Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend who has a new baby–he and his husband adopted over the summer, and their son is 7 months old now.
We were talking about the differences that parenting makes in your life, and I mentioned that this was my last year as an elementary school parent–next year, the Potato will be in middle school, and the Bee will be a sophomore.
He asked me, “what does that mean to you?” and I’m not gonna lie, the first thought I had was “freedom.”
It’s not total freedom, of course–but being the parent of two kids in their older school years is very different from being the parent of a kindergartener and a toddler, which is the place I was in when I started this blog.
But it does mean no more worrying about how to cover after-school care every day. It means that he’ll play soccer after school, not in the evenings and on weekends. It means some small measure of freedom, that comes with your kids becoming more independent.
Today, though, was my last elementary school Halloween parade. And that’s kind of sad.
Though of course, when your son wants to dress up as Death for Halloween, it’s not exactly a warm & fuzzy moment…
The Bee, so far, is somewhat anomalous among her friends in that she’s never had a boyfriend. She’s 14 now, and a high school freshman, so I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time.
A few weeks ago, she asked me to buy her a dress for homecoming. It’s not till November, so I thought it was a little weird at the time, but she told me she wanted a specific dress online, and wanted to have time to exchange it if it didn’t fit right. So we bought the dress.
A few days later, I noticed one of her friends talking online about how all the girls she knew were getting asked to homecoming, and how all the boys were coming up with creative ways of asking (this, apparently, is a function of Tumblr, according to one of the Bee’s friends, who is a senior). And a lightbulb went off in my head.
So I asked the Bee, “are you going to homecoming with someone?” She said, “not yet. But a boy is going to ask me. I don’t know who it is–but all my friends do, and they won’t tell me.”
I joked to landisdad that we should write an open letter to the boy to let him know that the Bee hates surprises, and doubly hates when other people know things about her life that she doesn’t know. And then we waited for her to tell us more about the boy.
After about a week of not hearing anything else about it, I broke down and asked her, “hey, did you ever find out who the boy was who was going to ask you to homecoming?” She said, “yeah, but he ended up asking the Rabbit (one of her best friends) instead. The Crow (a frenemy) found out he was going to ask me, and she told him to ask the Rabbit instead, because she didn’t have a date. So now I don’t have a date.”
The Bee didn’t seem too overwhelmingly upset by it–she said that the boy was a nice kid, and she would have gone with him, but just as friends.
I told her, “the thing that sucks about dating in high school is that there is a finite pool of acceptable boys, and you tend to be competing for them with your friends. It won’t always be like that.”
Of course, from a single mom perspective–there don’t seem to be too many adult men who are interested in winning Tumblr by being creative daters, so there are trade-offs everywhere, I guess.
The Bee is three days into high school, and I’m already exhausted. Why does the start of the school year have to come right after I’ve spent August relaxing?
Two quick things this morning, but they’re linked, somehow, in my head.
The Bee is continuing to play field hockey, at least for this year. I don’t think she actually loves the game, but a couple of her friends asked her to do it, so they could have a freshman team (in addition to varsity & JV ones). The high school field hockey parents? are insane.
Both of our kids have played team sports. I’ve never experienced a team sport where the parents rotate who is going to make dinner for the kids on game nights. There are 42 girls playing field hockey. I am not running a restaurant kitchen!
Two days ago, one person sent out an email to the parents’ listserv asking for the college addresses of field hockey alumni, so the girls could write to her. (Landisdad, to me, privately–”what, they never heard of facebook? make a group!”)
In related news, I just read this article, from the Atlantic, about parents’ use of online grade systems in public schools.
We’ve had access to the Bee’s grades online since she went into middle school, and I confess, I can probably count on my fingers & toes the number of times I’ve logged into that thing. The Bee, however, is on it all the time.
Two nights ago at dinner, she and the Potato were complaining about various teachers, and he asked her why she didn’t like a particular science teacher that she had been complaining about. “Ms. W. doesn’t even know how to use Genesis! Last year, I was absent one day on a day she was absent too. She left a busy-work assignment with the sub, and she told me, when I came back to school, that I didn’t have to do it. And then she marked it as incomplete in Genesis! I told her 3 times to correct it, but she still didn’t, until I stood over her and made her do it!”
I can’t tell if envisioning the Bee nagging her teacher to change a grade made me more horrified, or more proud.
What I do know is that eventually, the Bee is going to go to college (and god help any professor who makes a mistake on her grades!)–and I’m not going to go with her. I certainly don’t question her competency at standing up for herself.
I’m not sure what’s behind the impulse to continue helicopter parenting into high school. I certainly don’t have it. Maybe it’s that sense that you’re about to lose them forever, and you just want to hang on while you can?
One of the challenges of modern parenting is definitely teaching your kids how to be safe on the Internet.
But I don’t worry about online predators nearly half as much as I worry about their privacy being stolen by marketers and the government.
As they move more and more into online space, I feel like I have to spend more and more time lecturing them about keeping themselves safe from intrusion. It’s not just privacy settings that I’m worried about–it’s making sure that they have ad-blocking extensions set up on their browsers, and monitoring the Bee’s instagram and vine feeds to see if she’s posting inappropriate things.
It’s wearing, to be honest.
That’s why I was very excited to read about Disconnect’s new service, Disconnect for Kids. Mobile marketers, you can kiss my kids’ data goodbye.
When I moved out, I told my kids that I wouldn’t live with anyone else while they were still young enough to have to live at home. Both my parents got remarried, after their divorce, to people who are crazy in different ways—and the fact that I had to live with my step-parents, serially, did really bad things to my relationships with my own parents. I’m not at all interested in adding that drama to my world again, this time with my kids in the mix.
To some degree, this makes dating easy for me. I’m not looking for a serious relationship, for something that’s “going somewhere.” I just want some companionship, occasionally, on nights the kids aren’t around. Up till this point, I mostly haven’t dated on the times they stay with me, but that may change as landisdad and I move into more of a 50-50 parenting split.
One of the things about single parenting that I find hard to navigate is the integration of my own dating life with the fact that the Bee has become a teenager. She hasn’t dated anyone yet, but the handwriting is on the wall—it’s only a matter of time before she’ll have a boyfriend.
I remember the horror of my own mother going on dates, just as I was trying to figure that out for myself for the first time. My mom didn’t date very much at all–if she dated anyone besides my stepfather before she got remarried, I certainly never knew about it. Similarly, my dad did not introduce us to anyone he dated until my stepmother.
What that meant for me, as a teen who had a lot of anger, was that I only had one chance to get used to the idea that my parent was with someone new. I have no doubt that some of the bad things that went wrong in my relationships with my own parents were due to bad choices that I made—I’m not going to deny that I was emotionally immature—and it cost us all something.
I haven’t introduced my kids to most of the people that I’ve dated, and when I have, it’s gone okay, particularly with the Potato. I’ve told them that I don’t expect them to treat men I date with anything other than the same respect that they would show any of my friends, and that’s mostly been their reaction. I think it helps that I’ve done it so infrequently—it really has kept them from feeling like it was a thing they were going to have to do over and over again, on both their best and their worst days.
But in some ways, I think the choices I’ve made about dating may just be the thing that my kids think, “I’ll never do that, if I get divorced!”
I think it’s hard to have an honest conversation with them about the things I’m looking for in a relationship, versus the things I hope for them when they start dating, because there is so much “ick” factor when kids think about their parents having sex.
Last night, the kids and I went out to dinner to celebrate some great grades the Bee got on her mid-terms, and the fact that the Potato got onto the honor roll.
I raised my glass and made a toast to the two of them, and told them both that I was proud of them.
The kids, being goofy, giggled. The Bee did a fake cough and muttered, “yes, here’s to me for being amazing!”
The Potato, without missing a beat, said, “I think you’ve got opposite cough.”
The Bee and I laughed hard for a solid minute.
Before I forget–Susan’s been asking me in the comments about the Bee’s leg, and I keep forgetting to answer her–but all is basically well–she got the boot off in mid-December. She has some minor pain every once in a while, but it seems to have healed well. So thanks for all the good wishes!
I spent my first kid-free holiday this week, as landisdad took them to visit his mom for the weekend through New Year’s Day. By the time I realized he was planning to be gone that long, it was too late to make any significant plans to go away or do something fun myself—so I told myself I’d spend the weekend packing, maybe see a couple of movies that I hadn’t seen yet.
I didn’t take any time off from work the week of Christmas, other than the actual holidays, because I’m planning to take a week off later this month when I move. But it was a pretty slow week, as almost everyone I work with was off. I had the kids with me the Wednesday and Thursday of last week, but landisdad came and picked them up after dinner on Thursday night so they could get on the road on Friday morning.
I started to get really depressed on Friday about the fact that I was going to spend New Year’s Eve alone.
I don’t know why.
I don’t particularly care about New Year’s Eve—it’s never been a holiday of any particular significance or special event-ism in my life. Landisdad and I haven’t done anything more than sit on the couch, drink champagne, and watch the ball drop for 14 years or so. Even last year, when we were living apart, I went to be with him and the kids that night.
On Friday night, I went to dinner with a friend and tried not to be too miserable.
On Saturday, I was doing some errands and generally moping around, when a thought occurred to me. And that thought was this:
I own my loneliness.
It seems stupid, but it suddenly made me feel better.
I own my loneliness, because it stems from the choices I’ve made—and I don’t regret those choices. It doesn’t mean I won’t — or shouldn’t — feel lonely. But it does mean I could make different choices (which would invariably have other side effects — side effects that, for the most part, I’ve already considered and rejected). And it does mean that I can choose to do something about it.
On Sunday night, I’d been invited to a party with a bunch of people I know, through my job, but only from the internet. I’d sort of vaguely said that I would go, only kind of half-intending to. I went to the movies in the afternoon, and then I drove to the place where the party was being held. I sat in my car, in the parking lot, and talked myself into going inside.
What’s the worst that could happen? You won’t have fun, so you’ll leave.
Even after I got out of my car and was walking into the place (scanning the parking lot to make sure there was at least one other leftist bumper sticker in the place), I was muttering in my head, “you are a smart, attractive woman with an interesting job. People will want to talk to you.”
And you know what? I was right.
I made only one New Year’s Resolution this year—those of you who are my Facebook friends will already know what that is. But I’ve made another, sort of more basic resolution in the past year that I feel really good about. I’ve resolved to accept the possibilities that the universe throws my way, and to face them with optimism instead of defensiveness. It seems to be working, so far.
After months and months of looking, I’ve finally found a house to buy, back in the town where landisdad & the kids still live. Fingers crossed, I’ll be closing and moving in mid-January.
As the kids get older, especially the Bee, their lives are just increasingly not about spending every weekend moment with me (or their dad). Living in a different town has made everything harder—weekend play practice, hanging out with friends, soccer games—you name it, we’ve gotten stuck in traffic on the way there.
For most of the summer, I looked at houses that seemed like they would require a ridiculous amount of work, but they were all I felt like I could afford.
For most of the fall, I didn’t look at all, because I was consumed by work.
Finally, my real estate agent made me look at a house that was a little outside my price range, and I did some new math, and decided to take the plunge.
I’m not really looking forward to moving, but I am looking forward to moving out of my apartment. Two years has been long enough to live here, for sure.
And I’m not really sure what it will mean, long-term, with the custody situation.
I’d like the kids to be with me more during the week, although I need to figure it out in a way that balances my work travel with their need for stability.
And the Bee still hasn’t told everyone she knows that landisdad and I separated (and in fact, are now divorced). So it’s kind of hard to imagine that she’s going to start staying with me during the week.
But it will be nice to never again have to sleep on the couch in my former house, when landisdad is out of town.
It’s sometimes easier for me to figure out how to impart feminist values to my daughter, than it is to my son. I don’t want him to grow up thinking men are bad (or that feminists think men are bad), but I tend to talk about sexism in a negative frame—i.e., by referring to the limits it places on women.
But there have been a couple of incidents lately that stopped me and made me realize that he’s picked some things up…
The first was when we were having a conversation about the kids in his class, and who liked to play soccer at recess. He named a couple of boys, and then one girl. I wanted to ask, is she the most tomboyish girl in the class, but about half-way through the sentence, I realized that I didn’t want to use the word “tomboy.” I paused after “most”, searching for another way to describe her, and the Potato looked up at me and said, “athletic? Yep.” And then just carried on…
The second was about a week after that, when he was telling me about his day at school, and some quarrel he’d gotten into with some of the kids in his class. “Prima and Segunda were making fun of me, and then they called me a girl. And I told them, ‘why are you making fun of me by calling me a girl. That just makes you sound like you’re worse than me all the time.”
The phenomenon of kids (of either gender) calling each other “such a girl” as an insult is one that bugs the crap out of me, so I was especially proud of him for that one…