LIKE dads everywhere, Stephen Teap will be spoilt rotten by his kids on Father’s Day this Sunday.
“I am sure there will be a fuss made,” says the dad of two. “I’ll get presents from the boys, Oscar and Noah, and they will enjoy making and colouring Father’s Day cards, and who knows? I might be surprised with breakfast in bed!”
That will be a treat for Stephen and his sons at their Carrigaline home.
I have been to their house before and met Noah, aged five, and Oscar, aged seven. The latter is an impressive barista, if I recall? He knows which coffee pod to choose.
“Oscar makes a great cup of coffee,” confirms Stephen.
Stephen was named Cork Person of the Year 2019 in January, for his activism on behalf of those affected by the CervicalCheck scandal. His wife, Irene, died in July, 2017, after two incorrect test results in 2010 and 2013.
Stephen has been a single dad for almost three years now.
“It is a busy household,” he says.
“The boys rely on me so much. But they motivate me to keep going; to get out of bed, to put one foot in front of the other.”
Being a single parent can have its challenges.
“It can be tiring,” says Stephen. “And the loneliness can get to you at times. I never imagined life as a single dad. You never plan to have kids on your own, do you?”
The memory of Irene always lives on in the Teap house, where Noah was born and where his mother died.
“You only have one chance to make the memories,” says Stephen.
“You can’t re-do it again. It is all about making memories and keeping Irene’s memory alive. I talk to her in my own way.”
Irene was one of 17 women who died of cervical cancer, not knowing her smear tests were incorrect. The 35-year-old was one of more than 200 women affected by the scandal.
Stephen is dad, day in, day out.
“Noah and Oscar were babies when their mum died,” he says.
“I do the daily preparations and make sure it’s all good for the boys. I was always a hands-on dad ever since the boys arrived, so it is no burden for me. We are the back-bone for each other.”
Covid-19 and lockdown proved a burden for parents everywhere.
“Having structure every day is very important,” says Stephen.
“Routine is really important for stability at home. Every day in lockdown was the same for us three. We were happy in our own little world.”
The gang of three had an active start to the day.
“At 9am we tuned into Joe Wicks to do a 30 minute workout!” says Stephen. “We had breakfast, did some school work, and took a break after lunch. The boys did some reading or colouring in the afternoon before I started dinner.
“We had a walk every day with the dog, doing a 2km circle. In the evenings we’d cycle our bikes. Noah built up his confidence on his bike whizzing around.”
Then Noah went solo.
“After 52 days; he was ready to roll. The stabilisers went!”
Some families found the lockdown days repetitive.
“We followed the rules every day according to the news reports,” says Stephen.
“The boys were fantastic during lockdown.”
Dad, chief cook and bottle-washer, was fantastic too.
“I was exhausted,” he says. “Absolutely shattered!”
His sons are perfect gentlemen.
“When we could go to the shops; they were on their best behaviour,” says Stephen.
“They know how to be respectful of others. They were very good.”
Are they angels?
“Absolute angels!” says Stephen, laughing.
“They are good ages, 5 and 7. As brothers they have their moments but they are good pals.”
Lockdown was a time to be vigilant.
“Keeping everyone safe and well was the priority,” says Stephen.
“Every day was the same. The boys were clued in realising the importance of following the rules. And it was an opportunity for us not to leave home. It was an excuse for us to be a family at home chilling on the couch watching movies together.
“I liked being able to work from home. I could spend more time in the evenings with Oscar and Noah. They were delighted. We love hanging out with each other.”
Dad was double jobbing — or was it treble jobbing?
“I think that’s more like it!” says Stephen.
Staying safe and having fun together was the name of the game for the Teaps during the pandemic. They enjoyed the great outdoors too.
“We did different things together every day outdoors,” says Stephen.
“The three of us headed off finding different routes. We had plenty of fun. It was like one big holiday.”
Speaking of holidays, Stephen says: “We were planning to go camping to France for our summer holidays, but that got cancelled. We can’t go far this summer, but we will go on camping trips here. That’s what the lads want to do.”
And keeping Irene’s memory alive is what the family want to do.
“It is Irene’s anniversary at the end of July,” says Stephen.
“We’ll go to one of her favourite places in west Cork, Allihes, with Irene’s family. Nothing will prevent us doing that.”
Her death was such a tragedy.
“I learned to manage in extreme circumstances,” says Stephen. “Adjusting to our world without Irene was made a little easier with structure and routine in place.”
And soon, the routine of going back to school will beckon.
“That is a big thing for the boys,” says Stephen.
“Oscar is going into second class and Noah is starting school.”
Noah’s first day at school will be bitter-sweet. Like his brother, he will miss his mum on that special day.
“Irene wanted to see Oscar start primary school at the end of August. That was her goal,” says Stephen.
“That’s what she set herself.”
It wasn’t to be.
“All the other kids had their mum and dad the first day of school,” says Stephen.
“I took photographs, even though I felt like s—t. It was a sad day for Oscar; he didn’t have his mum.”
Stephen has now created a close-knit threesome.
“The boys are my whole life,” he says.
“I find making decisions the most daunting thing.
I have no-one to bounce anything off. Irene was a great organiser, sorting trips and family holidays. She was the ultimate researcher. Sometimes I find myself in the mirror seeking answers to things.”
He finds a lot of answers by being positive.
“I keep positive as much as I can,” says Stephen.
“I see the glass half-full.
“Starting school is always a bit of a wrench with separation anxiety. For me; fear awaits! But easing kids into school and creating a routine is a good thing to do. Having a good firm structure is key, dealing with problems as they come along.”
Stephen will continue to be one of the leading campaigners in improvements to the CervicalCheck screening programme. He is one of three patient representatives on the CervicalCheck steering committee.
“I want to be involved with eradicating this horrible disease,” says Stephen.
Fathrs Day this weekend will provide a brief respite from that.
“As a single dad you don’t really do coffee and lunch with others,” says Stephen.
But on Father’s Day he will have lunch with his sons and enjoy a great cup of coffee, courtesy of the in-house barista, Oscar.
As Father’s Day approaches, CHRIS DUNNE sees how Cork Person of the Year Stephen Teap is planning to celebrate, as the single dad to two young boys