Single Mom Life: Killing the Caterpillars

I didn’t mean to do it. My son wanted to order the butterfly kit, so we could watch them transform from crawling caterpillars to delicate butterflies.  I loved this idea. Butterflies are my spirit animal and the thought of being able to rear them to adulthood and watch this beautiful transition thorough life would be inspiring.

Unfortunately, I knew things might be going bad when I came home and my son had already found the box in our mailbox.

“The butterflies arrived today, Mommy. I got them out of the mailbox.”

“Great,” I answered as I put my bags down.  “Let’s take a look.”

“I already took them out and put them in the habitat.  I made sure to give them plenty of food.”  At this point, I was confused. The one thing I knew about these butterflies was that the caterpillars lived for three weeks in their plastic container that had all the food they needed at the bottom.

When I walked into the kitchen it looked like a crime scene.  One caterpillar had escaped from the plastic cup and was crawling to the edge.  It was so tiny, but its back end did not look right.  The plastic spoon Jonah had used to scoop them out was also sitting there.  The other caterpillars had been transferred to the netted butterfly habitat.  The brown “food” was strewn all over the bottom.

“Oh, okay, baby.  Well, I think we need to get them back into their container.  They live there until they turn into a chrysalis,” I said as I started try and scoop up the one that was on the run.

“Oh,” he said simply, not realizing the mass genocide he created.  I was not sure how many caterpillars we were supposed to have because it seemed that some were buried under the taupe colored food. I did my best to get them back in, and I tried not to cover any, but so many of them were really tiny.

I am not sure how many of them I lost that day, but each subsequent day brought the death of one more.

Today was the last one.  The largest of the survivors was curled up at the bottom of the cup this morning. He did not move when I tipped the container.  His lifeless body slide into yesterday’s corpse.

I am trying not to think about the fact that the precursors to my spirit animal have all died on my watch. I am really trying not to internalize what kind of a sign this may be from the Universe.  So this morning I went online and ordered another container of caterpillars to try again.

Perhaps it will go better this second time around…

black butterfly preaching on peach flower

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Single Mom Life: Autism

My younger son may have autism.  He is going to be tested at school as well through a separate organization.

I remember the first time I heard someone tell me that they thought my son had autism.  It felt like a punch in the stomach and anger arose.  It was my brother and we were sitting on the beach.  A beautiful sunny day where kids were jumping in the waves and digging in the sand. My four-year-old son was rolling around and making noises in front of me. He was throwing sand around and spinning.

“What is he doing?” my brother asked as we both looked.  I pushed my sunglasses up, but just shrugged.

“Playing?”

“Do you think he might have something else going on?”  I had only told my mom about Jonah’s tantrums.  Through tears of frustration I described his daily tirades when he would grow angry.  He would punch himself. He would destroy his room. He would scream and scream and scream.  I wasn’t ready to tell my brother any of these things. I wondered if my mother had.

“Why? What are you thinking?” I asked as I flipped my sunglasses back on.

“Could he be autistic?”  Both my brother and I are teachers. We have both work in high schools.  We have both worked with autistic students in our classrooms.  The fact that he could see the same patterns as I did was not unusual, but I was still angry.  Yes, Jonah said repetitive statements over and over again.  Yes, he self-harmed and could not seem to deal with these really tough emotions that often felt too big for his little body, but autistic, no.

“No, he does have some of the traits, but I just don’t think that’s it.”  My brother grew silent. He was right not to press it.  I wasn’t ready to see it.  I didn’t want to see it.  I’m not sure why. The diagnosis wouldn’t change anything about my son.  Calling his issues by a different moniker wouldn’t make him any more or less who he is, but at that point I couldn’t do it.

Months after this conversation on the beach, I would sign Jonah up for therapy.  The counselor would suggest that he be tested for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), but again I would refuse.  We started out-patient therapy because Jonah took his finger nails and raked them down his soft white cheeks causing bright red streaks all the way down to his neck.  He had lost a running contest with his older brother.  His frustration too much to be subdued.  Since I was ready to get him tested, the therapist recommended a mobile therapist.  Jonah’s self-harm issues and his screaming that he didn’t want to live were getting out of control.  Three hours a week a mobile therapist came into our home and worked with Jonah. Things improved significantly.  The school was still fighting any recommendation for an evaluation.  They weren’t seeing any signs of it at school.

Now, months, years later, we are still working on getting help, but now I am at peace with it.

I know that my smiling, sweet boy who is so insightful and so kind could also be something else.

“He will still be our J,” my boyfriend says as he hugs me.  “Autism doesn’t change that.”

I know he is right, but my heart still cries a little when I think it.

 

 

Single Mom Life: “Let’s get you skinny!”

The above quote was said to me by my eight-year-old son.  My son is eight going on eighty-five, and he loves his lists.  After hearing me gripe about not being able to go running because of the 22 degree wind chill, he decided to come up with an indoor workout we could both do.  Apparently, the workout involved his own hand-crafted moves including, but not limited to, the whale, the turtle, and the anchor.

I was intrigued and also a wee bit flattered that he would go to such lengths to help me out, so I agreed immediately.

“Great,” he said as he started to bolt down the steps.  “I will go get everything ready.  Let’s get you skinny!”

The words hit me as I heard him jump to the final step.  Does he think I’m fat? Has my terrible body image infiltrated our lives to the point that my youngest son feels he needs to help keep me on track?  All of these thoughts started to run through my mind all at once.  I wasn’t sure if I should address it or just let it go because I was not really sure what to say. I did not want to discourage his momentum, but I also had to know where that statement came from.  I am certainly not getting “Mom of the Year” if  I have made my son feel that is all I care about.

I walk downstairs and he has taken all of the pillows off of both couches and is piling them around the room.

“Hey, buddy,” I said as I approached.

“Hey, Mom,” he said as he continued his work, putting my arm weights in the corner of the room.  “That’s going to be the Arm Station.”  I smiled.

“That’s really great,” I said, “but can I talk to you for a second?”

“Sure, Mom.” He stopped working and looked at me.

“Buddy, I was just wondering why you think you have to help me get skinny.”

“Because that’s what everyone wants,” he said.  “I want to get skinny, too.”  I laughed.  My son was a rail.  Despite how much I feed him, he continues to grow taller but no fuller.  You can see his ribs.

“You don’t need to get any skinnier,” I answer.

“Ok, well, we will just get you skinnier, then,” he said.

“Buddy, no,” I replied. “I don’t want to get any skinnier. Mommy just wants to get healthier and stronger.” I felt like this was a profound revelation for me.  Yes, I thought, this is really all I want.

“Oh, okay,” he said.

“Does that make sense? ”

“Sure,” he answered.  “Can we start Jonah’s Spectacular Workout Program now, Mom?”  I nod my head and tell Alexa to set the timer for 20 minutes.

Like so many, I battle every day with how I feel about my body.  I have worried that my negative views of my own body would affect my children.  At 42, I think I am finally ready to live in this world of just being healthy and strong, but I am still afraid that the damage has been done.  In all fairness, I am not the only one to blame.  You cannot turn on the television or tune into the radio without a constant barrage of ways to get skinny.  Living in a country where over half the population is obese, weight loss has become a money making machine.  Whatever the cause, the symptom is my eight-year-old is concerned with getting skinny whatever he thinks that means.

 

 

Single Mom Life: Pimples & Pubic Hair

My son Cole is only 11, and I recently saw two emerging pimples on the left side of his nose.

“Oh,” I said, “You’re getting pimples.”  I said it lovingly because I realized that this is his ascent into puberty. “Can I pop them?”

“No,” he said with shock.  “Why would you do that?”

“Come on, Cole,” I said chasing him around the kitchen.  He ran to his room and shut the door.  “I can at least put stuff on them.”

I was less tactful when I saw that he is starting to get pubic hair.  He was getting ready to get into the tub.

“What the heck is that?” I ask as I squinted my aging eyes at his nether region.  He covered himself quickly. I had inadvertently shamed him.  “Cole,” I continued ignorantly, “You have pubic hair.”  Since then Cole has been locking the doors of the bathroom and won’t even let his brother near him when he is changing.

“Mom, what’s wrong with Cole?”  Jonah asked as he pushed against the locked door.

“Nothing is wrong with him,” I responded.  “He’s just growing up.”  My eyes filled with tears as I stare at the locked door, too.

When did my little boy’s body start to morph into one I did not recognize?  When did his body become completely off limits to me?  I knew I was no longer allowed to comb his hair or straighten his shirt, and come to think of it, he hasn’t needed me to do those things in a long while, but when did this begin?

He still sleeps with his stuffed puppy. How can this be congruent with a growing boy’s body?  Tears ran down my face and I wiped them away knowing that this was a train that could not be stopped…should in no way be stopped.  This was going to be a painful growing experience for the three of us.

As I started to rise from my seat, the bathroom door lock popped open and Cole peeked his head out.

“Mommy?”  He called.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Can you help me? I tried to pop my own pimples because they are getting so big, but I couldn’t do it.  Do you have that stuff you were talking about?”  I nodded my head and went over to help him.  In his fragile state, he let me kiss his forehead like I have done since he was a baby.

“Okay, so you have to be really careful when you do this,” I began…

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset

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Single Mom Life: A Little Poem for This Cold Morning

My Son

Sometimes my son squeaks

He points and gesticulates wildly

trying to get his point across

He can speak

But, at that moment, he chooses not to

For an entire day

I go back and forth–worrying–maybe this is the time he stops talking altogether

Do I force words from his lips, from his heart

Or do I let him continue to purse his tiny lips and emit a high-pitched, squeaky sound, like a large mouse?

But I like it…I like the way his blue eyes shine when he is trying to tell me something but his self-imposed edict does not allow him to do more than squeak.

Please—he seems to say with only a look–Please see me

silhouette photo of man leaning on heart shaped tree

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Single Mom Life: For Whom the Bell Tolls

I set the mousetrap and it worked.

I knew it would be effective. I never doubted it’s ability.

My mind teethes on pride and sadness.

The trap was flipped upside down.  The body laid beneath.

I asked/begged the boys to join me as I took the thin plastic bag, which was going to act as a final resting place.  I wondered it the sealed bag would stop a smell from forming.

I told them not to look.

“Why are we standing here?” My oldest asked.

“Because I need your emotional, physical, and spiritual support right now,” I answered.

“I’m here for you, Mommy,” my youngest sang out from behind his forearm that covered his eyes.

“Thank you, baby, I really need you guys right now.”

“We are still talking about a mouse, right?” My oldest asked again.

I turned my head and opened the cabinet door, peeking in the through the crack. I slid my arm through and grabbed the back of the trap.

I double bagged the corpse, just in case.

I threw it away in the garbage container in the garage.

Jonah hugged my waist as I walked back inside.  “I love you, Mommy,” he whispered. I kissed the top of his head.

“Are we done here?” Cole asked before he headed back upstairs.  I nodded.  “It’s okay, Mom,” he said seeing the sadness on my face.  “You had to do it.”  I nodded again and went back to the kitchen to set another trap.

Everyone says where there is one there are more, and I found more droppings in the second drawer.

hanging christmas bells decors

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Single Mom Life: Mousetrap

When I was a kid, Hasboro created a game called Mousetrap.  I begged my parents to get it for me, and I promised that it was something I needed to survive.  The picture on the box showed a complex construction that promised fun for hours.  In theory, it looked like a great time.  Your character was a mouse who traveled through various pitfalls to collect more cheese than your opponent without getting caught in one of the many constructed “mousetraps”.  In execution, things did not turn out exactly as planned.  The large plastic constructs were almost too tall to be supported properly by the thin cardboard base.  Your plastic mouse character would get caught by the traps, but often they did not fall as planned and the other player would have to slide the cups over in a less than dramatic way to catch your mouse because the plastic did not spring into action the way it was supposed to.  The game I could not live without quickly gained dust in the corner of our bookshelf never to be opened again.

brown rodent on gray fence beside green leaved plants under sunny sky

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Last night I finally figured out the very real mousetrap and placed it under my sink.  I returned home yesterday only to find my new sponge chewed, a pile of plastic chewings from a bag of dish detergent pods, and poop all over my clean wash clothes.  My patience gone, I grabbed the peanut butter and a single trap.  I carefully smeared the “attractor” on the fake plastic cheese, then I pulled the heavy metal back with a determination I lacked yesterday.  In one fluid movement the bar was set and the mousetrap was placed carefully on the floor of the cabinet.

“What are you doing, Mommy?”  Jonah asked as he walked into the kitchen and saw me sitting on the floor with an open jar of peanut butter.

“I am setting the mousetrap,” I answered.

“Oh, so it’s going to kill her?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said.  He nodded and looked at down at the trap.

“When she tries to eat the peanut butter?”  He continued.

“Yeah,” I said shutting the cabinet door.  I took the ball of baking twine out of the drawer to tie the doors to the sink shut.

“Is it going to make a noise?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said.  I wrapped the twine around the white handles of the kitchen cabinets and tied it in a neat little bow.

“Is that so she can’t get out?”  He asked.

“No, it’s so neither of you will open the cabinet before I do.”

“Oh, I don’t like this, Mommy,” he said.  I kissed him on the top of the head.

“Me either, buddy.”  And I really don’t like this.  Unlike the game, I know that this mousetrap is going to work and by work I mean that is going to catch and capture a living thing as she tries to eat the peanut butter I laid out for her.  It is not a broad expanse of twists and turns with little cups falling from the sky.  It is a simple metal bar that will crash down on her neck because she has been lured by the smell of peanuts.

No child’s play here, Ladies and Gentlemen.