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My family dynamic should have never been three.
Four, it was always going to be four. Somehow I always knew that, whether it was growing up in a foursome myself or just One Of Those Things: my family was going to be four. Done.
I thought maybe it was going to be five for a time, after I had one of those dreams so vivid that you wake up and can’t step out of the life your subconscious invented while you were asleep. In that dream there was a new baby, another one after Hux, who at three is still the baby of the family. And I don’t know, maybe there will be another one day. Maybe there would have been another baby if I was still married. Only the universe can tell.
So yes, becoming three was the biggest shock.
It wasn’t that bad at the beginning. Just different. I tried to fill the hole daddy’s absence left immediately with another man, which never works, and so that lasted approximately five minutes. And then as time passed by the children grew older and the hole got bigger. There was no Daddy, just mummy, Elfie and Hux. We weren’t a family of four but a family of three and it was never supposed to be that way: we were an imbalanced scale, bottom-heavy.
Some single parents make big statements about the present parent having to take on the role of the absent parent. This isn’t us. They have a dad – he’s not around like he used to be but he has a presence. I am the mum and only the mum, but I had to learn how to parent differently. I had to learn how to fill that hole with extra mummy, extra love, to balance that scale.
With the absence of daddy there’s nobody to play good cop/bad cop with. I have to make solo decisions on many things: discipline, education, wellbeing. I can’t nudge somebody else in the middle of the night to deal with a whinging pre-schooler. If comfort is needed it comes from me, if a situation requires a hard line that originates with me, too. And that all used to be very tough. Exhausting. Relentless.
But now three is our normal.
I no longer go out to restaurants with the children and think other families are wondering where my children’s dad is. I don’t feel that my wedding ring is conspicuous in its absence. A mention of “daddy’s house” or “mummy’s house” in the company of strangers doesn’t leave me cringing at outside judgement. Frankly, I don’t care what other people might think of our dynamic of three. And that is because we are now whole.
At the beginning of this journey I would dread the adventures we’d have as a threesome. Be it swimming, lunch, days out, days in. A simple trip to the supermarket… we’d always end up fraught and emotional. There’d be tears – mine, theirs, both – and I’d end the day wondering why we persisted when it was so clearly always going to be an uphill battle.
Now I know why: somewhere along the line it stopped being a struggle. The struggle switched to normality which somehow turned into a family dynamic that is something wonderful, the imbalanced scale righting itself, finding its new centre. Trips to the supermarket? A pleasure. Days out? Joyful. Weekends away? Why not! Light became our new dark, three became the new four.
I still have the ‘what if…?’ moments. What if we’d remained a four? What if we meet someone and become a four again? What if we become a five? What if we get a puppy and became a different kind of four? What if we’re a three forever? Nobody knows what might be next, but the important thing is we’re not scared anymore.
It turns out that four isn’t my family’s number, not yet. And I’m very happy we are three.