Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.
I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.
This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:
First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?
I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.
A week ago, Shrek and I went on an international adventure, alone, for three and half days. We dropped the boys off with Uncle and my father and his wife on a Thursday in Massachusetts and drove across the Canadian border the next morning.
We spent three days and two nights in Quebec City. We had not spent more then one night together alone, without any of our seven kids in the entire two and half years we have been together.
If you are trying to navigate the richly rewarding and intensely complex world of a blended family follow our lead and plan a get away trip as soon as you are able. If you have been with your honey since before the littles came onto the scene, I bet the same logic applies.
Ten reasons to leave the kids behind and get away together now:
1. Being alone in your own house (for even one night) without the kids in the next room allows you to feel like a grown up in your own home. How you spend that time is up to you. We chose the station on the radio, and didn’t have to worry if the music was too loud after 8:30pm. A cuddle on the couch was not at risk of being interrupted.
2. Planning a trip without one whit of consideration about what we do with the kids once we got there, meant we didn’t really have to plan a thing! I checked out a book about Canada from the library the day before we left, because I could. I haven’t allowed myself that kind of “ease” or lack of planning in a decade.
3. A six hour road trip can be leisurely. You can have NPR on, lingering uninterrupted adult conversation and no prepared snacks. It does not include fear of dead gadget batteries, DVD players malfunctioning, or sudden panic struck forays into unknown strip malls for a public bathroom because I HAVE TO PEE RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!
4. The car stays clean.
5. When you pass through customs, there is not confusion about if the kids are your kids, or his kids, or someone else’s kids. There are no letters or birth certificates to provide on demand, or explanations of what a donor is or isn’t, or why there is no father named on the birth certificate of the one you adopted or birthed.
6. At the hotel, you actually get to choose to sleep in the same bed as your husband, fiance, or partner. You do not have to promise to sleep next to one kid on one day, hold hands with the other the next, or give them all your pillows, and leave all the lights on to make sure they can go to sleep.
7. You can eat whatever, and whenever you want. You can be the quiet table. You can wander slowly in the streets afterwords, and be the sweet couple in the window of the bar where the local blues musician is playing some deep and slow wrap your heart around these notes rift that is wafting onto the cobble stone street. You can look into your honey’s eyes for an extended period of time, and realize you had no idea they were that green.
8. When it is raining out, you can still hold hands and walk along the river for several hours in a frightfully American looking parka that could be mistaken for a tent, and compose an entire poem in your head because you have space remember it.
9. A museum does not have to have the word children in it anywhere to be on your list of possible destinations. You can stroll through a gallery in a museum and actively loathe the painting you see, and not need to explain that while the artist may have been trying their best, you do not actually have to agree that it is worthy of an entire wall. You can sit in the cafe and eat all of the cookie you bought for yourself, or share some with your honey. You can linger in front of one image for twenty minutes, and even come back to it, and not have to thank the guard for helping you find your missing child, or be horrified when she asks you to leave because playing tag in front of the Degas is forbidden. You can put your head on your sweetheart’s shoulder while he talks about why they like a print, and notice that they are kind of sharp in a way you hadn’t noticed before.
10. After almost four days of uninterrupted time with your partner, you remember the sixty-two original reasons you fell in love with them, and add at least seventy-three more. In a way it feels like I finally met the man I have been waiting to fall in love with for the last two and half years. Or, I finally recognized in myself, a woman who was ready to deepen and deeply trust in this relationship. But, for me, this had to happen independent of parenting.I didn’t realize just how much more to us there could be when we finally created the chance to find out. Or maybe I was afraid that I wasn’t ready to show up as a partner, and a woman independent of my super woman single mom identity? That identity was formed long before Shrek came into the picture, so it was critical for me to get outside of that me, in order to lay down a solid foundation for loving Shrek as Shrek first, and then as Shrek the bonus dad, and father.
What you might be thinking: Take away the necessity of caring for the kids and what will we discover? What if we don’t enjoy each others company when we are alone? What if we don’t know how? Is it a skill we could learn? I now in my case, it wasn’t until we were on the road, with passports in hand that I knew we were about to find out. Bottom line? I couldn’t be more happy that we did.
There is no place where I feel more at peace somehow.
That the boys have this experience each year, is something I trust they will always remember. It is a relatively secluded lake, with no one but our family this year.
By our family, I mean the boys, Shrek, and several of his kids. Can you say blending? Blending beautifully? Could we have picked a more magical place to expand into this larger version of ourselves with this much ease? It has been almost two years since Shrek and I met. My wisdom for those of you wondering is only this: it takes time, humor, and younger sibling adoration doesn’t hurt. Love is what happens when you create the opportunity for it to rise sweetly to the surface, like a loon when and where you might least expect it.
My hour at the internet cafe in town with two boys sort of reading next to me, and sort of having a burping contest is almost over. To be continued…
Last night Shrek and I ended the year sitting on the couch reflecting in a round about way. “Quite a year Mama C,” he began. “You moved in with this man, you got engaged, you became a blended family of nine…” And from there we mused. We mirrored. We laughed. We got big eyed realizing that both of us climbed a few rocky mountains at break neck speed to arrive here on this couch in a calm and palpably easy space looking out a hopeful view for 2013. We had all our limbs and most of our teeth. Things look good.
Just prior to that he was playing his guitar and I was doing some journaling. He played me the song he used to propose to me among others. I scratched out a list of things I wanted to be reminiscing about at the close of 2013 (published poems, tropical sands in my toes, and microphones were on the list, but you’ll have to wait to discover the others with me). It was about the easiest New Year’s Eve ever.
Just prior the boys went to sleep to strummed lullabies and cuddles easily after a last bath of 2012. Bath and hair by candlelight to calm us from the uproarious and lovely gathering of families from the boys’ school earlier in the evening. A school Sam had only began going to a year ago this week, and Marcel in September. A school and community that all four of us were now considered happily ensconced within her colorful and vibrant fabric. Just this week Sam had his first and very successful overnight, and Marcel his first kindergarten playdate. I’m in full swing co-organizing a school wide Martin Luther King Day celebration as an active member of the PTO. We have a school community that we all know we belong to. This is big.
When I came upstairs a few minutes after the boys I came upon a sight that mushed me right on up. On the living room couch sat Shrek with Sam under one arm leaning into him reading a book. Marcel’s toes were curled into him on the other side, as he leaned back and listened too. The lights were soft as Shrek’s voice gently narrated a very powerful story of freedom and perseverance to his rapt audience. I wiggled in next to my sweet boys all in a heap.
I took a very deep breath.
This is abundance. This is blended. This is all I need right here, right now.
This is arrival. This is part of my now larger family of nine who are also there with us on that couch in our playful memories from earlier in the week of all of us celebrating and Wii dancing together becoming our own blended new normal.
You took me by surprise 2012. Or, I took you by surprise. Either way, it worked. 2013, we welcome you to the stage. We know you’ve got a great show planned!
I’ve been feeling a little unplaced the last few weeks.
Journeying between my rich old life and this rich new one.
We say old to mean the past, the former, what we no longer have or do:
Our old house, our old dog, our old job.
My “old” is living alone as a single mama-on one floor of a two family home.
The upstairs was Uncle’s old apartment.
Now we (Shrek+boys+me) are living in the entire two family home-as one NEW family.
Shrek’s grown children are also our new family. They visit and do their laundry, eat birthday cake, and just hang out with their dad on the couch in the late afternoon. It is so new for all of us. A new that can only become an old, through several loads of laundry, and your feet hanging over the couch that used to be in his old house too.
How do they take in these two bonus boys climbing all over their sphere of understanding about who their dad is? What does it feel like to them to see the sawdust in Shrek’s hair from the loft beds he made for these sons-and little brothers-in-training? Of course they are being nothing short of magnificent with all of us. I feel so blessed by my bonus kids too. It allows me to tap into a way of being that feels so easy, and natural for me, as I have many young people their age in my life already.
Then there is Shrek and his experience of all of their adjusting. How is he reconciling his old and his new? My deepest sense is that we are all falling into family with each other right on pace. It is, after all another kind of love–family love. It has awkward moments, but really they are just moments that are. Just leaves around this growing family tree scattered about. Colorful, rich, and vibrant.
Then there are the days that I go from feeling like I was really good at being a single mom, to feeling like I am really rotten at being a co-parent, a partner, a fiance-in-trainning (no not yet mom) all the time. Then, sometimes I feel like I have all my plates spinning in sync and I don’t dare exhale. I can do this. I can. I think I can. Hey look! I’m doing it…
Who picks them up now?
Do I pick them up alone?
Do I know how to really ask for his help?
Do I get scared he’ll say no if I do ask?
Do I get resentful when he doesn’t just pick them up without my asking?
Do I get defensive if he picks them up his way, and not my way?
Do I remember how to be appreciative when he finds a different way to put them back together that works too?
Like Marcel’s Harold and the Purple Crayon imitation up the stairwell wall all the way in to the living room, and ending on the cushions of Shrek’s couch (with a washable-thank you Universe-marker) was a recent straw on this camel’s back.
I felt ashamed. Shrek seemed stunned. Marcel washed the walls, Shrek cleaned the couch, and the apology letter was crafted. Dust settled. It was not the end of the world. I sat alone for a moment wondering if this “trail” Marcel drew was an indication things were moving too fast for him? For all of us? Was Shrek upstairs wondering if this was more than he bargained for?
In the next breath I wondered if it wasn’t the story-teller in Marcel, just marking the transition, and asking us all to notice, he was making his way up the stairs too.
Alas, we are here.
Behind leaves, and with shaved heads*.
We are upstairs, and we are downstairs.
We are old and we are new.
* Sometimes it is time for a change, and sometimes that change is dramatic, and turns out to be just what you needed.