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…
It’s been a long time since I posted…and I have a post I need to get out about the Potato…but first, a follow-up to my last post.
The kids had off from school today. I had to go on a one-day out-of-town business trip, so I took the Potato with me—the Bee stayed home, because she had rehearsal for the play. Despite the drama of casting, she sucked it up and took the part she won in the audition. And she’s been diligently rehearsing and learning her songs and dances.
In the middle of the afternoon, landisdad texted me to tell me that the Bee had twisted her ankle at rehearsal. The drama teacher (yes, the same one) told her to continue practicing. She didn’t get her ice, or call either of us. She let the Bee walk home, alone, at the end. A walk that normally takes her 20 minutes took her an hour, because she was in so much pain (& for some reason, she didn’t call her dad till she got home). Landisdad took her to an urgent care center, and the upshot?
Her leg is fractured.
I’m so angry I can barely type.
Landisdad and I were texting back-and-forth, and talking on the phone, this afternoon and evening. After he told me that her leg is broken, the Potato came over and sat next to me and said, “you look sad.”
I told him, “I am sad, because as a parent, when you send your kid to school, you expect them to be safe. If you get hurt at school, I expect to get a call from the nurse or the principal. I don’t expect that you will have to deal with it by yourself.”
I have never in my life wanted to get someone fired so badly.
I’m not going to try to get her fired. But I really, really want to.
I was driving to work this morning, when my phone rang. It was the school nurse at the middle school, calling to tell me that the Bee was having a nose bleed, and was freaking out all out of proportion to the situation. The nurse said, “she’s screaming and crying, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s clearly something else going on, but she won’t tell me what it is.”
When a middle school nurse says she’s never seen anything like it, I pay attention.
I explained that the Bee lives with her dad during the week, and that I hadn’t seen her that morning–but that one of us would come get her. I frantically called landisdad while I changed directions to head for what I still sometimes think of as home, but he was getting ready for work himself and didn’t hear the phone.
When I got to school, the Bee was sitting on a chair sobbing with a mass of tissues in her lap, and the nurse said, “I found out what’s wrong–she’ll tell you…”
We walked to the car, and she burst into hysterical sobbing again–and told me, through her tears, that the cast list for the school musical had been posted that morning. And that not only hadn’t she gotten the part she wanted–but she hadn’t gotten any part at all, just a role as a featured dancer.
In addition to that, the teacher who is directing the musical told the kids yesterday, “Now you can’t get upset when I post the cast list. It’s not professional.”
This morning, when the Bee went to look at the cast list with her friends, she cried. And the crying made her have a nosebleed (which happens to her from time to time), and it made her cry harder, because she was afraid that she was looking unprofessional.
When the Bee told me that, my heart broke a little, because I knew that a lot of what was going on with her at that moment was the fact that she was filled with shame about the fact that she was upset, and was therefore letting a teacher down by doing something she had been expressly told not to do.
I took a deep breath, and I said to her, “Bee, I never ever thought I would say this about a teacher, but fuck her. It is not okay for anyone to tell you that you are not allowed to have the feelings that you have. It is okay for you to be upset, and disappointed.”
We drove home, and she sobbed some more. I told her she didn’t have to go back to school today, if she didn’t want to, and she said, “please don’t make me go back.”
We had a long talk about why the “being professional” metaphor sucks when you are talking about middle or high school theater–the first part of which being, of course, that you are not getting paid, and therefore not a professional. How professional actors get to audition for something more than once a year, and therefore can afford to feel disappointment less keenly. How professional actors get to find out they didn’t get a part in the privacy of their own living rooms, not in front of the friends who got the parts they wanted.
And that professional actors get angry, and sad, and they cry when they don’t get roles. But they don’t have to spend the rest of the year working with the director who didn’t cast them, because that person is their teacher.
We walked to the coffee shop in town, and I bought her a chocolate chip muffin, and talked about how this meant that she wouldn’t have to quit field hockey. And she cried. We got home, and I sat down to do some work and she sat on the floor and leaned against my leg, as I stroked her hair.
We’ll see what happens, how her thinking evolves–I am guessing she will stay in the play, because she does love being on stage. But with a director like that, I wouldn’t blame her for quitting.
The kids have been back to school for a week, and oh my is it wonderful. The Bee is in eighth grade this year, and she’s determined to participate in ALL THE THINGS. Student Council, the musical, field hockey, peer-t0-peer mentoring, and maybe even track and field… She came home today complaining about the fact that all her teachers have required different kinds of notebooks (a binder, some spiral-bound, some composition) which means that she has to carry ten different things in the morning to her first four classes.
The Potato is in fourth grade, and while he’s not laden down with as many extra-curriculars as the Bee–he’s playing soccer, which has two practices and one game every week. He’s been getting more into video-gaming lately, and I’m pretty sure I can see the lanky teen he will someday be, as he is letting his hair grow into his eyes…
I know that won’t shock you to read.
And I know that I have, in some regard, no right to complain at all.
While you can call what I do single parenting, the reality is that I still parent my kids with a partner—and when it comes to issues around the kids & their needs & behaviors, landisdad and I are still very much in tune.
But having the kids all to myself for a week, especially while on vacation without another adult to talk to, is very hard. It’s hard not to feel ganged up on. It’s hard not to want to end every evening with alcohol.
Man, am I tired.
For all those mamas & papas out there who do this alone, every single day/week/month/year–my hat is off to you. I’m glad that I still get to share this with someone else, even if the method of sharing has changed.