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…

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.

A poem about Divorce- Maybe

Maybe

Maybe we’re getting divorced because you put the stick of butter in front of the butter dish instead of in it.

Maybe we’re getting divorced because I vacuum and you just can’t see the dirt.

Maybe we’re getting divorced because I make more money than you and you stayed home to raise our boys.

Or the long commute or the fact that you snore when you sleep or the way my voice goes up an octave when I am really upset…Or the affairs and lies (yours, mine, ours) or the time you screamed that you hated me, you really hated me

There are a lot of relationships that survive more than this, you said.
You weren’t specific. One of our faceless therapists nods.
They don’t get divorced, you said. And “divorced” sounded poisonous, wrong.

You are right and I nod but in my heart my reasons are enough.
They all add up and congeal into one concise document with all of the wording just right.
The blame is left out of the margins and neat sentences cover up all of the pieces that read between the lines

You bend over to sign.

The pen smudges and curves

It no longer matters.

The end remains the same

More Poetry- Another Storm, Brother

Another Storm, Brother

Torrential down pour
Rain splattering against the window
But that isn’t what wakes me

Engine groaning, spinning but not catching as it should
Over and over it starts and stops until I stand
Feet on soft carpet

Slipping one finger through the tight metal blinds
Pushing one slat from another
From my bedroom
Your stalled 65’ Falcon
Navy blue with silver so polished it reflects like a full length mirror

So many times
You have peeled out of our driveway on its deep tires
And I always envied how you rolled away with your windows down
Arm extended as you straighten the rearview

You stop trying to start
And you leave your sanctity
the rain is coming down so hard
that your image blurs almost immediately
I push the blinds further apart to see where you are going

Standing at the rear you push forward
Nothing accomplished
Nothing gained
and I know
I should be out there

If nothing else maybe to see if you’re okay
because that’s what we all would have done
if this were an episode
of The Brady Bunch
but our family was never that together
and I am not strong enough to hear you yell
or watch you cry

I remove my finger
The metal catches and grabs and the slats are now crooked
And I can still see you continue to push
your prize
that is slowly starting to slide into the middle of the street
knowing that I am not
close enough
to help

Single Mom Life Part 2

In his novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom writes, “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”

When I first read this, I was in my early 20s, savagely blaming both of my parents for my myriad of hurts.  I felt as if I were the final description, the shattered glass on the floor, broken beyond repair.  I have since learned that this damage is reversible.  I have painstakingly tried to glue the pieces back together in a pattern of my own.  I choose to look at the glued pieces or scars in a positive way, knowing that the light would refract differently off of me if I were still one piece.  Perhaps the repaired cracks are stopgaps.  I am more caring and empathetic to those who are also looking at their scattered remains.  If my glass was clear, I might not be so open.

Now that I am an adult with two little boys, I read this quote differently.  I wonder with each misspoken word what my smudges will look like. I can only pray that I have not nor will I crack a part of them.  Despite my eloquent twistings above about my repair job, I hope to leave this life without causing such damage.  I want only for my imprints to be easily cleaned away with some Windex and a fresh paper towel.  The rest of the world can leave its mark on my little guys, and I know that it will.  Their glass will be bumped and jarred and marked up by a multiple of hands that I may never even meet. Their first love, their bosses, their teachers, their friends…all of these individuals will have a chance and when they do, I want my sons’ glass to be as intact as possible.  There is a strength that can be had in the cracking of the glass.  There is a benefit to knowing how hard you can be hit before you crack.  Both of these things are true, but I believe that my job is to help them through the hits, not be the one who is doing the breaking.

I am sure that I will continue to make my fair share of mistakes.  Greasy, peanut buttery fingerprints will be streaked down their glass from my fingers. I am sure of it.  At the end of the day, I still want to be able to say that the damage I did was wipeable, washable, dissolvable.  I only want them to truly know that they are loved.

The Single Mom Life

 

My closest family is made up of my two little boys.  They both bring a level of contentment to my life that is unmatched. Kissing their little cheeks before I leave for work at 6:15 am is the single most favorite thing in my life.  The warmth of their skin and the sweet smell of their breadth as they exhale upon being slightly jarred by my kiss is joy.  My little one whispering, “I love you, momma,” before he rolls over to snuggle deeper into his blankets makes me smile.  I think it is the way he says “momma.” He gives it a long, two syllable draw which causes him to sound younger than he is.  After I get my fill of him, I going over to the older one.  His blonde hair is all I see and I push it away to kiss him goodbye.  He is less likely to talk, but sometimes he shoots a sudden arm into the air to give me a hug around my neck before I go.  He draws me in and pulls me so close that I fear I am going to fall over, but I let him do it anyway because I fear the day it ends.

This is my morning.  I go off to work to make the only paycheck our family will see.  I am the breadwinner, the bill payer, the laundry doer, the food shopper, the ear cleaner, the band aid giver.  I feel blessed to be part of the thirty percent of single moms above the poverty level.  I feel defeated in the fact that my ex-husband gives me no financial support because one cannot get blood from a stone.

Being a single mom is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I dread the consequence of each painful mistake I make. I secretly pat myself on the back when I have a parental win.  I know many people look down on single moms.  The way I see it there seems to be two concrete stereotypes that exist in our culture.  First is the single mom superhero stereotype.  She is capable of doing everything and anything for everyone.  She takes care of her children and does the job of two parents with ease.  She may even be working two jobs and going back to school.  I have heard of these moms from adults who were raised by them. I have not actually seen or met one in real life. Of my friends, I am the only single mom.  I hope to be viewed as this type of single mom, but I feel I fall short on many occasions.

The second stereotype is the single mom mess.  This is the woman who is more preoccupied with dating than her children.  She clings to her ex for money and support, but she ends up using that money on herself.  She misses school conferences and doesn’t drive her kids to soccer practice.  She would rather troll dating websites for her next man than make dinner for her kids.  She smokes, has tattoos, drinks too much and talks loudly and disparagingly about her useless ex-husband.

I know I am somewhere in between these two worlds.  I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been moments where I was more concerned over my boyfriend’s text message than helping my son put on his cleats before soccer practice.  Sometimes I just want there to be other things in my life than caring for the boys.  I also know that if effort in anyway accounts for anything, I put in a valiant effort every day.  I care more about raising my boys to be kind, respectful young men than I do anything else.  The days that I peel myself up and get them to bed and make sure that they brush their teeth and are all snuggled in are taxing.  They exhaust me beyond words.  But I know the importance of building memories and of being a stable force.

So despite my worries and my fears, I know I must always go back to my mat and trust, trust, trust.