Signs

Today my son G said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you were a writer like you wanted to be.” I didn’t answer at first and he and C discussed amongst themselves for the millionth time how I could work from home and spend more time with them and C went off on his favorite tangent about how I should be a teacher and work at their school and I listened and struggled to find my voice.

Finally, I said, “I am a writer. I just don’t make a living from it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

The truth is if I wanted to be a writer I’d be working on it. Saying the words “I am a writer” doesn’t make it so.  I haven’t written a damn thing that was not work related in about six months. Real writers make time for their craft. Real writers are compelled to get the words on the page. Real writers stay up late and wake up early to tell their stories. Real writers can’t stop writing. Right?

Maybe it’s just the winter blues (again). Or maybe I just don’t have it in me. Maybe I’ve lost my voice in a more significant way than I thought.

I’ve been looking for signs for a while now. Signs to point me toward what I should be doing next. Signs that the work I do every day is meaningful. Signs that my work as a mother has been successful. Signs that I’m on the right path. I see or hear things that make me stop and think and wonder if they are the sign I’ve been looking for, but they are fleeting and ultimately insignificant.

My friend posted this on Facebook:

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I’m already haunted.

There is no great time to have an existential crisis, but as a single mom of tween-aged twin boys with a full-time job (which is fraught with its own tangles and ties to my perceived self-worth) and a house to run and a mortgage to pay, this just doesn’t seem like the optimal moment to start questioning my true life’s purpose. But then I remember that this is a road I have frequently traveled. There are no signs to be found and the path seems like a giant spiral; I go around a little longer and a little wider each time, but I still end up basically where I started off.

My boys are getting ready to wrap up their elementary school education and move on to the next level. Middle school. When everything starts to matter and each step builds upon the last. I so desperately want them to apply themselves and make sure they are giving themselves their best chance at whatever comes next. I give them all sorts of great motherly advice and then follow none of it myself.

Try. Do your best. Take your time. Be thorough. Be confident. Use your brain. Find what you love. Work hard. Make good choices.

Get your shit together.

I guess I’ve got some writing to do.

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Danger, Will Robinson!

WAKE UP, AMERICA. Donald Trump is Dangerous.

A year ago the idea of Donald Trump running for president and people finding him to be a refreshing voice amongst the doublespeak of many career politicians was vaguely amusing to me. As in, it was kind of a joke. That I could laugh at. Around the time the primaries were coming up in my state, I researched how I could change my party so that I could vote in the primary for the sole purpose of voting against Trump as the Republican nominee.  I wasn’t laughing anymore. People really believed this man was fit to be president. People I know and interact with on a regular basis. People in my community. Friends. FAMILY.

I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton. She has some ideas I agree with and many I don’t. The email thing bugged me. I mean, come on! Classified information on an unsecured server? Ridiculous. She totally knew better. I don’t have a high level of trust in her. But then, I don’t have a high level of trust in any politician. Although Bernie seemed pretty straightforward about his positions and not likely to sell the American people up the river,  I didn’t agree with all of his plans either. It’s not likely that there will ever be a candidate that is 100% compatible with anyone’s individual ideas and values, right? So we have to choose who is most in line with what is most important to us.

Here is what is important to me: raising my boys to be strong in character; I want them to be surrounded by people who value kindness, intelligence, good-humor, hard work, honesty and love. I want them to see these values in their community. I want them to look up to their teachers, coaches, local police, business owners and government as leaders and see these ethics present and at work all around them. I know they will encounter many people who don’t have the same ideals and philosophies and that’s OK. But what is NOT OK, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT is having the PRESIDENT OF OUR COUNTRY espouse HATRED at every turn.

I’m angry. This latest ridiculousness of Donald Trump’s is kind of like the proverbial straw. Maybe it is because it touched on one of my biggest fears–no matter what I teach and model at home, my sons are going out into this world without me and when they do they are going to be in locker rooms and parties with drunk people and groups of men and they may get the message that women are objects, that women who drink at parties and smile and flirt with you are yours to push up against a wall in the bathroom and grab by the pussy, and that boasting about who you’d fuck with a bunch of men is EXPECTED AND ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR!

Seriously, what the hell is going on in this world? Rapists are being set free with a slap on the wrist because male judges wouldn’t want to ruin a “young man’s future”. And now we have the potential NEXT PRESIDENT of the United States brushing off his repugnant remarks against women by essentially saying that “boys will be boys”! And people are shrugging their shoulders and saying that Hillary is untrustworthy and that her husband had an affair and she stood by him and bad-mouthed the women so all is really even-steven in this race and  women shouldn’t be all up in arms because Trump engaged in some “locker room banter” ten years ago?!

Is this really OK, America? This is where we are? In 2016? Women are still being shamed and blamed and objectified and seen as walking vaginas?

I want to scream.

And of course it isn’t just the RAMPANT MISOGYNY I object to. The hateful remarks he has made about pretty much everyone who isn’t a rich, white male deeply offend me. I do not care if the man could stop every job from leaving the U.S. or cut everyone’s taxes and somehow balance our budget (which he can’t), he is not fit to be the leader of this country.

I was going to let my sons watch this second debate since they don’t have school on Monday and can stay up a little later. Now I feel like I can’t. They won’t learn anything about the real issues facing our country and how the candidates intend to handle them. They are going to see a rude, hateful bully who has been given a MICROPHONE to spread his hate on the world’s stage. What are they going to learn from that??? Nothing I want them to learn for sure.

This has all gone too far. Are we going to let our country be run by someone whose audio we need to shield from our children? Are we going to allow someone who has basically condoned using their celebrity and power to sexually assault women to choose judges? Are we going to continue to defend his ignorant, racist, hateful remarks and say we need to overlook his personal flaws because he is better for our country than an experienced politician or one of the third-party candidates who “can’t win” anyway? Are we going to elect someone whose morals are so vastly different from our own?

Or wait. Are these morals not vastly different from your own?

Are you raising your children with a different set of values? Are you teaching your children that not all men and women are created equal? That we aren’t all afforded the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and safety? That we shouldn’t help our fellow humans when we can? That we should be lazy and dishonest and mean? That power and money should be obtained at any cost? That the only person who matters is yourself? That it’s is OK to be rude and disrespectful to people?

I’m no saint or paragon of virtue, let me be clear on that. But I try damn hard to be a good person and instill my core values and morals in my sons so that they may be good citizens of this world. And I think this might be the part that scares me the most: votes will be cast for Donald Trump. And each one represents a person whose moral compass points in the opposite direction from the one I’m trying to hold for my sons. And if it doesn’t point in a different direction, if your morals and values are the same as mine but you’re a “Republican” or a “Conservative” or “hate Hillary” or “third-party candidates can’t win” or one of the many other reasons I’ve heard GOOD PEOPLE use to defend their vote, I beg you to use your conscience and intelligence and figure out a way to reconcile all those things and DON’T VOTE FOR TRUMP.

Home alone 

In my almost eleven years as a mom, I’ve left my boys a few times. The first time was obviously the most traumatic since they were only about 14 months old. I had a job interview across the country and I REALLY needed a job that would pay more money and allow me to be more self-sufficient. At that point in time, I’d had a nanny for a few months who was very dedicated and sweet and who had two young girls of her own. She offered to have the boys stay overnight with her for the weekend while I flew to New York from California. I did it and still don’t know how I managed to do so without completely losing my mind.

In retrospect, I probably did lose my mind a bit. On the flight to New York, a red-eye, I ended up passing out somewhat inexplicably and needing an ambulance to take me to the hospital upon arrival. Maybe it was stress, combined with altitude, combined with a couple of beers and cigarettes while waiting to depart, or maybe it was hormones or God knows what else, but it wasn’t pretty. When the doctors advised that I check myself in and have some tests run, I refused. I tried to explain that I had an interview the following day and would be flying back to San Diego after that interview and back to my babies, thank you very much. I promised to get checked out by a doctor when I was back in California and checked myself out of the hospital. My mom and my sister drove to Long Island to pick me up since that is where the ambulance mistook me thinking I was staying there and not where my sister lived–2 hours away.

It was a whirlwind 48 hours and I was never so glad to be home and hold and snuggle those babies. They were alive and cooing and nothing awful or tragic had befallen them and in the end I got the job. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it; leaving my kids with people who were practically strangers to me. But then, all working parents know what it is like to have to leave their kids with a nanny or at daycare with people they have vetted and believe to be good, but one never really knows. Most of the times these are the risks we take because we really have no other choice.

The next couple of times I left my boys on a weekend with my sister or my mom so that I could spend a night with my BFF in a hotel in the city and down at the Jersey shore to celebrate my birthday. These were relatively short jaunts to nearby places and I felt exhilarated rather than stressed. I knew they were fine and I was never more than an hour or so away. The boys barely knew I was gone.

I did a long weekend away when one of my best friends got married in California. It was difficult, but I was so focused on the wedding that I didn’t stress too much. And then there was the New Year’s long weekend when they were four and I went a couple of hours away with my boyfriend and left the boys with my mom. This went relatively well except for me waking up in the middle of the night interrogating him about where the boys were and thinking that someone had taken them out from under my nose while I was sleeping. It was similar to when I’d wake up when they were babies and tear the sheets off my bed having dreamed they were suffocating in the blankets or worried that I’d fallen asleep with them in my arms.

There have been work trips that lasted a couple of nights and one trip to CA to see my friend and her new baby, a couple of nights in Boston to see a speaker I love, and a sanity trip to Cape Cod last summer–all relatively short trips away, all with the boys staying with family and basically maintaining their schedule and life and normalcy.

And they’ve also had nights away at slumber parties and friends’ houses. Happily leaving me behind with a “seeyalaterbye” and going off to do boy things that boys do. This past winter they had the opportunity to do a weekend campout at the nearby (read: 5 minutes) Boy Scout camp in cabins with some of the boys and Scout dads I had grown to know and trust over the past few years. I’ve been OK. I’ve taken the baby steps to let them go out on their own a little bit. I have. Really.

But when they expressed a desire to go on a week-long adventure to sleep away Boy Scout camp, I was a little uncertain. OK. More than a little. Pretty freaked out actually. Doesn’t matter that I had left them before for short periods of time with people they spent lots of time with anyway. This would be the first time THEY were leaving ME. For a week!

After much consideration, I decided to let them go. After all, what is parenthood but a series of these moments where we decide to let our children go.

As the time got closer, I realized they were not going to have a problem being away from me for a week. It was all me. I was the one freaking out. I was the one who was going to need to cope with their absence. I was the one being left home alone.

So far, the experience has been…interesting. I’ve definitely stressed over whether they were OK and whether they were homesick or if they were having a good time. I worry that they are safe and if they can handle any uncomfortable situation which might arise. But the one side-effect I wasn’t ready for was how this independence would make ME feel. Suddenly, they are one step closer to taking the car keys and leaving me for the night. They are one step closer to making their own decisions about how to spend their time whether or not I approve. They are one step closer to leaving me behind to go to college, and forge their own way, and have their own life.

And all this is scary enough without it also shining a light on the fact that over these eleven years, I don’t necessarily know myself anymore when it doesn’t relate to them. I’m mom. Who will I be when they are gone? I’m always mom, and will always be a mom, but it’s been a long time since I had the freedom to think and act independently from them. Soon, they will really be gone and I will be left on my own. What will I do then? Who will I be? What will I spend my time doing?

These past few days have reminded me a little of who I was before the boys came along and who I might be when they leave me behind for good. I took a day off of work to go to the beach and recharge. What will it be like to have all my vacation days and personal days to spend as I choose, not on caring for them when they aren’t in school or taking them to he doctor or dentist or being there when they are sick?

Tonight I thought I might get my nails done or watch a movie, but instead I dropped off their pillows and some cards with a Scout dad who is going up to camp tomorrow and ended up having a glass of wine with some other moms and realizing I’m not alone in my longing to have my boys where I can see them, in arms reach, where I know they are well and safe and enjoying their childhood. It was good to share the letting-go experience with others who are feeling it too.

But I know now my time is coming. Time that I have so desperately wanted and time that I so desperately wish I could keep at bay for a few more years of holding my little boys in my arms and snuggling them and knowing that all was right with the world. Before I know it, I will be alone and I will need to prepared to live MY life again and not just the life of me, mom, but me, ME. How will I do? What will I do?

Some things that have already occurred to me include:

  • Walking around the house naked is so liberating. I will definitely be doing more of that when they are gone.
  • Not needing to make sure that anyone but me has what they need for the day saves SO much time. I can definitely sleep later in the future.
  • I can choose to take off work, wake up at the crack of dawn, spend the day at the beach, and still make it home to get a good night’s sleep without worrying about snacks, riptide, under-tow, snacks, not enough sunscreen, three chairs, snacks, a cooler, an umbrella, snacks, a sheet, sand toys, boogie boards, snacks, bathroom breaks or stopping three times on the parkway for any number of reasons. So efficient!
  • If someone asks if I want to stay and have a drink, I can say: Sure!
  • The gym is open early! I can go before work and never think twice. I might actually be in shape again.
  • I can watch whatever I want on TV and it doesn’t matter how loud. Even if they are cursing. Or having sex. Or blowing shit up. I don’t even have to sneak a peek to see if my boys have overheard what I’ve been watching.

I’m sure there will be more by the end of the week.

What I do need to relearn is how to prioritize those things that are important to me. And how to identify those same things… I’m not even sure anymore what my priorities are beyond them. I guess what I have learned is that in letting my boys become who they are, I need to remember how to become who I am.

Because sooner than I am ready, it’s going to be all me.

Why Mother’s Day is complicated

Since my Mother’s Day plans of sitting in the rain and watching baseball have been thwarted, I decided to revisit this post and count my blessings.

Adventures in Single Mommyhood

Since motherhood takes up a lot of space in my head, it seemed right to re-enter into my blogging for Mother’s Day. As all the thoughts about moms and Mother’s Day and parenting and expectations swirled around in my head while trying to decide how to approach the topic on my blog, I realized how complex my feelings were about Mother’s Day and then quickly followed up that realization with the thought of “Duh! Of course your feelings about the day are complicated, look at your feelings about motherhood!”

On my drive home from work tonight, knowing I would finally sit down and write this post, I tried to conjure up the words in my head as I often do. I started thinking about my niece telling me the other day how she wanted to have six children, 3 of each gender, and me telling her that when I was young I wanted…

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Welcome new year

I wasn’t going to write a New Year’s post, but here I am. As I discussed with a friend of mine not too long ago, I feel these last few years have ended with most people not sad to see the year end. There has been a general feeling of “glad that’s over”, but underlying those words is the feeling that maybe all that is behind us. We’ve survived. And with God’s grace we’ll keep surviving. Thriving, even. In this spirit, I’m choosing to focus on the hope that the upcoming year is bound to be better than the last.

If we don’t have hope, we’ve got nothing. There were times these past few months where I felt like I had lost touch with my old friend hope. Dark times. But tonight, by the light of my tree, with my boys sleeping peacefully I am reacquainting myself with her.

I’ve got a lot of intentions for the upcoming year. Shit, I’ve got a lot of intentions for the next few days. Mostly to get through them with a bit of humor and patience and be ready to go back to work with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today, one of my boys presented me with a family portrait he made in school. He portrayed himself and his brother very realistically. He got the cats in there, although he was pretty generous in his rendering of our enormous cat, Golden…perhaps he’s going to lose weight in the new year. Then there was Mom. And Dad.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I was, somewhat embarrassedly, like “who’s that?”

At least we were all smiling in the picture. I’m not sure what is more unrealistic at this point.

It hurt that the one thing my boy so desperately wants is the one thing I really can’t give him.

I did finally ask him what he thought the best part about living with a dad would be. He said having someone there when he got home from school. I pointed out that for the most part, even in families where there are two parents living together, it is not typical to have a parent there when a child comes home from school. At least not in this day and age. Maybe that’s just what I tell myself to make me feel better.

But it did reaffirm for me what I truly want. Especially as the boys get older and need guidance. I want to be there more. I want to be there when they get home from school. I want to help them navigate homework and sports and friends and questions and arguments and everything else. My intention is to figure out how to get there sooner rather than later.

I read something not too long ago about how it may actually be more important for there to be a parent accessible to their teenage children after school hours than for say a young elementary schooler. That there is an added benefit to having that extra supervision, extra accountability for those hours of freedom, extra help choosing how to spend that time.

If I can’t provide the smiling dad in the picture, maybe I can figure out how to be enough. How to be there more. How to be more present than I even am now.

As the boys have grown older, I’ve struggled with balance. I desperately wanted pieces of my life back. Adult pieces that have nothing to do with them. My writing, exercise, my friendships, love, my solitude…and not crammed into the hour between when they go to bed and I do. I wanted those things simultaneously. And I kept thinking– they are 9, 10 years old…they are old enough to take some responsibility for their own activities, time, entertainment. Chores, hygiene, even lunch/snack/sometimes dinner making. I want to raise independent children. They are capable. They don’t need a parent doing everything for them. I can take time for myself and they can deal.

These things are still true. They don’t need a helicopter parent. But they do need a parent who is present, and yes, sometimes present enough for two people. When I became a single parent, I gave up the luxury of being able to just “check out” and let someone else handle it for a while. Fair? Maybe no. But life ain’t fair. I fear I may have swung too far in one direction. Do I have the right to sleep in and let the boys watch TV on the weekend? Yes. But maybe not as often as I do. Maybe they still need mom to sleepily trudge out to the sofa and watch something with them. Or get them involved in something else. Maybe they need a mom who isn’t checking work emails when she gets home or who isn’t so focused on making dinner and getting them to bed so my time can begin that I miss the important stuff.

Every day I strive to be a little better than the day before. That’s all we can do really. But if I were to make a resolution (which I don’t make, but let’s just say) my intention is to let the pendulum swing a little bit back the other way. In their favor. Where my focus is more firmly on them and what they need during this critical time in their lives. God willing, I will have the energy to make the most of the time after they go to bed. If I need to sleep then, well, everything else can wait.

I need to give myself permission to be a mom first. It doesn’t mean I’m not me. I’m there. I’m going to find myself (rather quickly I’m afraid) in a position where these boys are truly going to be independent and out of my grasp. I’m going to have lots of late nights waiting up for them that I can spend as I choose. For now, I need to refocus on them–my babies. I suspect that they may need me just as much now as they did when they were babies and toddlers.

My hope for this new year is that we all feel like we are getting exactly what we need. And that our health and happiness will blossom because of it. I wish that for all of you, too.

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