Thanks to Annabel Candy for her inspirational stories that prompted me to write this one.
After sixteen years Sal left the three of us for reasons I can only guess. But, as I believe in the open cage idea of marriage, although very hurt I helped her move and usually defended her when others wanted to blame her. She even wrote me a reference! That must be rare.
But suddenly I had to find ways of coping with a full work schedule as a farmer and part time teacher while being a full time mum/dad to two teenagers.
For a few days I was lost and so were they. We all felt abandoned and cried a lot.
But then I put my mind to problem solving and it became a challenge in logistics and time management. We had also lost one income.
I called a family meeting. First was the announcement that I couldn’t do it all alone and needed their help. I said I had a few ideas to offer, some negotiable and most not.
Before I go on, let me say, I now wonder why we give kids so many options. With no options they just get on with what they are supposed to do, that is, being kids and leave the adult stuff to adults! However, for that to work, they must trust you and you must trust them. I believe that not showing trust is one of the worst thing you can do to a kid and you mut never promise what you can't deliver.
Anyway, we had the family meeting at which I made a few announcements.
• You will both get $100 a month allowance. (1992 money). Smiles were wide to start with but did shrink a bit when the detail came out!
• You buy everything personal you need, including clothes.
• You can tell me what you want for lunch so you can prepare your own, or you can buy lunch at school out of you allowance. (he had four rounds of bread with honey and peanut butter plus four apples every day, no variation, for about four years!)
• Local calls are free, all others must be entered into the log by the phone. STD and mobile calls over $10 a month will be deducted from your allowance.
• Clean your own rooms or not, but if not, keep the door closed. Her room was tidy. (In his we found a nest of dead rats under the wardrobe, killed by a flea bomb).
• Put washing in the machine and hang it out. I bring it in and you iron it or not.
• If you miss the bus, I drive you in and deduct petrol money from your allowance.
• We will have one night a week out at a restaurant. I pay for the meal and one drink, any more drinks you pay for.
• You each cook at least one evening meal a week.
I bought a tent, a camper van and a Hobie 14. We took every school holiday off and went somewhere, usually camping with friends near the water but several times to the snow and once to Hill End. They both had horses and both played sport. Going on weekend rides and watching them play sport gave me more pleasure than I could have imagined.
They both acted out a bit at school and in both cases I went in to assure them I was there for them but let them take their punishment. They both went on to be successful students at school, and are both now in the NSW Police Force.
My girl was always trying to borrow to get through the month but her brother was so tight with his, he had $10,000 by the time he left school and when he was ready to start his first full time job, he paid cash for a new car.
He and his wife, now both thirty three, own three houses and are planning to buy their fourth. My girl had slightly different priorities, is thirty and married to a very steady guy, has three kids with one more on the way and has never been happier.
Neither smoke and I have never seen them drunk. They were probably too busy to get into drugs. For that I am especially thankful and am very proud of them.
Maybe I was lucky we stumbled on a good way of growing through a difficult time with love, respect and trust. My ex is still a friend to this day. We didn't put the kids through the usual ego driven battles over custody that so badly scar all concerned, so I thank her too. And hey! What about a pat on the back for dad? But then, I am the one telling the story. Mmmm… they will all read this, so the comments could be interesting!