Anyone who knows Daisy well will know that one of the most important things in her life is Peppa Pig, the cartoon character - in Daisy's world she is Peppa, Jules is George, I am mummy pig and Andy is Daddy Pig. It is an absolute sign of affection if she calls you "Pig". Andy bears a lot of similarities to Peppa's daddy - he likes to hide away and read his paper, he's not very good at keeping fit, he loves chocolate cake and he often gets things wrong which mummy pig has to sort out!!! But most of all, Peppa loves him, just as Daisy loves her own Daddy Pig!
Andy has recently celebrated a huge milestone birthday, he has just turned 50. We had a huge party to celebrate with lots of friends from all areas of Andy's life - school friends, work colleagues, friends we have made since having children, friends we have made since Daisy came into our lives and introduced us to the world of hospitals.....We celebrated Andy's birthday in style as in our family we like any excuse for a party and we celebrate every birthday because our philosophy is summed up by this quote:
"Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many"
Andy's birthday also gave us the chance to reflect on where we are in life now...was this what we had envisaged all those years ago when we met, or when we started a family? While we were celebrating Andy's birthday Daisy was still in Great Ormond Street Hospital, recovering from central line sepsis where she had been infected by both e.coli and staphylococcus. While everyone else at the party was able to go home and enjoy a leisurely morning the next day nursing hangovers and sore feet from dancing the night away, Andy and I were up bright and early having returned to our hotel near the hospital at 3am to be back on the ward with Daisy at 8.30am and resume the normality of our lives.
Was this really what he expected to be doing in his 50th year? Surely by now he would have expected to slow down, no longer be changing nappies, not being forced to sing all the theme tunes from Disney Jr. We had hoped to have more time together, losing children to sleepovers and cub camps now and then. Instead our lives involve long, broken nights, endless lifting and carrying, a house brimming at the seams with medical equipment and supplies and a knowledge of medical terms and skills that would put a Junior Doctor to the test!
A quiet life was never going to be on the cards when Andy married me 20 years ago but an interesting one...yes! And when the going got tough Andy did not walk away. In our special needs world we have heard story after story about Dads who walked away - when their disabled child was born, when the workload became to much, when the disappointment was too hard to bear....we have many friends who are single handedly bringing up a child with additional needs because the father did not stick around long enough to discover the joy that child could bring.
But also we have met so many other dads like Andy, men who hoped their lives might have been a bit different, hoped for a son to play football with, a daughter who they would walk down the aisle one day - but these are men who are able to see what they have, and not what they don't have. The men who have stayed around for better or for worse because they are daddy and nothing is more important than that. We have also met men who have come into a special needs child's life without being the biological father, who have been prepared to take on the share of care for a child with additional needs - the new partners, the grandads, the step-dads, the foster dads....
We can't change what has happened to us, our plan for a halcyon life in the suburbs has not quite turned out, but we can change how we feel about it. We try to focus on what we have - Daisy is now out of hospital, we are all re-united back home together under one roof. Life is hard, it's physically demanding, emotionally it takes it toll - but we have fun, we have a laugh, we have parties, and for all the tough times and dark times there are good times.
Life has put Andy to the test and he has risen to the challenge. At his birthday Xanthe, our eldest daughter gave a tear-jerking speech about life with her daddy and how special he is to her and even Theo stood up and gave an off the cuff speech about his dad who is "alright actually!". It's tough, it's extreme parenting but when Andy was thrown the challenge he rose to it because however dysfunctional and complex this is our family, for better or worse...
It's Christmas soon and I guess that Andy is like George Bailey from the film "It's a Wonderful Life" - George had hopes and dreams when he set out , he wanted to do so much but in the end he realised that it was the little things that made a big difference in people's lives. You don't need to set the world on fire to make a big impact and being Daddy Pig to Daisy and the rest of our family is what makes the biggest difference to us.
So it's a bit late (probably due to the not so minor inconvenience of Andy breaking his arm the day after his birthday!!!) but happy 50th Birthday Daddy Pig, after all, it is a wonderful life! xxxxx