Quality Time With Your Child
Musical M was recently off school the other day. After taking her to the doctors and running a few errands, I popped in to Hubster’s office nearby to say hi. A short while later as we headed off home, I noticed a lovely new café opposite his office. I’m always lamenting how it’s impossible to grab individual time with each of my kids so I thought it would be a great thing to just hang out with M for a short while and have some girlie time, considering I had the rare luxury of having just her with me. So, despite having a mound of packing and jobs to do before leaving for the UK the next day, I turned the car round and headed back to have a cheeky cappuccino and a chat with my eldest at the new cafe.
That decision turned out to be a life-changing moment for my child and a defining moment for her mother.
Should You Smoke In Front Of Your Kids?
As I came down Hubster’s road and started turning into his office garage, we were both so excited to see him again (I know…it’s pathetic right?), this time standing in front of the building having a little break. A split second later, I spotted it was a break of the cigarette kind. Musical M til then had been totally unaware that her father has the occasional cigarette. We’ve brought the kids up in a non-smoking environment emphasising the dangers of it. Well I have anyway. Sadly (sadly for me I mean as I’m the staunch non-smoker) Hubster has had the occasional cigarette once every few months/once a year for a while. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me. It just does. However, he’s never got addicted and it really is occasional so I’ve kind of made my peace with it (kind of)…or at least I had til the other day…
No offence to smokers. Go ahead. It’s your life. It’s just not for me and personally I’d be royally gutted if my kids wind up smoking when they’re older.
When You Make A Bad Mistake In Front Of Your Child
Back to that moment. Hubster’s eyes locked with mine and I spotted the panic on his face (he has a deadpan hard-to-read face usually but when you’ve been with someone for years, you spot flickers of expressions etc that others would miss). And what I saw looked rather like panic. In fact, no this was definitely panic as he then immediately threw the cigarette on the ground at lightning speed whilst looking right at me with the old ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ stare. Another nanosecond went by in which I prayed that M hadn’t seen him. Stupid me. Of course she’d seen him! The girl who adores her father and who is in a car just 2 feet away from him has obviously seen him just panic-toss his cigarette. As we started descending the ramp – because no I didn’t stop the car as usual to say hi to him as I thought How the flipping heck are we going to handle this? – she said “I can’t believe what I just saw” with a voice of total shock. Great. Way to go team Hubster. She’s never going to forget that sight. It was then followed by “Did you know about that?” Oh crap. Crap crap CRAP! What in Holy Hell’s name do I say here? Think. Oh God THIIIINNNNKKKK! Blind panic. Don’t know what to say. I’m screwed either way here.
Let’s see, if I go with option 1)
No I never knew he smoked
I’m teaching my child that couples keep secrets from each other. No, not wild about that one.
If I go with option 2)
Yes I knew
she’s going to think I’m the biggest hypocrite raising her and her siblings to see smoking as horribly unhealthy and unadviseable. Even though it is horribly unhealthy and unadviseable.
So I went with option 3)
A mishmash of the two.
I knew he has smoked a bit in the past but I thought he’d stopped.
Oh God. Nope. Not much better. He still comes off looking deceitful and I come off looking like the dumbo who never knew and this isn’t the right lesson to teach her. What the heck is the right lesson to teach her here? Seriously, Google, what say you?
The scene that ensued will probably seem laughable to half the people reading. What on earth is the big deal? She can’t be serious…this was a life defining moment?! But for Musical M and me, it was.
Hubster quickly came down the ramp to meet us getting out of the car. Even though nobody was to blame for what had happened I couldn’t help feel really annoyed that our daughter had seen him smoking considering I wish he didn’t in the first place. Neither M nor I could get a friendly hello out. I honestly didn’t know what to do or say. Neither did he, poor guy. I told him we were going for a coffee and off we went. He went back to his office.
I ordered my coffee, some food for M and as we waited for order to arrive, I noticed tears starting to stream down her face. More tears. Then more. Until she was actually sobbing with head buried in arms at our table.
He didn’t even tell his own wife!
I asked him ages ago if he’s ever smoked and he told me ‘just the once and I didn’t like it and haven’t done it since’
My friend’s dad just died a month ago because of smoking.
And on and on the bawling went.
How Not To Console A Child
I messaged Hubster to come down as I felt he really needed to explain his way out of it as I was struggling to know which side of the fence I ought to be on. He came down a while later and if I’m honest seemed rather puzzled to see M so upset. After chatting to her trying to reassure her that he was not a serial smoker he clearly – in typical Hubster fashion – felt that he had spent the required amount of time on the matter and turned to me and asked how my coffee was. I think I just stared open-mouthed at him. Our daughter was in a crumpled heap with her world having fallen apart after seeing her father smoking and here he was asking me how my coffee was. I couldn’t believe it. My eyes told him as much. He spent a few more minutes saying useful things like “Don’t cry” to our daughter which is always extreeeeemely helpful to someone who is a-l-r-e-a-d-y crying. After a while he asked if I was going shopping. I thought he meant so I could pick up a small thing for M to cheer her up. Nope. He needed me to pick up razors. Eff me. Is this guy for real right now? We’re facing the biggest hurdle so far in our parenting experience and he’s asking me if I’m buying him razors. God help me. The response was “Oh I thought we’d finished talking about that”. One of those shoot-me-now-cos-I-can’t-handle-how-men and women-are-so-bloody-different from each other moments.
Betraying Your Own Child
I could go on. But the long and short of it is that Musical M’s trust in her father took a massive hit that day. And her father, not being the most emotionally aware/sensitive of people himself (having grown up in a culture/family where parents didn’t focus on their children’s feelings) was not able to handle it in the way she needed. Her comment “He didn’t seem at all bothered” confirmed that she didn’t feel he’d understood how hurt she was.
We talked to her at great length about the issue trying to comfort her as much as possible. Personally I didn’t think Hubster should be judged by that mistake. It shouldn’t negate all the years he’s put in as a loving father who works seriously bloody hard to pay the school fees, put food on the table etc.
Parents Make Mistakes!
My point is this: I don’t know what would have been the right way of handling this situation. To many reading this post, there was no issue. However, whether you are a smoker, non-smoker, drinker, non-drinker, or whatever, doesn’t really come into it. The point is she lost a lot of trust in her father that day and neither of us knew quite how to handle it. You can read ALL the parenting books. You can take a flipping course on child psychology. You can be the most ‘perfect’ faultless parent (whatever that is) every day of your parenting experience. Until you f*ck up.
And we all eventually f*ck up.
But it’s okay. Because we’re doing the best we can.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there trying oh so very hard to get it right. You’re doing a great job (despite the f*ck ups)!
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