Tag Archives: parenting

closing the chapter

A great deal has transpired since I learned that my ex and father of my children had passed. Finally, six weeks later, a lovely memorial was held in his honor. Family and friends talked about his humor, his great looks and his incredible talent. And his depression and alcoholism.

It was a great turnout. Many people came from every aspect of his life — former co-workers, former neighbors, all of it…

I was grateful for the turnout and support and the kind things they said about him. I was grateful they didn’t shy from away from his disease and mental health. I was grateful my children were completely included in every aspect of the weekend while my ex’s extended family was in town.

Aside from that…

I was hurt. And I was pissed!

My children were schlepped away by relatives for an entire day to participate in family events. Allusions were made around calling me to join for a group activity or meal later. But the only contact I got was to pick up the children after dinner.

I understand that I am not really a member of the family anymore. I get that not everyone was happy when I kicked my ex out. But I am the mother of the only two minors involved, and no one was there to look out for their interests, to set context.

As an example, my daughter came home and told me about “one of daddy’s friends” who she didn’t know, who’d spent time chatting her up and giving her a hug. This felt weird and awkward to her. The man was her uncle. Maybe begin with some basic introductions, folks…think about setting context and what that might mean for my children, the only surviving / remaining minors.

There was another party with them at the cemetery — my ex’s first wife and the mother of my children’s half-siblings. It struck me as strange that she’d want to be there, but I’m not here to judge anyone’s grief. Yet again, my children found it awkward and no one was there to set context. When they came home and told me about it, I told them to always be grateful to be surrounded by so much love.

I began to understand what had happened when a former step son, the one with who I’m closest, told me he’d been looking through his father’s belongings for photos and videos and it was all documentation of our life together. Apparently he’d expected to find a complete retrospective of his father’s life, including his own childhood, even though I’d told him that all the photo and video assets were “ours.” The only way you’d have known I was ever involved in the family was as a mother of the children and in the slideshow my stepson put together, in which I was over-represented to a degree that I found amusing.

Anyway, I hadn’t expected things to go any certain way. Certainly I’d hoped to spend more time with the family — my former in laws, nieces and nephew, and step children. But they were not in charge of how things went and, if their loyalties were anywhere but with their mother and closer relatives, it would only cause more strain. Still, as I’ve said, I would have liked to believe that there would be greater consideration for my children, who will likely not suffer any long-term damage from the experience…at least nothing they can’t work through with a therapist.

All along, I carried myself with composure and grace. And then I got sick — too sick to move — for three days. I’m better now. And, for better or worse, this chapter is closed.


here’s how I responded when a young person came out as bi

I suppose I should be flattered that a young person in my life approached me recently to tell me that she’s bisexual.

Here’s how I responded:

“All right. Do you want to talk about it?”

Here’s how I felt:

Freaked out. Because this youngster is only 13. And I guess I wasn’t ready to have someone in the same age range as my own children proclaim something about her sexuality. Not yet.

Here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head:

  • At 13, how on earth do you know something like that? Does that mean you’ve experienced something with someone? Already!? Or is it just a feeling? I mean, when I was young, we — meaning me and my friends, as far as I knew — didn’t know there was anything but heterosexual. I don’t recall being conscious of anyone around me being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, inter-sex or in any other way different from this so-called norm. Times were different. There weren’t television shows or movies with clearly homosexual characters. Of course, I now know of a few people from my small hometown who do not identify as straight, and I have many gay and lesbian friends.
  • Is being bisexual really a thing? Yes, I know, I know. I’ve heard that it legitimately is, but I can’t truly grasp it. I find women’s bodies beautiful. And I sometimes think about what a woman’s breast must look like or what it would feel like to caress it. But at the end of the day, I want a good, hard cock. I’ve always thought of myself as decidedly heterosexual. And sometimes also as bi-curious. But I’ve never thought of those things as mutually exclusive. Or of anything attraction related as mutually exclusive.
  • And because I’ve had this women’s-bodies-are-beautiful conversation with so many women in my adult life, I’ve just come to accept as normal that there is a fluidity to our sexuality and desires that flow across a spectrum. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in or need to label it.
  • Continuing from there… Is stepping into this label in some way harmful at such a young age? Is there a need to categorize oneself? Do others know? Will they persecute or bully? What land mines might await in her own psyche or in her experience as a result?
  • Is identifying as such a first step in coming out as gay or lesbian? Is this the get-the-adults-around-me-used-to-this-first approach?
  • In talking about it with this young person, I learned that a certain group of friends identifies as bisexual. So is this another one of those middle school things, like dying one’s hair or exchanging clothes, where they want to be like each other? Might it be a phase? Is it the cool thing to do or be? A dear older friend once told me about her daughter’s dalliance with a lesbian relationship in high school. This daughter went on to have a long term (now six years) relationship with a man through and after college. Will this young woman follow a similar path?

I’m certain many such musings paint me to be biased and ignorant. Truly, all of these ponderings flashed through my mind in the course of a couple of minutes. In the end, none of these things matter. As I told this young person, what’s truly important is to build loving, respectful, caring and healthy relationships with friends or lovers, in whatever relationships you choose, to honor your feelings and those of others, and to develop communication and other relationship skills.


a few observations

When you’re the one in the family who isn’t a serious hoarder, you always end up hosting your hoarding family for the holidays.

It’s important to teach your children how to manage their thoughts, to become their own best friend, and to cultivate a positive outlook. Especially a kid who veers toward anxiety. The earlier you can offer coping tools, the longer s/he has to develop those life skills while in your care.

It doesn’t matter how much you care for someone if you constantly feel stressed out in a relationship with him. You have to care enough for yourself to mind your own feelings.

Children should receive comprehensive, positive sex education that gives them the tools to speak their needs. More than being told to “just say no” to sex or drugs, they need practice developing the skills of how to say no, yes, faster, slower or a little to the left. I’m grateful my school has a solid curriculum and instructor(s), and I’m even more grateful to know that I’m surrounded by a community of parents who will take those conversations to the next level with their children.

It’s terrifying to raise a daughter in a world where an enormous population of girls’ genitals are still mutilated in the name of purity, where school dress codes are designed to make sure girls are not a distraction to boys, where colleges have no clue how to handle rape allegations, where lawmakers seem hellbent on standing between the reproductive decisions women should be making only with their doctors and loved ones, where slut shaming remains a rampant reminder of just how alive and well our gender-based double standards are, and where women are so frequently harassed or flamed for making feminist statements online. I have to regularly take deep breaths and ground myself just to stay sane, much less try to make sense of this crazy world for her.

Side note:  Jennifer Lawrence is right. The criminals who stole private images from her and other celebrities’  cloud accounts should be prosecuted for the sexual violations they’ve committed, just as they would be prosecuted if they’d been caught having stolen your banking information.

I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist. The resulting bruises on my body might suggest I’m the victim of a physical or sexual assault. On the other hand, cursing aloud at my practitioner does not seem to faze him. Therefore, I’m not sure whether to report him to some sort of authority or ask him if he’s single.

I can’t imagine dating someone with the perspective that birth control is a female’s responsibility, especially after children. If a man has sired as many children as he intends to sire, I firmly believe he should be willing to commit to that decision and have a vasectomy. Not everyone has to agree with me on this; likewise, not everyone has to date me.

Finally, when a young person comes to you and confides that she is bi-sexual and you say, “all right,” you have to wonder if you’ve under-reacted or dismissed the enormity of this thing she is telling you, while you simultaneously wonder about whether a young person should so readily embrace what might be a label, particularly given the fluidity along a spectrum that seems inherent among females. But the important part of responding was this:  “Regardless of whoever you choose, the important thing is to learn to build healthy, communicative, loving and supportive relationships.”

And OMG Bill Cosby!

All of these are things I’ve been thinking about in my long absence — and probably some are topics on which I’ll write more. But for now, let’s hold this space…this space in which some of these issues are just so big and overwhelming and controversial that they are difficult to wrap my head around. And let’s acknowledge that some are pithy or playful and, I hope, gave you a bit of a laugh.


a declaration to the universe

Sometimes I need to remind myself why I’m putting it all out there — and this is one of those times:

I believe that truly loving and truly being loved is the greatest freedom we humans can achieve. (Contrast this with the attitudes portrayed by singles in the media, that marriage “ties us down” or we “give up our freedom..”) To come home to a place where someone is committed to loving, committed to partnership and where one is emotionally safe to express oneself fully seems healthier and even more natural to me than living singly, even if it is a lot of work. (Dr. Phil calls this “a soft place to land.”) The specific challenge is finding someone matched both in compatibility and desire to create that sort of relationship. “Met and matched,” as a relationship counselor might say.

Further, I believe that creating this safe, supporting home environment is what’s best for our children. So, even as I am trying to be the best parent I can be, it strikes me that the greatest single positive change I could make in parenting my children is to remarry a loving man, create a family and demonstrate an emotionally healthy, committed relationship.

I continue to work toward readiness for that kind of love and partnership — not because I believe I need to be perfect to find it — or even better than I am now, for that matter, but because I think trying to be our best, most loving, most devoted selves is what separates us from the beasts. Without this sort of seeking, what is the point or purpose of our lives?

So, even as I confess to being completely smitten with a fellow who planted his lips on mine a week hence, I continue to keep my focus on what’s important:  finding the man who demonstrates that I am, and a relationship with me is, a priority. To be honest, I don’t automatically suspect this fellow will do that, but I remain hopeful and open to the possibility.


living apart together

I have at least two friends who are divorced or going through a divorce and have chosen to continue living, at least for the immediate future, in the same home as their exes.

For couple A, this means moving back in together after a year of living somewhat apart. They had rented an apartment — where each had separate bedrooms — and would switch off each week, one living in their home with children, acting as the primary parent, and the other staying at the apartment. Moving back in together  has meant juggling a few rooms around to ensure they have separate bedrooms, though still on the same floor. They continue to take turns acting as the primary caregiver to their children, buying groceries and making meals, etc.

In my mind, this all seems just a little too close for comfort, requiring a level of emotional maturity and commitment to civility that I’m not sure I possess. Or, even if I’d like to think I’m capable of such an arrangement — after all, for how many years did I fantasize about building a studio apartment over the garage for mine?! — I can guarantee my ex is not. But it seems to be working for another friend, as well:

Girlfriend B and her future ex have agreed to continue living in the same home, with him taking up residence in the basement and she upstairs with the children, sharing the common spaces on the first floor. They complicate their lives by housing various extended family members — her aging mother, his adult children from previous relationships (i.e. one-night stands) — in their suburban mcmansion. Meanwhile, he has a girlfriend and she is in a serious relationship with an old boyfriend (who is also going through a divorce). These extra-curricular activities are kept out of the children’s sights, although there are times Dad’s been caught with another woman’s photo on his mobile phone or has stayed out all night.

While I often claim to be falling-off-the-left socially liberal, and while I freely acknowledge that children can thrive in all kinds of alternative family structures — provided they have love and boundaries — I am baffled by all of this. When pressed, my girlfriends insist that this is the best arrangement for their children and has saved them the undue stress of their parents living apart. For now…

…because arrangements like this are unlikely to last forever, especially given that girlfriend B has plans to spend the rest of her life with her current beau. And I would assume she’s eager to begin a newer, presumably happier phase of her life as soon as possible.

As for me, as much as I sometimes still buckle under the weight of being a single parent, breadwinner and homeowner, I am glad for the relatively clean break. Sure, it took six months for my ex to move out (even after years of stressful togetherness), but now the children eagerly look forward to their daddy time and make plans for what types of toys to keep at his place and what to keep at ours. I’m pretty certain they’re more well-adjusted this way than had we continued to live under one another’s noses.

We managed to find the arrangement that was, if not ideal, then as close to right for us as could be managed under the circumstances. And I look on in wonderment at those who make the above “alternative” relationships work.

What do you think — could you or do you live with your ex? What did you find was right for you?


the c word

Today’s post is inspired by both personal experience and…I’m almost ashamed to admit it:  a guilty pleasure, The Bachelorette. On this evening’s episode, one young man bravely proffered his opinion that going into a relationship with a woman who had a child was a “compromise” — one he was willing to make, but a compromise nonetheless.

Big mistake…a mistake on the order of a guy saying he’s “babysitting”  his own children (in which case he means parenting).

I’ve actually heard this before and been taken aback, and I was offended for Emily before she responded as such herself… Certainly relationships are full of compromises. Certainly people who have children make many compromises. But in trying to win the heart of a parent, describing going into a relationship with them as “making a compromise” because they have a child or children is a sure loser.

Here’s why:  every good parent knows that our children give us so much more in the way of life lessons, tenderness, blessings and love, and that these things far outweigh the laundry list of obligations, compromises and costs of raising children. No amount of dirty diapers, spit-up stained clothing, expense, nights at (sometimes terrible) school concerts versus rock concerts, nights in versus nights out, cleaning up vomit, using vacation days to care for a sick child and more can ever compare to the joy, love, warmth, pride and purpose of nurturing these young people to pursue their own passions and grow into their potential.

In other words, if you’re thinking of getting serious with a single parent, you’ll do yourself and your relationship a favor by considering it an absolute honor to take on the role of step-parent to another’s child(ren). And, at least as importantly, you should feel honored that another human being holds you in high enough esteem to think you might make a good step-parent to his or her child(ren).


word to your mother

A huge shout out to those of you who are mothers, who understand that “loving your children” is more than a feeling, who are living examples of the kind of persons they are trying to raise, who put in the hard work and difficult choices of raising our future citizenry with principles, compassion, love and so much more!

And, then, when I wasn’t looking, The Atlantic published this. Even bigger shout out to the single mothers (and single parents, in general).


baby crazy

Today I’ve learned that another of my girlfriends is pregnant. She’s the second wife, and he will have grandchildren older than their coming arrival. And I can’t help but feel just a bit surprised.

Sure, this happens all the time. But, given their lifestyle and such, I guess I’d just assumed that they’d talked before getting married and decided to be wonderful aunt and uncle and grandparents. But, oh, what a wonderful treat to have a baby!

I met another friend and her one-year-old for brunch over the weekend. My children sat bored and restless, playing with electronic devices, while I, smitten, cooed over the darling little girl. My girlfriend was 39, nearly 40, when she had her daughter. Another girlfriend has just undergone IVF…fingers crossed.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve got babies on the brain. I suppose it’s safe to confess that I’m baby crazy!

Would I have another? I’ve gone back and forth many times since my youngest was born (now more than eight years ago), even considering becoming a surrogate to give another couple the joy of becoming parents. My son even remarked a few years ago, “Mommy, I think you’d have another baby if you could.” Last week, I saw a profile of three children waiting for adoption and wished I were capable of bestowing such miracles on my own. I’ve often thought about hosting exchange students or taking in foster children…if I weren’t a single, that is. (Even as a single, I may yet do such things as my children grow a wee bit older…)

Ultimately, with my other roles as parent and provider, such musings have yet to come to anything. And today, while I’ve counted myself for some time among the well and truly finished, unwilling to go back to wee-hour feedings and diaper pails, I think I might just be open…if the stars aligned…if the man and wind conditions were right…perhaps if I could stay home at least part of the time…I might be open to considering it.

My children are, of course, dead set against this. But they can be bribed. Further, they are not in charge.

Ultimately, my conclusion is this:  I have an open heart and an open mind and many, many gifts that might be shared in any number of ways. For the moment, I’ll revel in being an honorary aunt to my friends’ babies — and someday, sooner than if I had a newborn, a social life.


we were married to the same man

Over the past two years or more, I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Sounds like we were married to the same man!” I found women at work, women at the salon, and friends I’ve known for years who all expressed the same sentiment.

I guess what it comes down to is that there are a finite number of reasons that relationships don’t work out. And, as it happens, I’ve found several women who share a story not entirely unlike mine. Several, it seemed, had some sort of midlife crisis and then…

In one particular example, a high-end builder with an exclusive clientele just decided he didn’t want to do that sort of thing anymore. After bumbling about for a few years, taking some classes and trying to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up, he ended up in retail. Because he was more mature than the high-schoolers reporting to him and had a bit of know-how, he was quickly promoted to supervisor. Cheers to the family dental plan…and a couple of hundred dollars a week in income! Sure, it was a contribution, but nothing like supporting a family with the income to which they’d become accustomed.

His wife was a trooper throughout this transition, but finally opened herself to the possibility that she didn’t have to be responsible for him financially or emotionally or otherwise. He had become another child to a woman weary of parenting.

Another woman’s husband spent much of his time lying about on the sofa watching the television when he was meant to be looking for a job. He racked up credit card debt and lied about money issues.

Here’s where the relationship rubber hits the road. We’re here to love and support one another in ways, as long as we agree to what those ways are. (Most, but not all of us, know what we’re getting into before we marry.) We’re not here to parent our spouses or support behaviors that don’t nurture us or our commitments. We’re not on this Earth for another lesson in co-dependence.

Long (years) after I’d asked my wasband to go back to work, he was still protesting that “we’d agreed that he would stay home with the children.” In truth, we’d “agreed” because he’d lost his job and it seemed like our best option at the time. Like a toddler on the verge of a decade-long tantrum, he’d dug in his heels and was not about to budge from his position. He changed his internal script to, “I gave up my career to be home with my children.” And he seemed to believe it!

Relationships must change and evolve. They require communication. Agreements made must often be renegotiated. And it takes two committed adults to embark on that sort of work.


my nanny confession

I seem to be on a roll lately, so why not keep the personal revelations coming…

I didn’t like having a nanny. I thought I would LOVE having a nanny…but I didn’t even like it. I like dropping off my children and picking them up and, even if it can get stressful trying to make sure we’re running out the door on time with everything they need for their day (and, laughingly, it’s enough of a challenge ensuring I leave the house with everything I need) and then picking them up on time, I still arrive home each evening to a house looking just the way I left it.

I started this post one day when I’d arrived home to see that the kitchen floor looked a little glossy. And then, as I walked across it, it felt a little sticky. When I asked the children if someone had spilled something, the nanny fessed up that she had. She did clean it up, but not very well. I spent part of my evening mopping the floor, which is pretty much the last thing I wanted to do with my evening.

Further, on top of what I pay her, I need to leave money for a treat or an outing or something so they don’t have to be bored with each other and sitting around the house. So, while money’s tight, I’m shelling out another $20 a day so my children can enjoy a day at the pool or go for ice cream.

When I was younger, it was part of the babysitter role to clean up, wash the dishes, etc. And you were expected to entertain or make do with the resources available (which pretty much meant anything free within walking distance). Apparently that’s no so anymore…

But the children had a happy summer and felt loved. Who am I to argue with that?!