Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From Separated Mom to Single Mom

I’ll admit it, part of the allure of separating was having every other weekend to myself. I’d finish my revisions, write in my journal, sleep in, stay up late, see friends, watch movies, and daydream over coffee in bed. I couldn’t wait. I knew how impossible it was to delve into my own problems or gain any insight about my life while watching the kids. Even when they’re asleep, I’m still a mom. I’m still responsible for them and I still place their needs and safety first. 

But all of that drifted off of my shoulders the first glorious weekend I had to myself. I kissed everyone good bye and drove to the ferry terminal. Before I even got on the ferry, I had jotted down more insights about my marriage and ideas for solutions than I had been able to come up with in two years of counseling. This was going to be good. 

And it was good. The two weekends I had away were fabulous, cathartic, healing, productive, relaxing, inspirational, and insightful. And then it all came to a screeching halt. Jason traveled to Utah and Portland for work and then went to Thailand for two weeks with his brother. I looked at the calendar and saw that not only would I be with the kids every weekend (and weekday) in March, but there were also a large amount of “no school” days.  

I bitched and moaned and complained to anyone who would listen. I cursed Jason’s work, threw his Thai guide books across the room, and felt very sorry for myself. But then I thought, “You know what. It’s going to be good. It’s been your biggest fear and now you’re going to have to face it. Single parenthood.”

I entered the abyss. And for the most part, it is good. I’ve had to give up my “I can do it all” ideas and let people help me. The first being the kids. They make their own lunches, clear the table, get ready in the morning and evening on their own, and entertain each other. And when that’s not enough, I call a friend. I don’t worry about whether it’s my turn to watch her kids or not, I merely say, “I need some help,” and they almost always say, “Of course. I’ll be right there.” 

I no longer harbor my negative feelings from the kids and wait to release them once I’m alone. It’s not healthy, nor is it possible anymore. They need to see all parts of me and I can’t run away from them every time I feel bad. Being forced to be with them all of the time has actually made being with them easier. I’m no longer, “Happy Mama” or “Appropriate Mama,” when I’m with them and someone else away from them. I’m me all of the time. If I’m grumpy, I say so. If I need to have an adult conversation, I tell them so and call a friend. I don’t try to be infallible, or always nice, I’m just me.

And I’m not perfect. Which was clearly dispalyed after I spent a half an hour constructing paper, wire, and tape into big horn sheep horns for Little Dude and a flower for Odo, only to have them immediately throw them on the ground and yell, “That’s not right!”  

“I knew this was going to happen, that’s why I didn’t want to do this stupid project in the first place!” I snapped. “You should be thanking me, not throwing a fit. Now get upstairs and get ready for bed, I need some time to myself because I’m so frustrated.” Little Dude cried, screamed, and slammed some doors, but within twenty minutes we were all snuggled in bed reading books. 

“Do you feel better now?” I asked. 

“Yeah,” he smiled.  

“Me too,” I said.

Even on the yelling days, I know we’re doing the right thing. The kids and I are learning and growing and becoming stronger every day. They’re learning that I have needs, just like they do, and I’m allowing myself to be more honest with them.

 When I’m in the middle of querying an agent and say (or bark), “I need ten minutes of no interruptions so I can finish this,”  they say, “Set the timer.” Once they see that I’ve set the timer for ten, not fifteen, minutes they scamper out of the room. If they ask me to play chase and I don’t feel like it, I tell them so. I say I’ll watch them chase one another, and that usually satisfies them.  

Last night, when Odo started up with her 101 bedtime questions I said, “I’m out of patience, I can’t answer any questions tonight.”

“OK, Mama,” she smiled. “Nighty, night, sleep tight.” 

It’s an amazing thing to ask for what you need and not be met with resistance. Especially from a three year old. 

I may not be perfect, but as any single mom is, I am Super Woman and I kick some serious ass. At the end of every day, I feel so empowered. I did it! And no one got hurt! We even laughed and danced around the kitchen! I even revised my manuscript on time and filed our taxes! I’m fucking amazing!

During my third week of single momhood, I got an email from Jason. We was on a sunny beach in Thailand, snorkeling from island to island, enjoying daily $10 massages. I looked outside at the bleak, grey, forty degree day and sighed. I felt the lump in my throat from the strep throat Little Dude and I had caught and thought about the twelve bottles of pills on the counter, all requiring a complicated and varried schedule. 

Little Dude needs to eat with his antibiotics otherwise he’ll puke them up. I should have an empty stomach when taking my Chinese “calming” herbs. Vitamin C should be taken by all of us as often as possible. Acidophilus for me, three times a day without food, and three times a day for Little Dude mixed in with food. Amoxicillin for me, again three times a day. With food? Without? Oh, who the hell cares? I wish I was in Thailand. 

I wrote Jason back, but instead of complaining, I told him how Odo is learning her letters and Little Dude actually said, “Whatever,” to me in his first act of defiance. I remembered how we all cracked up on the way to school that day because Odo kept calling my doctor, “Doctor Green Beans.” I thought about how their faces light up when I pick them up and I looked forward to going out for Mexican food with them that night. And I no longer wished I were in Thailand. Not only is this where I need to be right now, it’s where I want to be. 

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