Tag Archives: Parenting

What is the meaning of this!?

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What is the meaning of this!?

So let’s talk about the swarm of lethargic bees that invaded my home in the first 24 hours following my recent fall. But first, a bit of backstory will provide you with the understanding that I’m terrified of bees. Once as a lanky preteen I cartwheeled over a bee in my yard that promptly stung my finger. The old house that I grew up in frequently had wasps nests in the attic fan and as soon as the weather got warm enough, they would fly into our home and hide beneath the bedsheets. I once got a nasty sting on my thigh, through a pair of brown corduroy pants that I was wearing to keep warm in bed. As a curious four year old I picked up a paper wasp’s nest in my yard, only to discover that makes wasps angry. And yes, these are mostly wasp stories, but the pain of a sting doesn’t discriminate between species.
But these current trespassers are slow moving, crawling, bees that just march about my floors or buzz casually in my window sills; they are easy targets for a can of raid. These are low quality bees to be sure. So, it’s not so much the quality that’s an issue, but the quantity. And the fact that when it comes to exterminating bees, I don’t have a leg to stand on. Haha, get it, because…so I called in reinforcements, to help, with the bees.
Ani DiFranco says, ” life may imitate art, but Art imitates TV”. There must be a deeper, more symbolic meaning in these infestations, these minor upsets to my current condition. May friend J suggested I look to literature to search for meaning. Because after all, literature was life experience first.
I certainly can’t avoid the obvious analogy that these normally busy, active creatures are slow. They don’t fly, they walk, as though their wings are utterly useless. “Busy as bees”? Not these guys. They might as well have their wings propped up on an old sofa watching reruns of “Arrested Development” on Netflix. It is no secret that it is impossible to move quickly on crutches. Even when I’ve gotten up a little speed, I’ve nearly caused new injuries when I’ve been forced to over correct. The only way to get up stairs at the moment, is to sit down and lift myself onto each step, slowly. So perhaps the universe has sent this analogy to mock me, ” Look at these bees! They are hardly even bees. They crawl about (like you) waiting to be eliminated.” That seems a bit harsh Universe, so maybe it’s something else. Something more positive and less self-loathing.
Bees have jobs, some bees go out and collect honey, some clean the hive, others care for the larvae, and of course the queen Bee holds the hive together. Essentially the hive is an exploded version of a parent. I am carpenter bee and caretaker bee and queen bee. I may have mentioned, “things” are in disarray in my hive. There is an appealing array of mucky, greasy dishes scattered throughout the house. I swear my youngest daughter is just pouring dog food onto the floor to feed the dogs. And I’ll not even go into detail about the indoor water balloon incident. Slow moving bees would be horribly inept at keeping up with an active hive. Honey would rot (if that’s possible), larvae would shrivel. Ironically, bees could thrive in the clutter of my kitchen; lackadaisically walking on dishes of old strawberries and whipped cream.
However, perhaps the most striking parallel is that a hive, even this “low-rent” hive that has taken up residence in my room, isn’t a single bee. There are many, many bees, doing lots of jobs. When the queen is down, the other bees rally around and take care of hive to ensure its health. Both Hillary Clinton and Starman were right…”it takes a village” and “when things are at their worst, people are at their best. ” Even though some bees are solitary, for the most part bees are social creatures. They live in hives, work together and take care of each other. I’d image, there are bees back at the hive that are moving a lot faster, taking up the slack for these slothful bees. So, I’m learning to accept help and help is being graciously offered.
I suspect the reason for the lazy pace of these bees is actually the recent warm spell (which was also related to my recent fall; warm weather caused me to wear impractical sandals, impractical sandals caused me to fall on the sidewalk). I believe there is a hive in the air conditioning duct. When we turned on the A/C, the cold air blew them out into the house, but it also felt like winter to them. Blasted by cold air, they move slowly, as though birthed in winter. Our solution was to just turn off the air conditioning, which seems to have worked, for now.
I am concerned that the bees are just hiding in the walls, curled up in their hive, binging on nature documentaries. Hopefully by the time they decide to emerge once again, I will be healed and ready to do battle. Thanks to a very helpful hive, I am indeed healing every day.

Love as dark matter

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Love as dark matter

It’s 3am, the dog is barking at what might be a serial killer or a simple burglar, or a leaf. A lanky teenager occupies the space next to me in bed and a bleary-eyed preteen hovers over me. I don’t really care which reason the dog is barking, or why these interlopers are here, I just long for a peaceful night’s sleep, which I can’t remember having in my adult life. The little wants to cuddle so badly that she makes a move like she’s going to just curl up uncomfortably on the prickly rug that is next to my bed. I angrily jump out of bed, cursing, to all who will listen. Storm down the stairs declaring that this is the last GD time this is going to happen, these are children after all, not infant triplets. Why won’t they go the F to sleep?
I am not good at cuddling, I do it out of guilty obligation and an overwhelming belief that it is a short term solution to the nightly interruptions of what is already fitful sleep. It must feel that way to my girls, or maybe I fool them, or maybe touch feels the same whether it is begrudging or mutual.
One of the dirty aspects of being a single parent is that you are always on duty. Day, night, sickness, health, tired, angry or hungry. It’s hard for everyone to get their needs met in any meaningful way, I offer love and support of the drive-thru variety. It’s quick, it’s low quality and it’s offered through a window as you pass by. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. To have needs that you’ve recognized are going to remain unmet, or in the best-case scenario, met primarily in moments of crisis. Of deep hunger or hurt. It’s unsatisfying for both parties.
Still we muddle through, catch love, or sleep when we are able and frankly periodically experience the kind of wealth that you can only appreciate if you’ve been disadvantaged.
This is how we are. Doing the best we all can under strained conditions. And, speaking of wealth, we are fortunate that in the hierarchy of needs, we are in search of satiating our emotional needs. We have the luxuries of other wealth, but emotional poverty is powerful and debilitating in ways that often feel more immeasurable.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I am extraordinarily adept at responding to some emotions, even the ones that erupt in the deep darkness of the night. Anger is easier than sadness for me. And sickness is permissible, though not welcomed. Apparently there is a law that states that if a child is going to vomit, it will be around 3am and it will soil every piece of bedding they are near and probably divert away from hardwood floors to land on carpet. But I don’t manage the fears of my children particularly well. Partly because the only way I know how to overcome fear, is to ignore the source of it. Whether that is thunder, or nightmares, or just the fears that curl up with you as you fall asleep and rattle you awake in the middle of the night.
Sometimes saying, ” Everything is all right.” Is the worst possible answer when everything feels not all right. But in the sleep deprived state that these fears often arise, they are the only words that rise to be spoken, that and “Go back to sleep.” And apparently, ” God dammit”. Which now that I think of it is probably a worse response than ” Go back to sleep. ” nothing like having your childhood fears be a catalyst for your only parent’s anger.
And the worst part is, if I could find breath in those moments, enough breath to squeeze past the expletives and just put my arms around them and give them the tiny gesture they need to feel secure, I know it could be better, better for everyone probably. But what I find instead is guilt over not being able to conjure that breath, frustration over my inability to fulfill this expectation.
These are the realities of being a part of this life. This life where I’m underperforming my own expectations of what is minimally acceptable, even in the states of sleep deprivation. Where the tension is not in being unaware of what would make things better, but in being too emotionally tired to accomplish them. It is the pain of watching your children having to suffer through what cannot possibly be enough. And what is not their fault.

And it is the knowledge that we will all survive these circumstances, and some days not only survive, but thrive. This life can also be about understanding need, hardship and doing without in a way that creates a situation where we are able to appreciate the infrequent riches of love and selflessness. This life can be about valuing the brief and uncommon cuddle. This life is a space where love is in the guilt of inability rather than the wealth of stability.
We can all long for the lives that we do not have. We can lament the absence, of not just highest success, but of nominal satisfaction. Certainly we can strive to be better and apologize when we fall phenomenally short, but we can also spot the upside of loss and the advantage of deprivation.

Must love dog parties

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Must love dog parties

Just be who you are, whoever that is…. Ever heard that saying? Well, what if who you really are, is an asshole? Or how about, “there are no stupid questions.”? Uh, duh, yes there are. Plenty. So how about ” there’s no wrong way to do X.”? These are just lies circulated by well-meaning mothers (including me) and the Hallmark channel.
I was dating wrong. I was in desperate search for a wife. Date like that for awhile and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Worse yet, I was looking to replace the husband and father that was a fantasy. I blame Disney and the Hallmark channel.
If you’re dating, or single, or in a bad relationship, everyone has dating advice for you. ” you’ve got to be ready before you can find love” or “there’s a fish for every hook” or ” you’ve gotta love yourself first.” Or ” create a vision board/list/seashell mosaic of your perfect mate. ” and these things work, some times, by chance mostly I believe.
Because my last dating experiences, before “the marriage”, occurred when cell phones were carried around in ten pound bags, I assumed I just had a learning curve. All this technology! And it’s true that the language of dating has changed, or rather the platforms through which we communicate have changed. ” Last night was great! LOL” but the basics are more or less the same. I did have to stop looking for true love for it to land right in my lap.

In the beginning, the second beginning that is, I wanted so terribly, hopelessly, to replace (as quickly as possible) the relationship I imagined I’d lost with my husband. A space where there were brochure-worthy vacations, holidays with perfect turkeys, enviable Facebook posts, family yoga, homemade bread, Boggle games, picnics with dignitaries, dry camp sites, fire station visits, softball tournaments, bean bag chairs, dog parties, clam bakes, matching outfits, seaside family portraits, gardens, ferret adoptions…
The point is, I discovered rather immediately (at least twice) that that wasn’t what I wanted at all, well maybe dog parties…. But I wasn’t adept at sharing the charge of my daughters. I’m kinda a careworn frontier woman in this respect. Maybe that was something I longed for a decade ago, but I’d failed to let that fantasy go when reality took its place. So those forays into relationships were heartbreaking partings, and maybe it wasn’t a wrong way to date, but it certainly was agonizing.
So, I did what I could figure out to do, go on match.com and power date. It’s like looking for a new car: I like these features, I don’t like these features, pick a couple of options, test drive and put down an offer. But people are poor substitutes for cars. And cars are terrible substitutes for soulmates, except maybe my Mini Cooper. I’d probably marry her, though she’s terrible at doing dishes and the one time I asked her to plan a dog party…wow, did she ever fuck that up. But I digress.
I considered the vision board, but in my house finding a glue stick that isn’t dried out and a pair of scissors that opens AND closes isn’t really an option. I thought about making a list and pondered singles cruises, but the whole situation had exhausted me, so instead, I just sat.
I stopped expecting something, stopped imagining that I was ready to know what I wanted, or needed. I can hardly order lunch some days and I am fully aware of exactly what kind of food I want and need. Why did I think I knew who was going to fill the chasm in my heart? I decided to sit alone. Because if I had to go on one more horrible date and make small talk about beer pong, I was going to jump a slow-moving train to Vinton.
And confidentially, no one will ever fill that chasm in my heart, or be the imaginary genius Dad/husband that I kept checking for on Tinder. Knowing this was the most freeing thought I could have had. Hearing this allowed me to breathe and sit . And one day, I found myself sitting in the right place with the right space to allow something beautiful to grow.
So here’s my unsolicited dating advice for you, gentle reader…lose your list of expectations. What you think you want, maybe isn’t what you really need. It’s probably something you never imagined, or could imagine, like the distance of Pluto from the earth. And maybe it’s helpful to start with knowing who you are. Me I’m a complicated mix of hilarious and needy, generous and bad at home repairs, honest and a decent dancer, a mother with a teenage heart. So you, go ahead, be who you are, even if that’s a total asshole, you’re in good company. I hope you find your asshole soulmate and you both play out the rest of your days tossing waded up love notes to each other at your dog’s birthday party.

The opposite of everything

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The opposite of everything

I’ve just returned from a week long vacation in Costa Rica with my three daughters and a family friend, who came along to provide additional adult support. I can’t really remember what it is like to travel as a traditional family (meaning two adults in a committed relationship and children). I’ve seen travel brochures, those people seem ridiculously happy, and I can’t help but fantasize about that brochure vacation…
Everyone’s smiling and eating mangos, our perfectly tanned, beautiful bodies are laying poolside as an equally happy waiter serves my charming husband and I fruity adult beverages. The children laugh and frolic in ocean waves, or slide down pristine slides. The weather is a delightful 80 degrees, even the birds seem happy just to fly through the air that we breathe. Later, the children urge my husband and I to take a walk on the beach as the sunsets. We dance and laugh in the waves. Everything is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
There are no meltdowns, no bee stings, no budget concerns, no tears, no moping, no sun-screened eyeballs, no fights over restaurants, no rationalizing the cost of a bottle of water, no bargaining for alone time, no messy bathrooms, or clogged toilets, or stomach viruses. There are no impoverished neighborhoods as you drive out of town, no stray dogs, no trash, no rainy days and no single parents.
There is certainly a gap between fantasy and reality, for all of us. Vacations (like holidays) hold a lot of pressure, because you are SUPPOSED to be having fun, frolicking, smiling and laughing. And you’ve invested a fair amount of money ( as well as taking time to plan and taking time away from work and household duties) to ENSURE that everyone is having a fun, PERFECT time. But life goes on whether you are at home or abroad. People get tired and grumpy and irritated. You can leave your home behind, but not your idiosyncrasies, your dysfunctions, your communication issues.
I’m fortunate. I can choose to go on vacation. I can afford to take all three of my daughters and we have a lot of choice in what we do. We can eat delicious food and see monkeys up close and I can send my daughter to zip line through the rain forest. And we make memories, some of them involve bee stings and sickness and crying and some of them involve the generosity of strangers and the kindness of siblings and the laughter we generate over sliding on a tile floor in my frictionless flip flops. These are our stories.
I doubt I will ever have the kind of vacation that brochures are made of, nor will most of us. But the opposite of everything, isn’t nothing. It’s something. Something that is beautiful in its imperfections, it’s struggles, it’s messiness. It’s something that whether I am in my own home or across the equator I get to keep. It is my beautiful, broken, dysfunctional family. I don’t love every minute, but I do love the whole thing.

Kites, shoe strings and stars: or the secret to why my Dad rocks

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Kites, shoe strings and stars: or the secret to why my Dad rocks

When I was about four years old, my dad took me out one afternoon to a nearby park. We flew kites that day. The sky was blue and the wind speed just right. My parents both worked a lot, in order to help make ends meet. So a day together was important. I said, ” I’ll remember this day forever.” Well, I have remembered it for nearly forty years, which I’m sure is much longer than “forever” was to a four year old.
My dad taught me how to ride a bike, and tie my shoes. He taught me my multiplication tables (or tried to in one marathon session the night before I started third grade and we realized I needed to already know them). He taught me to drive, which only now that I have my own teenage daughter to teach, do I understand what an accomplishment of patience this was. He showed me constellations and plants and birds and flowers. He explained inert gases and chaotic molecules. He demonstrated how to make chemical reactions, and safe, colorful fire. He taught me to be thrifty with my money, to work hard, to save. Dad encouraged me to be independent and have hobbies and skills and always seek to learn more. By example, he taught me how to be punny, and is largely responsible for my own dry sense of humor. He inspired me to be well balanced, and to never burn bridges (particularly with employers, ’cause you just never know when you might need them), to consider my choices, and to speak boldly when necessary.
Perhaps, most importantly, he taught me that I was important and worth his time. For all the material that he shared with me, the real lesson was that I mattered. I’m glad I learned long division and difference between a male, a female and a juvenile bird, but really what I learned was how to be a good parent and a good person. Because the best gift my dad gave me was being there. He taught me that the real trick is to simply be present, to feel the wind on our faces, the warmth of the sun on our backs and to take time to watch kites fly.

Why I am not afraid of lightening: A tribute to my mom

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Why I am not afraid of lightening:  A tribute to my mom

During hurricane Hugo, my Mom and I lived in Rock Hill, SC. My Dad had taken a job at the newly opened Governor’s School for Science and Math in Hartsville, SC. There were terrific storms all throughout South Carolina, tornados and high winds even into the mountains and foothills. But as we climbed into bed that night we had no idea that would be the case.
I was 17 years old at the time, and must have been pretty terrified, because my mom let me sleep in the bed with her. She was already asleep, while I watched with horror when the newscast faded to static as the Charleston affiliate lost it’s connection. My mom slept quietly as I listened to branches crashing against the window and the wind and rain howling outside.
My mom had brought a kitchen timer into the bedroom and set it one hour at a time, so that if the power went out she would still get up for work. This should tell you at least two things about my Mom, she did NOT miss work ( not if she was sick, and not if a hurricane came through town) and she was clever. No power, no problem.
We made it through the night, we did lose power, for a week, and water for several days as well. There was no work the next day or the next as our neighborhood was completely blocked in by fallen trees. But if at any time my Mom was scared, she never let on.
Several years before, during a much different storm, I remember my mom sitting beside me looking up at the striking lightening with a look of sheer wonder and delight. I was terrified of the lightening as it popped right over head. My mom assured me we were fine, encouraged me to enjoy the electricity and to relax, because storms that strong could never last long. It was too difficult to sustain that kind of chaos.
That advice not only led me to enjoy the storms that nature has shared with me over the years, but to be reassured that the storms that life brings will not last. Chaos can’t last. So I just set my timer one hour at the time and get up in the morning, survey the damage and clear out the debris.
Thank you Mom, for all the things you have taught me, to be independent, to be the life of the party, to be honest, to be responsible, to never give up, to be a good writer, a good friend and an incredible mom and of course, to weather the storms. I love you.

“Bottles, knives, guns”

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“Bottles, knives, guns”

Have you seen the video taken during the recent unrest in Baltimore of the angry mother repeatedly striking her son? Have you read the comments that follow the video? I’d say about a 50/50 split of (generally) ” no wonder these kids are violent, look at how they are being treated” and “you go Mama, I’d do the same thing”.
I don’t get to corner the market on worrying about my kids. As far as I’ve experienced, every parent worries. In fact I think we are the generation of most worried parents. Not only do we have the inter webs, with their predators and pedaphiles, corporations creeping around every billboard, sporting event and school cafeteria, but there are more books, articles and advice about how to be a parent than there have been in any other generation. Throw in some competing theories on vaccines, Facebook armchair parents, public vs private education, and deciding whether you are a helicopter parent or a not present enough parent and you’ve got a nice recipe for parental anxiety. And sorry ’bout it dads, but most of the guilt (though not all) is reserved for Momma.
What is a conscientious parent to do? Involve your kids in sports, but be sure to talk to them both about bullying and being bullied, how dangerous sports drinks are, and subliminal marketing. Send your kids to a public/private hybrid school that embraces diversity and uses test scores only to emphasize your child’s potential. Grow your own organic heirloom tomatoes for your family salsa making nights.
Or let them go play on the concrete foundation of the rusty, bacteria covered swing set, then come home when the street lights come on. Let them make their own lunches and walk themselves to school long after you have already gone to work. Let them watch MASH (reruns) or Scandal while eating TV dinners on TV trays in the living room. Let them do their homework on the bus, while trying to ignore the kid in the back seat that is coming down off a bad LSD trip. Learn about sex from their older friends, who may or may not be making everything up, either way, it sounds (hopefully) like a disgusting act that they would never willingly involve themselves in.
Now, I’m not literally suggesting we drive to the beach while the driver and passenger chain smoke and we keep the windows up even in the back seat because the A/C is on or that we embrace co-ed sleepovers just because, hey! it’s old school to think of relationships as only occurring between a boy and a girl, but sometimes I wish the lines were clearer. I suppose really what I wish is that I didn’t feel so obligated to pay so much attention to the lines and constantly adjust my definition of good, better, best.
Modern parenting is harder than it has to be and we all have these extra layers of worries. Divorce, death, dire economic circumstances, abuse, exposure to so many things via the internet, capitalist corporations with only their bottom line as a moral barometer, and our own over exposure to the misguided idea that there is, in fact, “A” right way to raise your kids.
Single parents, divorced parents, gay parents, foster parents, grandparents, let us boycott the onslaught of parenting advice that tries to pigeonhole us into a hierarchy of parenting success. The idea of perfect parents is a myth. We are doing our best, struggling and making mistakes. Right? Without compromising what you’ve developed as your recipe for parenting success don’t forget to be compassionate about the parents around you.
Would I throw punches at my hypothetical son if he was walking across police lines? Honestly, I don’t know. But I think I understand why, in that moment, that momma made that choice. Whether you parent with “Love and Logic” or by the seat of your pants, most parents want the same end result: to have our kids grow up safe, happy and successful.

Management 101

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Management 101

Love is a fickle bitch. You think she’d just recognize an amazing person and then settle in for a lifetime of romantic montages. But no, apparently she has a twisted sense of humor instead.
Part of the joy? of dating the second time around is figuring out what it is I want as a grown up and recognizing what I can’t manage. Which to the casual observer might obviously be something very different than what I wanted when I was in my early 20s. For me, that has taken some trial and error to figure out. And frankly, what exactly this is seems to be something of an enigma still.
Maybe love was just simpler in the 90s, all those John Hughes films from the 80s had fueled a fairly concrete picture of who I should spend my life with–Emilio Estevez. Or some other jock with a heart of gold. Or perhaps I’m making it more difficult than it needs to be.
Somehow the part of me that longs for a slow motion run into the arms of a shirtless hero won’t reconcile with a weirdly practical sense of time management. Meaning- I’m a busy woman and I’m no longer looking to build a family with someone. I have a family, and for the most part I fear that the nuclear family ship has sailed for me. I suppose what I mean is, I’m raising my babies and I can’t seem to make room for anyone else to do that with me.
So I’m just like, regular dating, whatever that means, but on the side of being a single parent. So the scenario is like this, I’m dating, but I’ve got three roommates ages 14, 12 and 9. And they are less like roommates and more like nagging wives. ” why are you never home? “, ” why don’t you ever take me out?”, “how come you never get dressed up for me?”, ” but you get to see your friends at work all the time. “.
Never a day off–ever. I’m phenomenally lucky to be able to afford a regular babysitter/nanny/hired wife. She’s wonderful, but she can’t be a second parent no matter how great she is. She’s more like a big sister in that way. And the girls let me know it. Plus they spend a lot of time assuming I’ll never come back if I leave, so I get it. It’s complicated.
I might have mentioned that this struggle is just one in a long line of how do I participate in life as a grown up, who’s not entirely “grown-up”, be a parent and role model, and make space for me as a single lady. Imagine that the majority of your social interactions are being scrutinized by a trio of people who know you very well in one specific way, but collectively have the emotional maturity of kimmy Schmidt. Imagine your employees live with you, are dependent on you and feel very free to share with you how disappointing you are to them as a boss. By the way, you cannot fire them.
I’m not really complaining. I do love my daughters intensely and recognize that we are in this pickle vat together. We keep each other afloat. And when they are busy and happy, they don’t much mind that I work, or even go out for a drink with friends.
So it’s just part of where I am, which I never imagined I’d be. I’ve never really been great at thinking stuff through, I mean seriously, Emilio Estevez ? I was way more Anthony Michael Hall’s type anyway.

Coed sleepovers

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Coed sleepovers

When my girls were toddlers and we would vacation with friends all the kids would sleep in a big pile, like puppies. They’d run around in various states of undress and we (the parents) would take pictures and ooh and ahh at how cute they all were. Boys and girls, it didn’t matter, just everyone all together. Sleeping on piles of pillows and blankets, all their tiny limbs entangled with each other.
Now my kids are teens, almost teens and soon to be teens. And those other friends are also teens and nearly teens, but they still want to all sleep in a pile, snuggle….
Part of me believes that it’s all still innocent, they’ve known each other for so long, it’s like they are cousins. Another part of me remembers being 14, and the movie Great Balls of Fire. So, I keep having conversations with my daughter that totally annoy her, much is nothing new. It’s just that now the conversations annoy me too. I don’t want to have these conversations. And yet…
So no more coed sleepovers, no more sleeping in piles. I know some parents totally lose it over their kid’s first day of kindergarten, that milestone barely phased me any of the three times, but this feels huge. They really are growing up, they really are not kids anymore. They aren’t innocent. I know it’s good, they are doing what they should, but I do wish I could grab onto their tiny fluffy, kid smelly heads and kiss them one more time. Take a picture of them and not feel weird about the content of our conversations.
It’s transition time again. Sigh.

Size matters

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Size matters

Hey, I’m a single mom…did you know that, because I mention it in almost every post. Here’s the thing, being a single mom shapes everything I do. How I cook, how I plan my day, how I plan my life. Today, it is effecting how I think of size.
I’m a kick ass mom, if you want me to do something, just tell me I can’t, I shouldn’t or I’m not supposed to. I immediately must do that thing. Ive killed bees (even though I’m terrified of them) removed mice heads from the living room, removed a staple from my daughters finger and called someone to remove a dead possum. I’ve built fires and stayed up all night with sick kids. I’ve helped cats give birth and invited my husband’s girlfriend to his funeral. I spent a week in Amsterdam alone. I’ve driven my daughters clear across the country, while pregnant, I even tried to gamble with them in Los Vegas. You can’t gamble with children, it’s against the law. I do follow the law.
Today I did one of the most depressing single parent duties…taking down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day. There’s the tedium of doing it, coupled with the sad reminder that the season of light is over. There’s the piercing of the dried out tree branches coupled with removing Chris’s ornaments. It’s difficult to unwrap five strands of lights from around a giant tree. We got a giant tree, giant.
Back in the first week of December, when taking the monstrosity down was the furthest thing from our minds, it was just the most beautiful tree in the lot. The girls jumped up and down and clapped with glee at the sight of Fred when the tree guy stood him up so we could admire his sheer size. This tree must have been ten and a half feet tall and as big around as Rush Limbaugh. It was indeed a lovely tree, so we had the flannel clad attendant tie it to our Honda pilot with some orange dental floss. Surely gravity and Christmas spirit would hold it onto the car for the three miles we needed to drive home. The girls were excited to get our giant tree in the house. “We will water it every day, let’s make a chart.” They said. We couldn’t even get the star on top it was so tall, so we just nestled the star in the branches near the top.
Four weeks later, as the giant branches had started to curl in on themselves from lack of water and time, it’s time to take the monster out of the house and get on with winter. Of course, no one is interested in helping take down the tree. And frankly it’s easier to do it alone than try to cajole. But it’s really sad. I don’t like that Christmas has passed once again and the long dark winter awaits now. But I took it down, of course and tucked all the ornaments away, wrapped up the 5 strands of lights, untangled the garland and packed away the angel figurines. So…now how to get it out the front door? When the tree arrived, it was soft and compressed within the net from the tree farm. Now it is brittle and not in a net. But I can do this. I don’t need any help. I’ll just tip it forward out the front door and yank it onto the porch. So, I tip it forward and immediately realize that someone had watered the tree at some point, because a giant puddle is now racing across my floor. I called the girls who, come (eventually) running down, they get towels. Then we push and pull the tree as though the house were giving birth to it, after several rounds of pushing and pulling the tree is out on the front porch. Of course there are branches everywhere and needles will still be in our socks in February, but it’s out of the house. So I drag it dutifully to the curb.
As I look at the giant tree, now laying on its side, I come to a conclusion. While I can do this, I don’t want to. I want help. I miss having an adult around who is in it with me. I am a kick ass mom, and I’ll continue to be one, but I accept that this is lonely work. And I accept that I don’t prefer it. I’ll do it, but reluctantly. And frankly, next year we will have to get a smaller tree, or help.