Tag Archives: parenting

Oh my beautiful Calvin

Oh my beautiful Calvin

Calvin at 7.

So Calvin says to me tonight, “Mom, you’re really clever, even though you’re old.”

He almost had me.  It was so close.  But he followed it up with this beauty:

“You have so many things in your head.  I don’t have as many things in my head.  Not yet.  As you get old, you get more knowledge and it all fits in your head.  So a person’s head always fits their knowledge.”

My Calvin with his unique and wonderful brain can come up with things that give me pause.  How does it all fit in there?   I don’t know.  Our feet grow, but our heads don’t.  Weird, right?  You’d think if anything would grow it would be your head to accommodate the wealth of information, the daily memories being saved for later use, the sounds and textures and smells of a lifetime.  It’s such a cool observation.  Cool and twisted.

Hello, goodbye, repeat as desired

Hello, goodbye, repeat as desired

The Boyfriend Candidate and I broke up not too long ago.   Again.  We do this about every three weeks, and we’ve each totally lost credibility with each other on the break up front.  This time I was picking on him — pretty much all day — most likely as a result of general frustrations with the relationship.  I was indirect, provocative and uncommunicative.  So we got in a fight.  He called me an ugly name.  And then defended it when I graciously gave him a chance to retract.  I was done.

So a week goes by and in that week I’ve been really asking myself hard questions about why I’m dating in the first place.  Are my frustrations with the relationship because it doesn’t serve a purpose relevant to my life any more?  I think I’m on to something.

I’m 46.  I have three small children who deserve my time and energy.  Now that I’m working, which means I can provide everything I and my children need, I’m not looking for a man to save me/us, to be the responsible party or to fund us, if you will.  I’m in bed weeknights at 8pm because I’m up at 4:45am.  When exactly am I suppose to nurture an adult relationship anyway?  So seriously why am I dating at all?

Sex is an obvious answer.  Adult companionship generally.  To be adored in that way a man adores you has particular attractiveness to me.  And you know I got all those things from the Boyfriend Candidate.  What I didn’t get that was frustrating me was “traditional marriage material.”  He isn’t that Prince Charming.  He’s a salty old curmudgeon, truth be told.  I don’t want to be with him every day.  I don’t want to live with him.  I can’t imagine the nightmare of merging lives.  But you know, I don’t think I really need that.  If he gives me the adoration, even part time, might that be enough?  I think anything more is an old dating paradigm from my early twenties that has expired.

I can reinvent the adult relationship now.  So I’m taking some time to figure out what that will look like at this point in my life.  Naturally I spoke with the Boyfriend Candidate and, as usual, we’re back together.  This time I am relieving him of those traditional expectations which aren’t relevant (or possible) any longer.  Maybe I can be more tolerant.

Honestly, he never thought we split up which slightly irks me.  I did make a dramatic exit.

Little things that change my life

Little things that change my life

I’m divorced.  At the time of the Great Divide, I was a stay-at-home, home schooling mom to my three sons – one of them with entry level autism.  I hadn’t worked in years.  Divorce was a big thing that changed my life.  I still grapple with the meaning of it.  My kids are back in brick and mortar school.  I’m back at work after 8 months of bitter unemployment.  I’m raising three boys to be men without a male presence.  I yell a lot.

What I never anticipated was our ability to adapt and the beauty of the unexpected simple solution.  The little things.  I have a day job, but as soon as I get home, I’m in the home office doing my part time work.  There are never-ending interruptions from the boys which always makes teleconferencing a challenge.  Most of my clients are resigned to the screaming in the background or the occasional “Mommy I have to poop.  Will you wipe my bottom?”  Right now they are in my office arguing over boiled eggs.  They don’t even like boiled eggs.  I repeat myself with withering conviction throughout the day.  “Get out of my office!”  “Let me finish my work!” and my favorite “I’ll be there in a minute!”  This is a good one: “Stop touching your brother!” That one works 24/7.

Anything I can do to reduce the stress I’m game for.  TV, for which I have a love-hate relationship, is a big trigger for tension because the boys only have a love relationship with it.  When it’s time for bed, it becomes all out war.  They’ve developed effective strategies.  The ear piercing whine is fairly reliable.  But a couple of weeks ago they did something exceptional.  They turned the volume down so I would think they had turned it off.  They faked me out.  Now I have to stop what I’m doing to get a visual on what they are up to.  I cannot trust my ears which for a mom is a really big loss.

Last night a little thing changed my life.  The guy I’m dating, the Boyfriend Candidate, is a problem solving junkie.  He must look at my house with the same glee as a mosquito in a blood bank.  He gave to me a most powerful weapon: a remote control power switch I can use on the TV’s outlet.  From my office, without warning, I can turn the TV off at its power source.  They cannot turn it back on.  They may yet find a go around; they could outsmart me.  They are younger and more flexible.  But for now, I’ll take the peaceful resignation of “What happened? Why isn’t the TV working? Barnacles.”

Adaptation is a small and beautiful thing.

What happened here?

What happened here?

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the whole process.  I’m writing an explanation in hopes that this will jump start me again.  I hear that works.

When I started blog writing over a year ago, I had tight deadlines, daily writing assignments on all kinds of topics.  There was a sense of urgency, I felt a responsibility, and I got it done.  I still get it done.  I write daily for several websites.  In the course of those writing gigs, I also was asked to blog from my unique perspective: the middle aged single mom, three young boys, one autistic, dating after 20 years, perimenopausal, retiring parents, one with Alzheimer’s point of view.  That’s a lot and you’d think there would be tons of material.  But even then, posting once a week, I would get stuck.

Then I lost the self absorbed blog.  Seems the demographic and I didn’t exactly mix.  And I missed it.  I missed the objective musing on this life and the hysterical qualities it had somehow acquired.  And speaking of acquisitions, I acquired in the last few years a boyfriend candidate, a hippie room mate, a really good friend, the belligerence of my absent-almost-ex-husband, an estranged brother, a circle of divorced mom friends, a full time job, a new set of co-workers, an old car, a crazy young guy friend, an old rock star, and a ton of threatening letters from CitiBank wondering when I’m going to pay off my ex-husband’s exorbitant debt.  Yes, bat shit crazy indeed.

So my life is richer than ever.  Almost always almost too much to handle, but one way or another it gets done.  And I’d love to write about it again which is why I started this blog many weeks ago.  But I find trying to pull together my old posts, new essays, ideas on post-it notes, memos to self in the margins of my Franklin, all just a bit daunting.  I found a note “fart on demand”.  I can’t remember for the life of me what that meant.  See, now I have to do research.  Add that to the list.

It’s sort of a big philosophical as well as practical question: how do I get on with it?  [Even at this moment, while I’m trying to think and organize ideas my Calvin is sitting at the desk across from me barking, literally. He’s my 9 year old.]   I think in the end I just have to do it.  My friend Belinda at the office told me yesterday that the only real great advice she got from her years of therapy post divorce was this:  In order to live your life, you must go through it.  So put your head down, aim forward and just go.  So that’s what I’m doing now.  But first, I’m going to give myself a break.  These postings won’t be perfect.  I’m mixing past and present, musing on the future.  Sometimes it won’t make sense.

It really is just like life.

 

Sorry kids, I don’t feel like being a mom

Sorry kids, I don’t feel like being a mom

One of the things I’m most proud of is my ability to discuss menopause.  And I love that about my generation generally.  I deplore euphemisms like “the change”.  Ugh.  Aren’t we grownups?  So I think for me and my friends, menopause is a health issue, an inevitability.  And a source for huge laughs and lots of commiseration.  It’s no different than arthritis.  It can be discussed without shame or embarassment.

So I’m at my office talking about menopause with my co-worker Belinda who is about ten years older than I am.  She has successfully navigated the menopause waters and is a big help.  Unlike my 70 year old mother who gets wildly uncomfortable when she senses the conversation turning to hormones and can’t we change the subject for God’s sake?

Belinda told me about a great book on menopause.  I looked it up and read a chapter or two.  I was thrilled and relieved to discover that a weird thing I’ve been experiencing is actully part of menopause for some women.  My toes cramp and cross over.  It’s seriously referred to as flat toe.  For months I’ve been worred that it was the first sign of a significant neurological disorder and I’ve been afraid.  But no, it’s hormones.  Evidence that I’m getting old.  Awesome!

In addition to the freaky behavior of female extremities, the book discusses how empowering this time of your life can be.  And not solely because you can own sex without pregnancy, but also because the hormones that provide care giving instincts, the compromisers and the accommodaters, start to lose their oomph.  You no longer have the urge to mother people and make sure they feel good or cook nourishing meals for everyone and keep the house perversely clean.  It gives women a killer instinct at just the time in their career arch when they need it.  I probably won’t surprise anyone that there is a divorce spike during this time – my divorce came right on cue.

Of course someone will need to tell my six year old why I think he should drive himself to school and make his own dinner, but that’s okay.  I won’t care since that mothering instinct is a distant memory.  Really they should tell women this stuff before they delay motherhood.

By the time you become a mom, you won’t feel like it any more.

4.5 seconds flat

4.5 seconds flat

So the Boyfriend Candidate was over not too long ago.  It was getting late.  The kids were half asleep in the living room.  Naturally we steal away to the kitchen to make out like teenagers.  I love that, that whole notion of recaptured youth.  I never saw it coming as one of theose benefits of being divorced.  I get to slip through a wormhole and improve upon mispent youth.

So we’re in the kitchen and he starts whispering, which I find annoying because I’m trying to listen for little feet which may be walking in our direction.  We might get caught!  And there it is: high school.  Back then when I was making out in the kitchen I had half my attention on where my mom and dad were and what they were doing.  Were they talking?  If so, where in the house were they?  How many steps would it take for them to get to me and would that be enough time for me to straighten myself out.

I’ve gone full circle.  There is something beautifully insane about being afraid of getting caught by your own children when just yesterday I was afraid of getting caught by my parents.  Is someone always trying to catch me?  Is my attention always going to be divided?  How nice, how unusual it would be during these deeply meaningful, developmental make out sessions, if I could just enjoy and listen to my own internal musings.  How much of lust is ultimately riddled with fear?  It does make me wonder if they are intertwined and related.  And is that ultimately dishonest?  If I’m not paying attention to me or my guy in those moments, am I really there with him?  Can I really enjoy it?

What a bunch of BS.  Oh yeah, the moment can be enjoyed.  Just as long as I can get my clothese back on in 4.5 seconds.

Gaefan (pronounced Gavin)

Gaefan (pronounced Gavin)

My introduction to Gaefan (pronounced Gavin) was through a mutual friend.  My friend had discovered Gaefan through her friends who knew him as an incoming theater teacher at a local high school.  He was new to the area, had previously taught in San Francisco, and had no place to live.  In fact, school was starting in a few days and he was living in a trailer in a driveway of an acquaintance of someone who knew someone.

My friend suggested I sublet my guest room to him.

I sort of bristled initially.  My friend is also my landlord so the suggestion to sublet was not entirely a suggestion.  I was, after all, many months behind on rent.

I had to check my bristle. What was it about really?  Yes, it was definitely a message that my space was not really my space.  OK. Message received.  But she really was trying to help, I’m sure of that.  So it was a suggestion that checked a couple of boxes for her.  But why else was I bristling?  Oh maybe the obvious:  a single man, apparently recently divorced (and according to my friend, he was heartbroken) a theater instructor no less, living in my house with me and my three boys under the age of twelve.  There would be no way to separate private, sleeping areas from the common areas.  There would be no way to avoid those times when my children would be home alone with him.  And I could only let my mama bear imagination take over on what his lifestyle might be like and what my kids could be exposed to.  And, if I’m being honest and admitting any kind of subversive optimism, I couldn’t help but have Goodbye Girl thoughts as well.  What if  this was Richard Dreyfus coming to live in my back room, play guitar naked, and be my soul mate?  That really could solve a lot of problems.

In the end I was worried about all the wrong things.

So I received an email from this stranger, capable of all kinds of infractions (or delights) upon humanity, at least in my imagination, and rather than focusing at all on what he said, I got stuck on his sign off.  And I quote,

I am looking forward to meeting you and your family,

Cheers,

Gaefan  (pronounced Gavin)

OK – what the hell kind of affectation is that?  So now I’m expecting not Richard Dreyfus (dammit), but Peter Allen.  Please, I’m LA inoculated.  People with their  creative name changes hardly faze me. But this – this was beyond.  I can’t  imagine going through life having to, nee choosing to, explain my name.   “Gaefan, pronounced Gavin”.  Your whole life, you sign all your letters, your emails, your contracts, your resumes. That is an excellent example of why one might desire to change one’s name to Bob.  In fact, it’s exactly the reason why my son’s names are Jack, Calvin, and Sam.  No explanation needed.  Ever. How many things in life do you have to worry about?  Your name, your label, your first impression, your handle, your moniker should NOT be one of them.

Gaefan?  What is that?  Gallic?  Elfin?  It’s sort of Lord of the Rings, is it not?  It’s even slightly gender neutral, although Gavin reads male.  Oh the questions.

But they would have to wait. At least 24 hours until I met the man.  And he sprinkled his elfin dust over me and changed my life forever.

It’s a big adventure

It’s a big adventure

I was laying down with my youngest little boy tonight.

Me:        You use to be so little!

Sam:      One day I’ll be 100 years old!

Me:        Make it 150!

Sam:      And you’ll be dead!

Me:        Maybe I’ll die on a big adventure….

Sam:      Like in the desert.  I don’t want you to die.

Me:        I promise I won’t die until you don’t need me any more.

Sam:      I’ll always need you, so you’ll always be here?

Me:        For as long as you need me!

I started thinking.  And I’ll let you in on a secret:  I think in weird loops so here goes.  I started thinking it’s interesting that children see the end of your life story, not the beginning.  I see the beginning of theirs, but if everything goes the way it’s suppose to, I’ll never know how their story ends.  Thinking about my children dying then made me wonder why I had them in the first place.  Thinking of them dying, maybe in pain, maybe alone…. ugh.

So from there I went to thinking that’s a good reason for me to tell my childless friends why their occasional doubts about their decision (or unintended consequence) to stay childless is really ok:  you don’t ever have to ponder your children dying.

Then I had a mental argument with myself.

Me:        Dying, so what?  The joy that your children will feel will far overwhelm any pain or anguish that comes into their lives.

Me2:     That’s bullshit.  Where in your life experience can you say your joy has surpassed your anguish?

Me:        OK.  That’s a good point.  It does seem like the stress and anguish far  outweigh the joy.  But maybe that’s because anguish happens to you and you have to get off your ass and create joy.  Joy doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort.  Anguish happens.  If you want more joy, if you don’t want to be laying on your death bed thinking the scale tips toward disappointment, then you have to do something about it. You have to create it.

Me2:     You’re a self-righteous bitch.  What you’re suggesting is I laugh more, I make more friends, I seek out moments of happiness and enjoyment, I see the positive side.  Oh good God, that means making an effort.  And I’m tired.  You know that.

Me:        Get off your ass.  Do it now.  I don’t want to linger in the shadows with you.

OK so all of this happened in about two minutes.  Most of it while brushing my teeth watching Sam trying to lay flat under the sheets so I wouldn’t see him.  My God, I remember doing that with my mother.  In Oklahoma.  In the bedroom she grew up in.  The beginning of her life story which I would know nothing about.

Today my almost ex-husband decided to scrap the dissolution we’ve been working two years on.  For a marriage he desperately wanted to end, he can’t seem to let it go.  And that little bit of anguish will continue.

Tomorrow I’m going to a 5 year old birthday party.  I’m going to solidify friendships with these new people in my life.  I’m going to laugh really hard and leave my phone number with at least one other mom to set up a play date.  I really don’t want my life burdened by anguish.  I don’t want to leave that model for my children.

When I die on my big adventure in the desert, I want my kids to know I was laughing.

Babysitter, may I?

Babysitter, may I?

Babysitters are powerful.  More than they know.  I hope.  Perhaps the most powerful little creatures in the world.  With their iPhones, earbuds, skateboards and bubble gum.  They quietly pull the strings of my life.

Even if your stable of sitters is three or four deep, you can’t get overconfident.  They all do the same stuff together.  Homecoming is the same for everybody.  Spring break trips they take together.  You have to select sitters with a strategy:  one actress, one academic, one cheerleader, one who is lost in the crowd.  Spread them out across the school’s clubs and calendar of activities.

I recently noticed that my life revolves around these activities, weekend visits with out of town dads and boyfriends in college coming back to town.  Whether or not I can go to a parent-teacher conference or an open house is dependent on a fifteen year old’s play rehearsals and volleyball tournaments.

I recently heard myself tell my Boyfriend Candidate “I’ll check with my sitter to see if I can go.”  The ludicrosity of it didn’t occur to me until later.  My young life spent asking my parents for permission to go out.  Married in midlife, it was another seventeen years of checking with him first to make sure I wasn’t needed elsewhere.  And now that he’s gone, I have to check with the sitter.

I’m wondering if there really is any such thing as independence.  And I’m guessing not when you have kids.  Interestingly, it’s not just your children who make you interdependent, it’s their support staff:  the sitters, the grandparents, the coaches, the tutors.  It all structures my life in a way that leaves me ordered but out of control.

Now I’m thinking I’ll have to wait for the kids to graduate from college and get out of the house.  Two events that will coincide only if I’m very lucky.

I suppose it’s possible that when that time comes, I’ll have to check with the nurse at my assisted living facility to see if I can get a weekend pass.