At pick up from school yesterday-Sam gets in the car and immediately tells me I am going to hear from the teacher tonight in an email. I’ll just tell you that the use of some undesirable language was involved, and the back of another child’s artwork is where my young deviant scribe chose to write the word. As a poet, writer, and wordsmith in general I am hesitant to react about a “word”. But as a parent of a six year old, who may or may not be picking up some of that foul from me, I know I have to reset the appropriate button quickly. As a single parent another layer comes in: will other partnered parents hear of this transgression and judge him and me? As a transracial parent the you better have a cleaner mouth than everyone else because if not you’ll be judged differently than your lighter skinned peers voice enters in.
Then a few hours later-when I got home from my coveted hour of weekly therapy, the babysitter says; “The boys were not behaving at all. They were fighting so much..” I immediately freaked inside. All the benefits of the previous hour seemed to go up in smoke in an instant. I tried to breathe through the shame, anger, disappointment and use it as a teachable moment for her, and the boys. We went over expectations for behavior and consequences etc. But inside I felt like–my kids were BAD and always somewhere they are bad because I am not enough of a parent on my own. All of that thinking is messed up–as my kids are not bad, they just behaved badly-and it has as much to do with the lack of clear boundaries set by the sitter as it does with the boys themselves.
When we got home from driving the sitter home, I put the boys on the sofa and spoke very softly and seriously;
Guys–we are a threesome. We do not have a father, or another parent. We just have each other. We do great as you, and you and me. Right? I need you all to step it up a bit, and show yourselves and me, that we can take care of this family with all the love we can…
At this the boys started hugging and loving on each other and me. I rarely get like that with them. And I know we are not alone at all. But in some ways we really are. In a core way. Is that wrong to talk about I wonder? Or is it something also to celebrate for all our sakes?
This morning I found myself rambling over on the Love Isn’t Enough site after I read this post: The Love of a Single Mother is Enough . Of course my comments did not begin to address the piece itself, because I was so all over the place. Here is an excerpt of my ramblings:
I have this strange love hate relationship with the single mother thing. I believe that I work about 6,000 times harder than many two parent households to make sure my kids get everything their kids do-swim lessons, soccer teams, theater tickets, French classes, pool parties, authentic this, and meaningful that, not to mention the groovy weeks at the lake. I was raised in a very traditional suburban two parent, three kid, two car garage kind of setting. So I HAD all that and the summer excursions to Europe.
I am exhausted.
I have AMAZING friends who are married–almost exclusively- who are married or partnered. I agree that single mothers have little or NO TIME to hang out with other single mothers. I find that my friends love to be part of the boys lives–to help out. I schedule months in advance to get help with the pick up from school when I have a meeting that is going late, or to take them to swim lesson, so I can get the other to the non sibling invited birthday party (talk about hell for a single parent!!). I am great at asking for help.
My discovery early on was that folks really like to be asked. It is easy to say no. I can invite help and meaningful relationships with married folks–because there is so much room for the relationship here. A married man–is not “competing” with my husband/partner for my boys attention when he takes them to the Y to shoot hoops or takes them to a movie. What I mean is that the menfolk don’t have to posture or negotiate social cues to be in my kids lives. I pose no threat–and not because I am not an attractive woman–but because I don’t have designs on their husbands. If anything the threat I pose is that often married women think; “Wow I envy how much ease you have. You can make all the decisions, don’t have to negotiate this and that… have no in laws to argue with, etc. etc.” I work so hard to do this well, people think I have it easier some times!
When I was writing last summer about inviting relationships with people of color into our sphere with much greater intention in the last few years–I realized that that too might be easier for me–because I am not dealing with my partner’s internalized racism–or white mind too. I am just doing my own work with my community/family of choice.
I suppose I wish I could stop thinking I have to one up–or be not just as good but better than-everyone who is not a single parent. Truth is we are doing great. My kids are well secure in themselves, and in the love they feel. They will not be sucked down the vortex of statistical expectations of the stigmatized “child of a single mother” as long as I stop spending so much energy fighting against it…
I am re-posting my comments here–because they are a bit raw and unpolished which is perhaps more revealing in ways–and because my single parent life often feels marginalized too–like my transracial parent life. To be honest, I want to work on ways to transform my own thinking about being “enough” too. It’s hard work though. How do you do it? Do you have any single parents in your life? How do you feel about being involved in their lives?