special kind of sadness

No, I’m not in LA….

Actually, I’ve brought the children on what, to some, might be the vacation of a lifetime. But it’s not our first time in Orlando…

Traveling with them, I want them to feel joyous and excited. I want to feel relaxed. I think they are content and happy here. We exist mostly according to their whim and schedule. One resort employee even remarked that, together, their conversations and negotiations resemble as much an old married couple as two grammar school-aged children.

But for me, there’s a sadness…a grieving for the vacations we used to have: two-bedroom suites on the beach, so many firsts, grandma or other extended family members on hand to share child-care, travel arrangements and stress that I now manage by myself. Mostly I miss giving them the experience of all this as an in-tact family unit. Somehow I feel as though I’m giving them a lesser vacation by asking them to wait until I finish reading a chapter before joining them in an icy pool.

I know my ex is grieving our vacations, too, by the wistful replies he sends to my emailed photos of the children and his voice on the phone when he calls to talk to them.

Someday, I will get beyond the belief that two parents equals twice the vacation. I’m working on that.

Two days in, I’ve started to relax and enjoy just being in my children’s sustained presence. By tomorrow, I’ll be rocking’ this. And, with any luck, we’ll all arrive at home feeling refreshed, relaxed and full of new, happy vacation memories with our little family.

not my finest moment

My daughter is a highly social creature and is often a sought-after playmate. (She’s ten, and I mean all of that in the most innocent and child-appropriate way possible, for any of you readers new to this site.) For any of you experienced parents, you know what a child is like when she returns home from a sleep-over, and my daughter was no exception this past weekend:  she was crabby and belligerent, pouty and generally unpleasant to be around.

After about the fifth, “why can’t we have a nicer house?” or “I wish we could turn our basement into a rec room like theirs,” I lost my cool. And I broke a cardinal rule:  I sandbagged my ex, threw him right under the proverbial bus. Why? Because I’d lost patience, I was sick of hearing about it and, truth be told, I was feeling many of the same resentful sentiments. That’s right — I caught the “lack bug.”

So my poor children got an earful of what they probably didn’t need to hear — that I’d never expected to be a sole provider; that, if their father had been a decent spouse and earner, we’d have a nicer home and so on and so forth. It wasn’t pretty. Nor was it appropriate. I’m not proud. In fact, I feel a bit ashamed about the whole thing.

Later I apologized and told them that he’s always been a loving father and has many excellent qualities, which is why I fell for him in the first place yada yada yada…

And then we went back to the basics of not comparing ourselves to others, being grateful for the awesome little family that we have and living well with the resources at hand. Which, as it turns out, was a pretty ingenious strategy, because my daughter immediately started cleaning up the messy little spots around the house and enlisted her brother to do the same. Because living well means living in a tidier space, obviously…or taking a little more pride in our home…

Whatever it was, it was contagious, and we were all energized to spiff up the place a bit. And then I think we all felt a little better after that.

As for me, I know succumbing to the residual resentment and blame of my failed marriage is no way to parent, nor is it any way to live. (In my defense, can I at least claim PMS?) So I’ve recommitted to living well regardless of resources; to taking responsibility for my choices, my family and my home; for rejoicing in and being grateful for the abundance in my (our) lives; and for living as the best woman / mother / mate I can be.

“my” night

Sunday night was always “my” night, the one night a week that I claimed for myself, the one night that, when married, I was not the one to tuck the children in to bed, the night I controlled the remote. A typical Sunday-evening routine might include a few self-pampering activities, such as a clay mask, foot soak and pedicure.

Some very cheesy, melodramatic television selections were often a part of the evening, too. Nearly always, some contrived, yet touching moment would bring me to tears. And that was the idea. I needed to cry. I had to dissipate the stress of Monday in advance of its arrival.

I find I no longer need this routine. I still prefer a quiet Sunday evening at home to the alternatives and, now that The Good Wife has moved to Sunday time slot, I still enjoy watching a little (good) television, as well. But I no longer need the tears, the release. Sure, Monday mornings can be stressful. When you’re a single parent, every morning can be stressful. Revise that, when you’re a parent — even if there are two of you and you’re loving and supportive of each other — mornings can be stressful.

So after I put away this laptop, I’ll get out my official work laptop, take a look at what’s coming at me tomorrow, and do my best to prepare…without the tears. I might even squeeze in a pedicure.

end game

I know I’ve touched on this theme before:  How does a woman know that the guy who’s doing it for her now is the guy who’s going to do it for her in forty years?

There’s a part of me that goes:  Duh. She can’t. She can’t possibly know. None of us know. We can’t know the future!

And then there’s another part of me that goes:  This whole expectation that one person is going to meet our needs now and also forty years from now is ridiculous and arcane.

Finally, there’s the part of me who wants that…to love a man now and love him forty years hence, and for him to do the same.

If it sounds like there are a lot of voices in my head…well, so be it.

But like most stubborn broads, I want what I want what I want. And I’ve seen guys who are attractive and good fathers and good providers and are smart and healthy and good conversationalists. (Of course they are not perfect. No one is.) And I’ve seen elderly couples holding hands while walking on the beach. Maybe I’ve only seen that in television commercials, but so what? It’s okay if some marketing is effective — that gives me hope on both a personal and professional level.

As I’ve also mentioned before, I’m totally digging my man. I’m enjoying every minute.

I can’t see the future. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know whether he will be a good husband or co-homeowner or parent, much less whether he’d be a good husband at eighty. I know he’s a good and loving man. And, for now, that’s enough.

 

the Christmas wrap

I’ve been crazy busy lately, putting on my sprinting cleats as soon as I wake each day and not taking them off until 10 or 11 each night, so I apologize for neglecting you, dear readers.

Finally, at about 4pm on Christmas Eve, the lines at Target were enough to cause me to see the light:  The children really didn’t need any more goodies in their stockings or gifts under the tree — by the time the celebrating was through, we’d all have lost count of how many packages were unwrapped and there would be more new toys and games to play with than could be done in a day. Enough.

But what I really want to share here is the joy it brings me to give gifts. I pride myself on being a thoughtful gift giver, and I think my loved ones would say I do pretty well. It’s especially fun to consider and buy for someone new in one’s life, and I’ve already written how allowing my beau to open one of his gifts early earned me some points.

And receiving gifts allows us to see ourselves through another’s eyes. By way of explaining, let me tell you that my wardrobe is chock full of the same black items. I’ll see something at the store, try it on and love it — because I’ve had success with something incredibly similar before, whether it’s the cut of my trousers or the draped neckline of a top. So I can’t tell you what a delight it’s been to receive a few new pieces to add to my wardrobe this Christmas. My special guy clearly sees me in a more colorful and versatile way than I’ve been seeing myself. What a nice discovery! Plus I’ve been getting an awful lot of compliments.

A colorful new me? He may be on to something.

too much

I’m one of those women who do too much. I seem to recall a book by that title several years ago. I haven’t read it, but I have an inkling about what might be inside.

True, I bring much of it on myself. In addition to working full-time and parenting 85% of the time, I’m busy planning a dish for the holiday potluck at work this week, addressing somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 holiday cards, shopping and wrapping gifts, and trying to keep up with the usual chores. I’ve spent the weekend baking three different types of cookies, corralling the children to cut shapes from the dough and, later, to frost, ice, sprinkle, dip and otherwise decorate the cookies that will become gifts for their teachers. This afternoon, we put together little bags and trudged throughout the neighborhood, delivering sweets and cards to neighborhood friends.

I know full well that, as a single woman, I am not expected to send cards, bake cookies or bring a homemade dish for the potluck. I could skip out on a good share of the “extras” I assign myself, yet it would be hard to let go. I have an extended family who I see rarely. Sending a card and photos once a year seems the least I could do in an attempt to stay in touch.

Like so many people my age, I grew up with a stay-at-home mother. She kept a clean home, made healthy, well-balanced meals, decorated a fresh fir-tree each year and baked cookies and such. Those experiences I didn’t get at home, I acquired through community — cookie baking events, crafts and more. While I’ve chosen to parent differently in many ways, I recall many of my childhood events fondly and want to create similar traditions with my own children.

So, while I am beyond wiped out after a busy weekend, it’s balanced by a sense of motherly accomplishment and peace. No one is likely to compare me to Martha, either, but it’s nice to have a few shining domestic moments.

about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.

taking it for granted

It’s a holiday weekend. I won’t be spending time with my beau, because I’ve got the children (who have yet to meet him) and my family will be in town. But last weekend, my weekend “off,” my guy was out of town.

  • On one hand, I want to spend time with him. I have fun with him, I feel relaxed when we’re together, and I enjoy the affection and good times.
  • On the other hand, with everything on my plate, arranging a sitter is just one more thing to add to the long to-do list and yet another bill to pay as the holidays approach.

As I finally managed to fire off a text to the usual sitter, I realized that I’m making a pretty big assumption that my guy will make himself available when my sitter is — and therefore I am — available. I’ve been taking his availability and desire to see me for granted.

So does that make me a jerk? I suppose sometimes I can be. But I can be pretty damned fabulous and make it worth his while, too!

At any rate, tomorrow’s holiday is a wonderful opportunity to pause and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. I am blessed to have a family with whom to share the holiday, opportunities to learn and grow in my humanity, and new friends (wink wink) I enjoy getting to know.

 

committed, again

I finally decided to become a career gal again, and I worked my way into a decent job (that’s proving a little stressful already). It’s kinda gratifying that it has a pretty decent title and a salary that’s higher than what I earned a year ago. Nice, right? (No one changes companies for less than a 20% increase anyway, right? It’s just too big a pain in the butt. If you think I sound spoiled, try that sort of language on a recruiter — they get it.)

It took me awhile to decide to commit. At one point, after I’d been offered my current role, I actually confessed to my boss that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make adult decisions. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that sort of commitment. And then they sweetened the pot, so to speak.

But another key factor was this:  While chatting with one of the executives with whom I interviewed, we discussed children. I let him know that, yes, I have two and am, in fact, a single mother. He said, “You can play the single mother card on me any time. I was raised by a single mother and I get it. There is nothing that I do that can’t wait one more day if you’re needed at home.”

I like the work. And I don’t have to travel. Not regularly, anyway. Which makes this a pretty sweet place to be right now.

live and in person

As I may have mentioned, it’s not always easy to find time to date between working full-time and parenting nearly full-time… I’ve been lucky to have three free weekends in a row. Frankly, after a run like that, it’s almost more difficult to go back to the usual schedule of rarely seeing one another.

Thanks to a networking event and sitter situation, I was able to connect with my guy for a short time earlier this evening.

“You smell nice,” I told him as we hugged in the street.

“I am nice,” he replied.

Yep. ‘Nuff said.