Capital M before egz
Hi all, as some of you may know I'm a young dad - parts of this story you may have come across in various threads on the board or on facebook if you've been foolish enough to friend me. I've been using my sleepless nights to put together a story to tell about everything that happened during that time of my life up to now.
The story below is all I've written so far, it is deliberately vague and many ideas and parts are quite undeveloped but I'd like to share it to get some feedback on what you think should be more fleshed out and get some feedback on the writing style.
I was born into an entirely normal family in the very late 80’s; the second son of my parents. At about 3 and a half, and I would have told you that quite proudly at the time I should imagine, I received a second brother and became the middle child. Not that I resent this – middle children are the best after all. I remember my childhood as being very warm and sheltered but with hindsight and (at the time) teenage emotions it perhaps wasn’t all fluffy ducks and rainbows as my parents split up when I was about 7 or 8.
There is never a good time for parents to split up or get a divorce, but perhaps if you’re older you will understand a little more or if you’re younger, never understand enough. It’s a tender age; you’re going through school, beginning to make solid friendships that are beginning to mean something. You’re learning new things constantly, you’re adaptable. Adapting to life without one parent isn’t fun or easy. Especially if there is animosity and ill feeling between them.
I don’t remember the split very well – I remember coming home from school and mum tried to explain what was happening and dad was crying. As a kid so young you wonder why they don’t just cuddle and make each other feel better, that’s what adults do, right? I don’t remember moving all that well either, we weren’t far from where Dad lived though, easy walking distance. I do remember going to see him on his birthday or perhaps it was father’s day, it was mid-morning and all the curtains were still drawn and a clothesline had been strung up in the lounge. I didn’t know what to think of it at the time but I feel sad thinking about it now. I also understand how he must have felt so much better now.
Given my young age I didn’t learn much or understand much about what was going on. We didn’t see Dad very much at first but eventually we would stay with him every second weekend and that was good, Dad being back in the picture. He was always within walking distance but at that age you still don’t quite get it – again with hindsight and the empathy age brings I wish I’d gone to see him more often. I could have popped by after school so easily.
Eventually I grew into a surly teenager like every other post teen the world has ever seen. You begin to rebel and want to do your own thing and being a teenager you’re lazy as all hell and you’re not interested in doing what Mum or Dad wants to do. The good thing about living with Mum was that she learned this fairly quickly and didn’t make too big a fuss about it. Dad on the other hand… he didn’t get to see it in action and didn’t like the attitude me and my younger brother had from time to time. I like to think I grew up pretty quickly though and learned the ways of Dad’s world and tried to appreciate what I was learning by helping him around the house instead of lazing about reading or when not lazy walking the hills around home.
By about 17 or 18 things soured between us kids and Dad again, we leave the blame at a third party not relevant to this story but it did mean that I wasn’t seeing Dad as much as I used to but learned so much more about how Mum and Dad came to split. How Dad had made one too many mistakes but wanted custody of us kids and the bitter battle that went with it. Obviously the courts decided against that and he didn’t have custody of us kids. Learning that was a massive mind-job. All the time as a teenager I thought of myself and my brothers as being inconveniences, like an itch on your back that you can’t scratch, you live with it and its okay from time to time but when it’s there it’s a pain in the neck. Again, this is something I’ve come to learn and understand first hand and isn’t what we were to Dad. Maybe we were a reminder of what hadn’t gone quite right. A source of emotional pain, regrets and what ifs. None of which are negatively associated with us kids. Perhaps this will begin to make more sense later in this story.
When I was about 16 I was getting though year 11 at Naenae College. Dad had got married years before and I was around there as I would be every second weekend. A friend of his wife was around with her family; two daughters and a young son. As a 16 year old you’re obviously not all that interested in them because you have a cellphone and far more interesting people to text, but in the interest of not being a complete ass, I recall talking with the eldest daughter for a while as I watched TV.
She was a couple of years younger than me and seemed a little over interested enough in me. It’s more than a touch awkward trying to appear interested and uninterested at the same time knowing this combination of factors: I can’t appear rude, she’s two years younger than me, she’s the daughter of my step-mums best friend. Somehow I got out of that mostly unscathed, I wasn’t interested in her, it’s quite the age gap after all.
Over the years there were more chance encounters and she eventually got a hold of my number and would txt me from time to time but I was never wanting to let those conversations go anywhere. Some of the time I was otherwise occupied with different girls (only ever one at a time though!) and the same issues above would creep in. Ultimately she’s still quite a bit younger and more naïve and immature and I didn’t want any of that!
Eventually there came a time though when I did let down my guard. I’d been going through a very rough and drawn out break up with the girlfriend I’d had through much of my first year of university. I was pretty cut up, but here was this person that wanted to hear about it and talk with me and be a figurative shoulder to cry on. Eventually this girlfriend of mine broke things off and that was that… Until new years.
It was getting close to new years, late 2008. I was still chatting with this daughter of the step-mums friend. She was having a party and I was invited. There was much umming and ahhing. She was always going to be younger than me, but she’d grown up quite a bit. I sort of felt like I had to make an appearance as a thank you, but knowing in the back of my head that there was a very distinct possibility of something more happening because she was still keen on me.
The party came and went – nothing of a romantic nature happened but we’d still chat. Eventually we did decide to go for a date. I’d decided we’d go for a bit of a walk around some of the local bush. We talked for a quite some time about what must have been not much and then we kissed. As teen romances go this was fairly standard, minus all the raging parties, I was a very responsible adult don’t forget! We were always texting and hanging out and doing young people things, seeing movies and that sort of thing. I still felt I was a little too old for this, but I hung around. I was still shaken up a little about the break up I’d been through not so long before. This was a rebound but I didn’t have the nous to recognise it as such. It didn’t help that I knew she’d pined for me for so long. I seemingly had it all good, she’d always be keen regardless.
At the time it seemed real and it felt good. As with all things though, once you put the hindsight goggles on you realise that it wasn’t a good relationship, it wasn’t born out of mutual interest and care, it was a relationship of convenience. I had a hole to fill and she would fill that hole. She had wanted me to be with her for some time so she was getting what she wanted. These aren’t the right reasons to be together but because it made us happy at the time it worked.
Through this relationship of convenience a more genuine care began to develop. It was still not enough to base a serious or committed relationship on but we became more physical. The relationship was more about having someone to talk to and chill with. A friendship and something that perhaps shouldn’t have gone any further but we seemed to lust for each other at times.
Being the somewhat stupid and awkward teenager I was it was somehow hard to go and get condoms, it was somehow embarrassing. It didn’t help, not that it is an excuse, that my previous girlfriend had been on the pill and hadn’t exactly encouraged the use of condoms. I’d tried and it seemed too much like hard work with my new girlfriend. You lost the moment and it all just got weird. All these pathetic reasons for not being safe…
I remember the night that I think we conceived our child. We had been at my place, watching movies and were getting cosy in bed. I don’t think I’d even bothered with having a condom around this time. We were getting more hot and bothered and in the heat of the moment didn’t stop. It would have been easy enough to go to where I had some stashed. Easy to pop one on, easy to go back to being frisky but in the heat of the moment we kept at it. I remember after we’d finished being silly teenagers as we lay next to each other, once we had begun to calm down, thinking to myself “that was dumb”.
The morning after could have been another time to address that situation. I recall, rather meekly, suggesting perhaps we should go to a pharmacy and get an ECP. I was too weak to be more responsible and not confident enough to say “hey, what we did last night was fun and all, but we need to do something about that because we weren’t protected”. Little did I know the feeling I’d had the night before would be some kind of warning. It was a feeling I’d not had before even when we had been a bit naughty in the past.
A month went by, I didn’t say anything about the feeling I’d had but I did stew on it a little more when she said to me that her period was a week late. What do you do as a teen? The first thing should have been – let’s get a test now. Then again, you could just click the invisible ignore button and wait. More time passed and I still didn’t man up. She was getting more worried and the strain it put on the relationship was huge. I said that the next time we caught up I’d get a pregnancy test and we’d find out. I didn’t get that chance. Almost two months after we’d done the dirty her best friend was buying the test. My girlfriend text me to tell me what was happening but she didn’t want me there, didn’t want to hear from me. She would tell me the result when she was ready.
The stress of waiting and not knowing was crazy. I was pacing around and tearing my hair out. I could be becoming a father, what would this mean for our relationship which was already really rather strained. What would this mean for my studies? What would this mean for her while she’s still at school? My mum saw that I was obviously somewhat stressed. She asked what it was that had me all wound up. I said something along the lines of “ah, just stuff with me and Chanelle”. She made one guess I said “no no” then she asked “she’s not pregnant is she?”
I have never been in such an awkward spot as then. How the hell did she guess? How the hell could she have picked that up? How the hell do I talk my way out of this one? What am I going to say? All of those questions and a million more shot through my head and that took too long for me to come up with a convincing lie. “She… we think… we think she might be…” to this day I have no idea how or why she guessed that but she was right. Later that day I got a text saying it had come back positive, don’t come, don’t call. I don’t want to see you right now.
It would be cliché to say my life changed in that instant, and it didn’t. Yes – I was going to be a father provided nothing went wrong but it wasn’t like waking up and your arm was missing. This was a natural addition to many people’s lives, a switch isn’t just pulled and voila there you are a dad and all grown up. I spent a lot of time thinking, there was so much going on and about to go on that I just couldn’t get my head around it. She was still in school; her parents would be beside themselves. I’d have to tell my dad and he would flip his shit, surely. I was still studying at university, I’d need to leave and ask for more hours to start saving for when baby was born. So much to do and get my head around and I wasn’t the one with an eight week old foetus resting in my abdomen.
I eventually went to see Chanelle at her home and talk with her parents. Again, this is something I don’t remember all that well but we talked quietly with each other with no one else around. Talking about what to do; it was a slow and quiet conversation. I very meekly brought up the idea of abortion, that last get out of jail free card, bar the emotional scars we’d both bear for the rest of our lives. Chanelle told me that wasn’t even a remote consideration. We would be bringing this child into the world. We talked about what we’d do about our studies. Chanelle wanted to stay in school for now. I talked about leaving university to work full time. Eventually we spoke with her parents and they told me I’d not be leaving university no matter what the outcome, I’m so glad for their support for both her and me. We, including my child, are blessed to have them there for us. After that talk though it was time to speak with my dad.
At this point in time I was not seeing my dad in the weekends as I was so busy with work and study as I was a part time shift runner and driver at Domino’s meaning early mornings and late nights combined with the distance between work and his place that it was just a token gesture to be under the roof because he’d not see me much. He didn’t live too far from Chanelle though so I didn’t have long to map out what on earth I’d say to him when I got there.
I kind of wanted to just speak with him, without my step mum there. She was a very close friend and colleague of Chanelle’s mother which would only serve to make things more awkward. As it turned out though I spoke with them both. Again, details escape me but I remember trying to play it cool for the first minute and shoot the breeze for a moment to try and calm myself but in the end I had to say “Chanelle’s pregnant, you’re going to be a granddad.” I think I remember a silence before a look of disbelief followed by a “wow”. Then a lecture, always a lecture with dad. We talked about what happened, why it happened. Seriously, the guy should know having three sons of his own how sex works and babies come about. Eventually my step mum decided to step in and she came in sour and spikey “How are you going to look after this baby? Do you realise what it’s going to do to her family? Her mum has just taken a promotion she’s getting somewhere with her life and family and you go and do this to her?!” There were raised voices but in the end all I could offer were words to the effect of “I know. This is my situation. Let me fucking sort it.” I was in tears by the time I went to leave, almost an hour after I got there. Dad was still in shock but was kind enough to offer a hug before I left and told me to drive careful given the state I was in. The drive back to Chanelle’s house was difficult, heart pounding and eyes still streaming tears.
I generally write for 30mins to an hour while I struggle to calm my mind before bed so that probably contributes to the disjointedness and lack of fleshing out but for now all I want to do is get some of the core ideas down and the milestones and things before I fill in gaps and write it better.
So folks, what do you think? all feedback very much welcome and appreciated.
Sugar. Short AND sweet.