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Daddy dearest

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Daddy dearest

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Arron Parris will easily tell you that divorce is the worst thing for anybody to go through. He has lived the pain first-hand after experiencing the demise of his nine-year marriage.
He is now a single father to his three children – Noi, 8, Joshua, 14, and Yasmin, 16.
“Yasmin said she didn’t mind the divorce too much because it meant we stopped arguing and she didn’t have to listen to the arguments any more,” Arron said. “Noi was completely oblivious. The relationships changed because Yasmin and I aren’t as close as before, plus she’s growing up. She wants to go out and I’m telling her to slow down.
“Noi and I were always really close from the time she was a baby, but then she goes by mummy sometimes and she wants to stay there. You know it’s the girly stuff, I suppose. Joshua – he is always with me.”
Arron has lived through the difficult transition to life as a single father. Being the primary caregiver he has adjusted to the nuances of doctor visits, soccer practice, cooking dinners, nursing them through illness, which are all part of the delicate balancing act of parenting.
Though his current existence wasn’t what he bargained for when he got married, Arron learned first-hand that life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.  
“I always wanted a family. When we had Yasmin, I made that promise to be the best father that I could be to my children and always be there,” he said. “I’ve never missed a sports day, never missed a ballet recital, go to the dentists every time. I have been there for every single moment of achievement that they have done. When Yasmin was small and she had ballet recital, if it was three nights I went every night.”
Being a good father wasn’t difficult for Arron because, being a child of divorce, he wanted to do things differently.
“My mum and dad got divorced when I was eight, but I just wanted a family,” Arron said. “That connection – I just wanted to feel it. I can remember the first night Yasmin came home from the hospital. I just watched her all night. Every time she moved I was, like, ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’ I called Dr Cave about a million times that week. Yasmin was like my new toy, and then Joshua came along and it was different having a boy.”
Arron said that after his own father passed away, he found that he got closer to his children.
Typically, when parents decide to divorce, one always assumes that the mother will get full custody. But Arron has full custody while his ex-wife has weekends and part of vacations.
“Other than my father’s death, divorce is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through in my life,” he said. “You go into marriage figuring that this is it and you go into it with all your heart and emotions. You put your heart into that person’s hand and hope that they will guard it and cherish it and hold it. When it’s crushed it’s like you lose a part of you. You lose your friend, you lose your lover and you lose that person that you’re committed to.”
Divorce was something that Arron tried his best to avoid, going through sessions of marital counselling, but it just didn’t work. Now, however, his world is his children and ensuring their happiness.
What has been difficult is carving out his own life and finding happiness in a relationship again.
“I would like to get married again,” Arron admits. “I just started dating, seeing someone now. It’s been a year. But seeing people hasn’t been easy with the kids. Before I stopped a lot of relationships because of the difficulties with my kids. But it took me a while to get to this point. My best friend told me, ‘Arron, they’re never going to like anybody’, so he gave me a good talking to. Dion [the woman I’m dating] is wonderful. She has one child around Noi’s age, so there’s constant conflict.”
Arron is now learning to navigate the challenges of blending families as he rebuilds his life.
He has gotten used to the stares and comments of people, especially when he’s travelling with his children alone on vacation.
“Once I told them, ‘Let’s go to Miami for the weekend’,” he recalled. “Noi was much younger; she was still drinking out of a bottle. This woman stopped me: ‘Where are you going with those three children by yourself’. I explained to her that their mother and I were separated and we just travelling for the weekend. She said, ‘I hope you can handle them by yourself’. It’s like a man can’t go somewhere and mind his children, but I do it all time.”   
Arron has proved that he can more than handle his children on his own, though he does admit that he doesn’t like doing laundry.
“People are generally surprised that I can take kids as small as they are and not have a woman by my side,” he said. “We go out to dinners, take trips and do whatever. But we do everything together and I know they will never forget it and I don’t want them to forget either.
 “To this day I remember going to Disney World with my father and mother, and my father fainting because it was so hot. But I remember that up to today. But I want them to have memories. It’s important because when I’m gone I want them to remember what I did, and for Joshua I want him to do the same thing. That’s how it continues. When you break that chain, that’s the downfall of our generation.”