, slowly. Slowly, like it should, the feeling of a future, however cobbled, began to bloom. Even when I tried to stop it, and he did too, the idea had sprung itself.
It took me what seemed like forever to introduce my 3-year-old daughter to him. And she, like me, fell in love from the first hello.
Sure, he wasn’t kid friendly. But, he coped just fine when my daughter upchucked her dinner on his feet. I didn’t ever need him to be a parent – I knew I was enough. I just needed him there for me. He stood by me in the hell of every parent’s nightmare. I was okay because he was there.
That was always going to be enough for me. And he let me know that was good enough for him.
So, when he came out with “I want something normal”, I was shocked. I had been lulled straight back into the fairytale and here again, that little book was being burnt up.
I pried deeper and deeper still. Then it landed on me like the walls of my home had imploded.
It’s the kid.
It took him a year of knowing her, helping me put her to bed at night sometimes, of understanding that she came first, and having that not matter to him… for him to man up and tell me it was a problem. It took him a year of discovery, charm and dancing. It took him a year of having my daughter curl up into his arms. It took him a year of putting up with my insanity, and me staying firm and never throwing my hands up in the air.
It took him a year to have me fall in love with him, the way he always wanted me to, to make him realise that he didn’t want it at all.
There is never a choice for me. I always made it clear that the choice did not ever have to include him. If he wanted in, he could have it. So when he said he wanted in, I let him in.
He knew. He knew the day we went to the park and sunned ourselves. He knew the night we stared at the fish. He knew when he went to London and called and she told him she loved him on the phone.
It was a good and equitable arrangement, tied up with love string and a triangle of ice cream eaters.
It took him a year of giving me the fairytale I and my daughter deserve, to realise he didn’t want to be part of it anyway.
Never mind my heartbreak. He left her too.
How can you help a child understand and cope with a break-up?