You are breaking my heart, son.
As a follow-up to last week’s post, there were two things that happened this week with the Potato that are a little confusing.
The first? I had a parent-teacher conference with the second grade teacher. The Potato is doing excellently in school, and (as of course I already know) is an extremely bright boy (albeit one who is easily distracted). I had told the teacher about the pending separation before I moved out, and she told me that his behavior hasn’t changed at all–that if she hadn’t known what was going on, she would never have guessed.
“You and your husband deserve a lot of credit for how you’re handling this, if he’s any indication.” So that made me feel pretty good.
What did not make me feel good, however, was when I went to pick him up at after care the following day, and he had gotten suspended. For telling some kids who were teasing them that he hoped they’d die.
Counseling tomorrow, for landisdad & the Potato. (Not because landisdad needs it–we alternate taking the kids, this just happens to be his turn).
So, hello blog. It’s been awhile, I know.
I’ve mentioned that some unbloggable stuff has been going on, and frankly, that stuff has been so overwhelming in my life that I haven’t been able to concentrate on any other kind of mom-blogging. But it’s out in the world now, and therefore bloggable again.
Landisdad and I, after 17 years together and 12 years married, have decided to separate. We both grew up in households where our parents stayed together longer than they should’ve, and we are trying very hard (and I think succeeding, at least so far) to have an amicable separation. At the end of the day, our decision to separate has more to do that we have just grown apart over the years–it’s not like there was one fatal incident that caused us to make this move.
As regular readers know, I have a demanding job with a frequent travel schedule, and landisdad has been the primary caregiver for our children for the past several years. One of the most wrenching parts of this decision, for me, has been the realization that I will be the person to move out, while landisdad stays in the house, with the kids.
It makes me feel like a failure as a woman, to be honest.
I don’t believe that we’re making the wrong decision. I think it’s right for the kids to stay in their home, surrounded by their friends, to keep attending the same schools. It’s not impossible to imagine that I might keep them with me, but it would require all of us moving a significant distance away, and them being totally uprooted to a new place. While I know that is a thing kids can get over, just like they can get over their parents being separated, I also know that I want this to be as easy for them as possible (not that it can be really easy).
So I will move, and we will try to maintain some normalcy for them.
As we’ve been going through this process, I looked around the web and didn’t find a ton of blogs by moms who don’t live with their kids*. I thought about not blogging about it at all–but in the end, I decided that blogging has always helped me work through difficult things about parenting in my own head, and it was important for my sanity to be able to continue. I also think it’s potentially helpful for other women in a similar situation–blogging has also been about community, for me, and a place to find a community of people who are like-minded and/or in similar circumstances, but maybe not geographically close.
The focus of this blog will shift, obviously. It’s going to be more about the experience of a non-custodial parent (that’s not even the right way to describe it–we will share custody, but I will have them with me for less time–secondary custody? naming suggestions welcome) than about a mom who lives day-to-day with her kids.
*and if you know of any, please send them my way!!
Today, I picked up the kids from school. The Potato came running up to me and said, “I’m helping Nikki S.*”
“That’s nice, Potato, what are you helping her with?”
“Nikki J. and Gertie started a club today called ‘we hate Nikki S.,’ so we were making plans about how to deal with them.”
“Well I’m really proud of you, Potato, it’s good to stand up for people when they’re getting bullied.”
“I know, and I’m going to tell Ms. K, because it’s not fair that they’re making Nikki S. feel bad.”
The Potato just told landisdad this weekend that one of the older boys in the after-school has been bullying him. I asked the Bee about it, and she said she hadn’t said anything, because she tries to stay away from that particular boy, since he always tries to start fights with her.
I was so happy to hear that the Potato felt empathy for a girl who was being bullied, and wanted to help her. He’s proud of himself for helping his friend, and I’m glad to see that, even though he’s being bullied himself (and might run the risk of further bullying from these girls) that he was willing to stand up for someone else.
*names have been changed to protect the guilty…and the innocent… all the girls are in the Potato’s class
Sometime in the near future, this blog is going to reach 100,000 hits. I know that’s nothing, compared to some big (and even not-so-big) blogs, but if you had asked me five years ago if I’d be close to hitting that mark, I would have laughed.
I thought it would be interesting to look at a retrospective of the last five years. Well, it’s interesting to me. It’s divided into two parts: today’s is most popular posts, and tomorrow’s will be landismom’s top ten. The popular posts is a little deceptive, because I did move my blog from blogger to wordpress, and therefore the posts from the early years might not have as many hits. I’m just working with the tools I’ve been given, y’know. But hey, now that I think about it, that means I’m over 100,000 hits! Break out the bubbly!
Most Popular Posts (and my guesses as to why they’re popular)
#10–The Bad Side of Genetics. Not really sure about this one. I was actually surprised to see that it made the top ten. I think it must be the thing about fused baby teeth–I get a couple of searches a week for that term.
#9–Beware the Basement. Is everyone afraid of their own basement? It seems this is a far more prevalent problem than I ever suspected.
#8–Even Little Girls Named Ruthie. Again with the teeth?
#7–Top Ten Toys. This tends to trend very heavily around Christmas. Guess it’s all those aunts and uncles and grandparents looking for suggestions. Not very helpful, I’m afraid. Although you can’t go wrong with Mad Libs. Or D & D books.
#6–Teaching Values Through Literature. On my worst days, I’m afraid that the people who are searching for advice on this topic are really looking for James Dobson. This ain’t it.
#5–Book Trading. Yay, people want to trade books! So glad about this one.
#4–We’re All Happy Hair. Is it the same people who want to read about my kids’ teeth?
#3–Carnival of Feminists #32. I’m pretty sure I got in on the tail end of carnival hosting. At least, I can’t remember the last time I saw one on a blog I read.
#2–“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”. This is 100% people searching this term. For papers, I imagine. How befuddled they must be, when they get to my blog.
And now…drum roll please…
#1–Betrayed by the Skin I’m In. Wow, there are a lot of people out there in the world who have random itchiness. Also? A severe allergy to Tide seems to crop up now and again. Ironically, the “medical mystery” story in last week’s Times magazine was about a guy with severe cold allergy, so they’ll probably be stealing all my hits.
Remember when this was a blog about little kids? /sigh/ Those were the days.
Back in the day, the separation anxiety was all on the kids. When they would cry as I left them at day care, they worried, but I always knew I’d come back for them, so I didn’t fret. These days, the anxiety is much more on my end, as my kids take the normal steps to grow up—and separate from me and their dad.
Remember when you first had that baby, and she still felt like a part of your flesh? The first time the Bee got hurt, she was a couple of weeks old. Landisdad was trimming her nails, and cut her finger by accident, and it was as if she was bleeding my blood.
As the Bee’s gotten older, my sense of her body being a part of me has dimmed, of course. But it’s only very recently that I’ve started to feel, way back in some old, deep part of my brain, that she will never be mine again in the way she was in those first days. That she owns her body, and while I can stand to one side and make suggestions, it’s hers to do with as she wishes (within legal parental reason).
This week, the fifth grade started having the kinds of health classes where they separate the boys and the girls, and talk to them about puberty, and show movies about the physical changes that lie in store for them. Surprisingly, the Bee came home that day and wanted to talk, not about her period or when she might develop breasts, but the fact that she needed to start taking a shower every day.
We’ve had some struggles about showering recently, so landisdad and I were a little surprised, to say the least. It’s been difficult to get her to take a shower more than twice a week, so for her to suddenly develop a theory that she has to take one every day is a big breakthrough. It’s only been two days since that fateful proclamation, but she has gotten up, dutifully on each of those days at 6 a.m. to take her shower. She’s gotten dressed on her own, and come down to have me brush her hair.
Landisdad joked that we should see if we can get the health teacher to tell her that she has to start doing something else, like taking out the trash once a week, or helping make dinner every night. I’m not sure that would work, though I am hoping that this wave of cleanliness will also make her see brushing her teeth as less of a chore.
I guess in some ways, the loss I’m feeling isn’t just about our physical closeness, but the loss of being the trusted authority. I’ve been telling her to shower for a year—and now, in one day, she’s changing her behavior because “it’s what you do.” The Bee will usually be a kid who wants to conform—she doesn’t want to be the wacky kid who misbehaves, she’s more interested in being the star pupil. If taking a shower every day means that she’s performing as normal, then that’s a good enough reason.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I know that she won’t, for example, let someone push her around just so that she can fit in. Her ideas of fairness and justice will trump the need to conform, almost every time. The separation anxiety I’m feeling is my own loss of her—but that loss is ameliorated by the knowledge that what I am losing, the world is gaining.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I have felt the need to blog less and less frequently. I think that’s because I don’t want to admit that the time for blogging has possibly passed, and I’m just riding a trend too long.
So here’s my counter-argument.
I started this blog in 2005, when I was the mom of a kindergartener and an eighteen-month-old. While I’ve always had a full-time job, I was tele-commuting then, in a job I had very recently gotten. My kids were young, and my life revolved around them. I spent large parts of every day thinking about them, and about the choices that I was making that affected them
And now it’s four years later, and they’ve grown up some. They’re much more self-sufficient, although not, of course, fully grown. While I still spend a lot of time thinking about them, and talking about them with their father and my friends, I feel less often like the choices that I’m making will unmake or be the making of them. There is a foundation that has been laid for their lives, and while I worry about the walls being straight, I don’t feel like one simple decision will cause the house to be less-than-true.
It seems to me, that just as there are stages of growing up for kids, there are stages of growing up for parents. I feel, to a certain extent, like I’m growing up as a mother.
my cat killed a sparrow in the kitchen. The sparrow flew through our window during Hurricane Floyd seeking a place of safety, only to be snapped out of the air, dead before it hit the floor, by our cat, Hank, the killingest cat of all time.
Why do I remember this so vividly?
It was the Bee’s due date.
For the first time in living memory (well, at least my living memory), school starts before Labor Day this year. The superintendent of our district realized last year that if school started after Labor Day, the kids would still be going in the last week of June, so he decided to break a decades-long tradition in our town.
I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.
We had a kid-therapy session today, and the therapist suggested that we have a talk with the teacher about the Bee’s issues, which have come to be identified as a sort-of OCD-ishness. During the session, we went to the play therapy room, and the Bee and the Potato both had to make up a scene about the first day of school. The Potato’s involved a police helicopter and a T-Rex (god help me). The Bee’s involved going to a circus, a carnival, and finding buried treasure, which the class all shared. They both had ten minutes to pull their scenes together–the Potato finished his in about 2 minutes, while the Bee used up her whole time, and was still putting on the finishing touches while the Potato was telling us about his first day.
My work life is about to heat up again, too, and I’m worried that the combination of school starting and me being gone more is going to cause the Bee to have a setback. I just wish we could hold on to summer for one more week.
I’ve often wondered why people at amusement parks so frequently seem to be in a bad mood. Then last weekend, landisdad and I took the kids to an amusement park. While we were there, the following thought occurred to me:
When you’re a kid, going to an amusement park is fun, because you think you’re immortal and nothing can hurt you. When you’re a parent, going to an amusement park is terrifying, because you know how many things can go wrong, and here you are, deliberately putting your child into harm’s way.
From about the time the Bee learned to walk, I suffered from a recurring nightmare. This dream would visit me once every six months or so, and always took the following form–me, landisdad & the Bee on some high, touristy place (the Empire State Building, a mountain, the Grand Canyon). And the Bee fell over the edge.
When the Potato was born (and learned to walk) the dream became so intense that whenever I would have it, I’d wake with my heart pounding, would run in to check the kids’ rooms, and would be unable to go back to sleep for at least an hour.
Needless to say, going to amusement parks and riding on things that go high in the air is not number one on my list of fun things to do with the kids.
I’m not really sure where this fear came from. Pre-kids, I was never afraid of heights. I climbed all manner of high things. For pete’s sake, I practically majored in climbing around in rigging, when I was in college. But somehow, the fear of heights became a stand-in for all my parenting fears, became the thing that embodied everything in my kids’ lives that might go wrong.
So it’s an act of faith for me to climb up on a ski-lift-y type of thing with the Bee, and to dangle our feet several stories above ground, as we travel leisurely from one end of a park to the other. Speed-wise, and gyroscopically, it’s by no means the scariest ride around. But from my psyche’s perspective, it might as well have seventeen loop-the-loops and a straight drop down fifty feet, y’knowwhatI’msaying?
I finally get why parents at amusement parks spend so much time yelling at their kids. It’s because we’re spending half our time on an adrenaline rush of “is-that-thing-hooked-on-really-and-isn’t-he-much-too-little-to-ride-it-I-don’t-care-what-Mr.Inchworm-says,” and the other half of the time fending off our children’s requests for ice cream.
I did eventually get rid of my kid-falling dream, after a particularly vivid experience imagining the Potato falling off the Golden Gate Bridge. I made myself go back to sleep that night, and dreamed I jumped in after him. Now, why do I want to pay $80 to recreate that experience by visiting Six Flags?