Single Mom Life…At the Beach

Today we are at the beach, and it is beautiful. A light green water-soaked journal was pushed up by the surf. My seven-year-old ran over with the dripping book.

“Look, mommy. Look what I found,” he said. I am used to shells, rocks and worn down bricks. I am not used to saturated journals. I took the journal from his hands and carefully turned the pages. The ink had not run. It felt as if I entered a Nicolas Sparks novel.

“What does it say?” He asked, squinting into the sun. I scanned the first page. It had a June 2018 date. It was addressed to “Dear Reader”. Does this writer know that there will be an interloper, a peruser of these pages? She, and I only say “she” because the handwriting is fluid and curved like a woman’s, is writing in an abstract way about her day. The words seem poetic in some spots and strained in others. I feel like I am spying and I wait for a passerby to reprimand me for this infraction.

“I’m not exactly sure,” I say as I put the book down by my chair. I plan to look at it later. Who knows what I will find there.

Berlin

I am currently in Berlin. There is a cool breeze coming through the open windows of the bedroom of our second story flat. There is a wonderful German chocolatier next door and bakery next to that and if we walk only a few blocks north, we can see a DDR watch tower and remains of the Berlin Wall. We are within walking distance of the U and have traveled quite easily and comfortably every day this week. East Berlin is such an interesting city and it is filled with so many dichotomies. The people have been relatively friendly. More are kind than not. The food is amazing. I am happy here, and it makes me wonder why I don’t live in a city like this.

Tomorrow we return home and this will be a memory, but for right now I am enjoying the wall of ivy to my right and the gentle snore of my BF as he has chosen to sleep in today.

When Your Son Gets Caught Stealing…

Storm    My ten-year-old son stole money the other day from his father.  He was spending the weekend with his dad, and he was playing Fortnight.  His dad put his credit card in to allow him to buy more supplies.  My ex did not log off, and our son, seeing he still had access, charged another $60.  When asked why he did it, he answered that he wanted to get the same things he friends had.  He saw an opportunity and he took it.  My ex was devastated. They had always been buddies, pals.  My ex called me right away, and he confessed that my son’s behavior was getting out of control there.  He was being disrespectful to him and to my ex’s girlfriend.  I tried to be sympathetic and part of me just wanted to say, “Well, this was on your watch…”, but I know none of those things will help our son.

“I just feel like he doesn’t respect me,” he said sadly. Again, I tried to feel bad, but here is a man who stole money from me, refused to get a job, secretly ran up $30,000 in credit card debt, does not provide me with child support, foreclosed on a home that was still in my name, and just recently told me that spending every weekend with the boys was just too much for him.  It took every fiber of my being to stay silent.  Now is not the time for finger pointing and name calling, I thought.

This is such a tough job, and it is even more difficult to co-parent with an ex, his girlfriend, and my boyfriend.  No one ever talks about that.  Divorces happen all of the time, and I never read anything about the trials and tribulations of trying to meld a new family together.  As a child of divorce, I try not to do what my parents did.  My dad remarried and had two more children.  My brother and I were the step-kids from a previous marriage and we were treated as outsiders.  We did chores every week, while my two new brothers did nothing.  We had strict rules and regulations, while they were allowed to do more.  We felt unloved and we watched through a fishbowl while my father moved on with his new life.  Our mom, on the other had, married a man who did not have children. They also chose to not have children of their own.  Instead they saw us when it was convenient as they traveled throughout the world.  We were secondary in their lives, the thing they did one weekend a month or that special week down the shore every year.  We did not belong there either.

Now I am trying to navigate through these same waters and I don’t want to make the same mistakes.  My ex’s girlfriend has two children from a previous marriage.  My boyfriend does not have any children.  I have a great relationship with my ex’s girlfriend, so as soon as I was told about my son’s behavior, I called a team meeting.  I sent out a text to her, my boyfriend, and my ex saying that we needed to meet to discuss these recent events.  My ex’s girlfriend is totally on board and so is my boyfriend.  Radio silence from my ex.  We are all meeting for dinner on Wednesday to talk about how we are going to proceed as a blended family.  We are going to have to discuss how we are going to co-parent these boys through these trying times, and we are on on board except for him. His silence in all of this is deafening to me.  I am not sure how Wednesday will go, but it should be interesting to say the least…

Single Mom Life Continued…

hands-1797401__340I don’t even want to relate this story.  I am not sure what higher power is pressing me to actually tell this recent story about my son.  It makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong as a mother.  It makes me wonder about the type of man my son is going to grow into. I feel shame and a strong vulnerability as these words are written on the page, but I want to share anyway.

The other afternoon while I was at work, I received a phone call from the principal at the elementary school which my son attends.  My ten-year-old son has many friends and one of them is a little girl who lives in the cul-de-sac next to our house.  They have been friends for about three years.  Apparently, my son said to her the following: “John asked if I was going to have sex with you. He asked me if I was going to rape you.”  Feeling scared, the little girl went to her parents. They called the principal.  He brought in my son and the other little boy, John.  John denied ever saying this. My son he admitted that he made it all up.  He also said he had no idea what those words meant.  He had heard them and knew they were adult words.  He was trying to sound like he was big.  He was trying to make an impression.  He certainly did both of these things.

The school said that my son was clearly sorry.  They said he apologized to everyone and was so sorry he had lied.  He felt ashamed of what he had done.  The principal said that if his son had been in trouble at school, he would hope that he acted as well as my son did.  It was all of little comfort as my mind was clouded by the fears of the future and fear of what people might think.  I was also wondering how my son could do this.  Had I not taught him to behave and speak differently than this?  Had I not instilled an idea that girls were not to be treated in this way?  I searched my mind for all of the ways I must have screwed up.  I eventually went back to my tired ticker tape of shame that was always there to remind me that I am a single mom. I, alone, am responsible.

Some of my good girlfriends tried to talk me off the ledge of sadness. They tried to assure me that I was a good mom and reiterated all of the things that I do for my son.  My mediation teacher offered valuable words of wisdom and told me to go back and speak with my son about his feelings as opposed to asking him, “What were thinking?”  to ask “What were you feeling?”  mothers-day-3298300__340I also started to feel better when my son came home from school and ran into my arms sobbing and apologizing over and over again.  He tearfully told me that the thought of how disappointed I was going to be by his behavior was the worst part of the entire ordeal.  I told him that it was his job as a man to help woman feel safe around him.  I stressed the idea of how valuable his ability to be strong, good man was and saying words like that to his friends did not accomplish this.  Eventually he stopped crying and I wrapped my arm around his shoulders.

“Cole,” I said after he had calmed down, “Do you even know what sex is?”  He shook his head.

“My friends talk about it,” he said, “but we’re no really sure what it is.”

“It’s when a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina.”  His eyes got really big and he put his hands over his ears.

“Stop, Mom,” he said as he fell back on the bed.  “That makes it so much worse.”

“I know, sweetheart,” I said, “but you need to know the gravity of the situation, and how important it is for you to not use words that you don’t know the meaning of.”

He was sitting up now and nodding his head.  I felt very deeply that he understood what I meant.  “It does get a bit worse, Cole,” I continued.

“Mom, please, I can’t hear anymore,” he pleaded.

“Well, you used the term ‘rape’.  Do you know what ‘rape means?”  He shook his head again.  His eyes were so full of fear that I almost stopped.  I really weighed in my mind if he needed to understand the extent of his mistake.  “Rape means that a man forces a woman to do that.”  He paused and his expression was completely quizzical.

“Wait, what you described about the other word…do you mean a girl wants a guy to do that?”  At that moment I started to laugh, and the innocence of my little boy poured through me.  I was again reassured that his morality and innocence were intact. He was just my little boy who had been so wrong to assume that words did not have grave consequences sometimes.

“Enough for now, we can talk more about this later,” I said as he pushed off the side of my bed and went downstairs to play.

I am not sure what the future holds for my little guy.  I am not sure how much harder this gig is going to get.  All I do know is that when I was a child, my father would have screamed at me.  He would have chastised me and shamed me.  He would have been so embarrassed to have been called by the principal because of something I had done wrong.  I did not want to do any of that to my son.  I wanted to find a way to make it into a valuable learning experience that would not haunt him for the rest of his life.

Only time will tell what impact this has had on him and on our little family of three.  I am hoping that we are still headed in good direction.

The Single Mom Life

happy-2681243_960_720I want to change the stigma that goes hand-in-hand with being a single mom.  I want to lift off the caked in belief that a single mom is always struggling.  Yes, we work hard, but I don’t think we work any harder than some women who are married.  Let’s be honest.  Even when I was married, I did everything.  This is not an understatement.  The transition from living with my ex-husband to being completely on my own was nominal, so I know that many men do not carry their weight, especially when you have an amazingly competent wife.  My struggles to make sure that the laundry was done, dinner was on the table, and the house was not a mess were all the same.  So people need to stop assuming that single moms struggle any more than married ones.

I am also doing well financially even though my ex-husband does not contribute one cent towards raising our children. I am completely self-sufficient. I also do not rely on any boyfriend to help me financially. I have an amazing job in a great district as an English teacher. I have the equivalent of two Master’s Degrees.

I am happy and I am not remarried. I did not rush quickly into another relationship. I did not bring a torrent of men around my children as I secretly interviewed them for the job of step-father.  I did not even date for the first two years after my divorce, and my boys only met my current after five months of dating.

My words here are so defensive. My wounds are so apparent as I sit and type them, but I am not going to delete this vulnerability from the page because someone might need to see this.  Perhaps there is a single mom out there who also feels judged.  Maybe she too feels like no matter how hard she tries, she feels that others are secretly grading her or assuming that she is not enough.  There is the constant striving to be the worth of two adult parents in one. The constant motion forward to make sure that nothing is forgotten , no experience is missed, no lesson goes unlearned because that will mean she failed. And this is what I do not want to do, what I cannot do. I cannot screw up because it may cost one of my sons in some unseen way that has yet to transpire.

Let me know your thoughts, advice and fears.  Would like to know that I am also not alone.

Imagine All the People Sharing the World…

treeAfter I attended yet another funeral, I realized the power of our shared experiences as human beings.  At a time when our country feels so polarized, I am reminded that we are all born, live, and die in very similar ways.

After walking through the receiving line at the small funeral pallor, I was funneled into the area that held the various collages of family photos.  This part of a viewing is one of the most difficult for me.  Spread before the viewer is the unfolding of a well lived life.  There’s the photo of the deceased leaning on the side of the parked car.  He smiles from the top of the lifeguard stand on the beach long after the beach has cleared.  He stands behind his family with his arms draped on the shoulders of his two stepchildren, looking proud and happy.  I think back to my grandmother’s funeral, my best friends younger sister’s funeral, the funeral for my twenty-four year old cousin who died of Cystic Fibrosis and I remember the photos of their faces, lit from ear to ear with joy and life.  Pictures from proms and birthdays and weddings. Pictures from Christmases, Easters, and Halloweens all gone by and these moments stand in littered array at the end of their lines.  People pause and point at their favorites or they find the pictures that show occasions they also attended and they wipe the tears from their cheeks or they grin slightly at the memory.

We are all ushered into this world the same way.  A woman has carried us with her for many months and when the time was right for our entrance, we entered.  We live through holidays and celebrated experiences that were created by our society to remind us of our family or our unwavering traditions.  We live through ordinary days that are created by our jobs or our education.  Finally, we will meet our ends in whatever way has been determined and our visage will be only seen through the technology of the time that has preserved it.  How can we not see these major commonalities as a force that can unite us as opposed to divide?  Why can’t the knowledge of these things bring us together for the good of all and the view that all humanity matters?  Perhaps then people can stop being seen as illegals, or refugees, or welfare recipients or racists or pro-lifers.  We will never end bias by being biased.  It will only end when the things that make us similar outweigh the things that make us different.  It will end when we all support the other for the good of our world, not just our family, our community, our society, our country.

John Lennon sang it in 1971:

“You may say I’m a dreamer but I am not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.”

 

 

 

Mortality and the Empath

Last night I had a really difficult conversation with my two little boys. I told them that I was going to another funeral.  This is my third funeral in just one month’s time, and I have to be honest, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thin line that separates us from life and death.  As an Empath, I feel so many things, and the one thing I know deep within myself is that we are all connected. I know that when I die, the part of me that connects with this Universe will go back to its metaphysical state.  It is only my physical self that will be gone, but my physical self is doing a really big job right now: taking care of my boys.

Flowers-Wallpaper-HD-Photos

When I told them that I was going to another funeral, my seven-year-old looked at me with melancholy eyes, “I don’t want you to ever die, Momma.”  I put my hand on his cheek, and I wanted to tell him that will never, ever happen, but there was something in me that stopped the words from forming.  It was the piece of me that knows the stories of children who lose parents and they never recover, they never move on.  The death of the parental figure scars them for life, and they become stagnant and filled with fear.  My ex-husband was one of these people.  His father died suddenly in his sleep after his 42nd birthday.  My ex-husband was only 14 years old at the time.  He was damaged by this loss and also from the reaction of his mother.  She shut down and went into herself.  She convinced her boys that their lives had changed for the worse and there was no climbing out.  She taught my ex-husband that life is unfair and it needlessly takes the ones we love.  She taught him that the death was the end of everything and needed to be feared and fought.  She raised a man who was negative, dark and afraid.  I was scared that if something did happen to me, the boys would not be able to see the world in the right way again.  I felt that this was one of those moments that I could teach them something they could use if the worst happened.

“Well,” I answered, “I do not think that is going to happen for a long, long time, but here is what you can do if it does.”  My ten year old looked up from his Pokemon cards.  “You can know that you are not alone and that I am always with you.  You can know that all you have to do is say my name, and I will find a way to be with you, even if you can’t see me.”

“But how will we know you are there if we can’t see you?” One of them asked.  It was a good question.

“You will feel me there,” I answered.  They both raised an eyebrow.

“No, really, Mom.  How can we know?”  They both asked at once.  I had to really think and then it came to me.

“I will send you a sign,” I said.  “What should it be?  If you call for me, I will be there and you will know you because I’ll give you this sign.”

“Hmmm,” my oldest started.  “You mean like a street sign?  How about a stop sign?”

“No,” I said.  “It has to be something like a bird or a penny in the street. ”

“Oh, ok, how about a butterfly?”  He pointed to the butterfly tattoo on my ankle.  “Whenever I see a butterfly, I will know it is you.”  I nodded in agreement, and we all determined that this would be the sign.

“So this way you can know that I will always be with you and looking out for you no matter what.” The boys seemed okay with this idea and we moved on to talk about simpler things. The next day was a play date with my son’s friend, Jake. Ellen’s 60th birthday special was on again today.

The conversation moved on, but I am still stuck in my head.  Is it wrong to discuss these types of things with two young boys?  Does it do more harm than good to have conversations about morbid what if scenarios?  Will I truly have the ability to send a sign when I am gone?  I still don’t have the answers, but I hope that I in some way made a tough situation a bit better for them.  Perhaps someday, many years in the future, when they are grown and old and I pass on, they will be sitting somewhere sunny and a small butterfly will land next to them and they will think of me.