5 - Muddling Through

Muddle through - to succeed in some undertaking in spite of lack of organisation.
— The Collins English Dictionary

I pride myself on being a big-picture person – someone who doesn’t get lost in the detail. This is a valuable attribute in my working life, but I quickly learnt that it doesn’t translate well to home life when there’s no one to make sure everything’s organised. In the weeks and months after my separation, my lack of attention to detail was highlighted to me on a regular basis.

Excursions with the children resulted in us getting to the venue with the children clothed in the required kit but with nothing else. Cold days at hockey: ‘Sorry darling, I forgot to bring you a jacket. And some water.’ Hot days at cricket: ‘Sorry mate, I forgot to pack a hat and sunscreen. And some water.’

My road-to-Damascus moment came when I took Liv, six at the time, to hockey. I had Liv and her hockey stick and we were heading to Manawaroa Park on time. So far so good. Hockey, like many sports involving small children, is an all-in brawl. You can’t see the hockey ball for enthusiastic bodies and wildly swinging sticks. Given the mayhem that takes place, the rule was, quite rightly: no mouthguard, no game.

In the car Liv sat silently chewing her gum. She wasn’t her usual chatterbox self and I thought she may not be feeling well. But when we arrived she perked up, bolted out of the car and took off at a gallop to warm up with her team mates. I was left to carry her gear which, I discovered, wasn’t that onerous as there was nothing to carry. Not even water.

It was an exciting game and Liv was, as usual, in the thick of the action. She managed to get her fair share of hits and the occasional kick, and triumphantly scored a goal. After the game, as we strolled back to the car, she was back to her chatty self.

‘I whacked it hard, did you see?’

‘You were awesome.’

‘I’m thirsty.’

‘I’ll get you a drink on the way home. And hot chips,’ I hastily added to sweeten the deal.

‘Yay! I’m cold, where’s my jacket?’

‘The car’s just over there. We’ll get your boots off and you’ll soon warm up inside.’ I would like to think that this exchange was the origin of my awakening but I wasn’t on the road to Damascus yet. Liv sat on the bumper chatting away about the game and her heroics while I took her boots off.

‘Right, throw your stick in the boot and give me your mouthguard.’

Liv looked at me wide-eyed. ‘I left my mouthguard at home.’

‘No you didn’t. You had it in during the game. I saw you were wearing it. Have you dropped it?’ My voice became accusing.

‘No it’s at home. I used my bubble gum.’

Liv had played the entire game with her bubble gum stuck between her top lip and teeth to make it look as if she was wearing a mouthguard. I was quietly impressed with her resourcefulness and, as it’s my responsibility to ensure she has everything she needs including her mouthguard, how could I be angry? I gave her a big hug and no more was said.

Later that evening when I relayed the story on the phone to Cathy. I considered it to be merely an amusing anecdote, so I expected her to burst out laughing. But instead I got a thorough dressing down for being a useless and careless parent. I was sternly reminded, over an extended period, how my forgetfulness could have resulted in Liv’s teeth being knocked out – all of them apparently. ‘How funny would that have been, hmmm?’

In the course of the conversation, as Cathy became less enraged, I discovered that her son had suffered damage to his teeth on a seesaw while under the relatively lazy and wandering eye of his father, hence the reaction. It was this conversation, and not the incident itself, that saw me take my first step towards Damascus.

Chapter continues . . .