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.
We were both watching him unravel slowly on the sidelines. He faced the opposite wall so no one could see. I could feel his body tense from across the court, and feel the tears welling up in his eyes. His worst fear had just come true, he had shot a basket, and scored. As a result the bleachers erupted in cheers. This is what happens when you are six and playing on your first basketball team, for your first game. People cheer. This is painful to my son. Reconciling his love of basketball with his loathing of attention is his challenge. Watching him experience it, and ultimately survive it on his own, is mine.
But unlike Marcel at that moment, I wasn’t alone. Shrek was right next to me watching it unfold, and noticing my body tense with his. “This is incredibly hard for you to watch isn’t it?” Perhaps this seems obvious, but for me to be witnessed in the process by a partner who can take in all these layers of struggle is amazing. It is also hard for me, because I am you may recall a super hero single parent who does perfectly well on her own.
“I can’t go up to him right now can I?” I asked him. “No way, ” he answered without hesitation.
I called Sam over from playing with his friends, and asked him to just check in, by sitting next to Marcel for a moment while his squad was not playing. His little brother was now slouching in the chair and clearly distraught. We were all of five feet away.
“But don’t say anything.”
“Got it,” Sam said, and climbed down the bleachers, and gently sat next to his brother. In seconds Marcel was sitting up strait and talking about who knows what with Sam. Magic.
“That was a great move. You’ll do a beautiful job helping Sam see why he was so important to Marcel at that moment. Good work Mom,” Shrek offered.
Later that night at dinner, Marcel offered gratitude for Sam’s moment of support, “Only you could make me feel better then Sam,” he offered. I found three more ways to reenforce that message to Sam. Shrek joined right in; “I never had a little or big brother to do that, what a gift that must be..”
While this may sound worthy of praise and celebration, Shrek and I have worked so hard to arrive here, and while it is getting easier and more satisfying, finding a co-parenting middle ground has been some of the hardest work I have ever experienced. For example, a few nights before that Sam was bawling because he insisted that he did not need to correct his homework. Shrek insisted he did. Sam sat at the table defeated and beside himself. I was at the counter cleaning up the dishes wanting to swoop in and rescue him for sure.
Then, he looked at me with these huge watery eyes as if to say; “HOW COULD YOU LET THIS MAN DO THIS TO ME? YOU HAVE ABANDONED ME!!!” It was all I could do not to leap across the room, tackle Shrek and yell; “Run!” to Sam. I mean who cares about accuracy? Since when was checking your work that important? Who needs math?” Instead I scrubbed the pan really hard. When I looked over at Shrek imploringly, he said; “I can handle Sam being upset here. Let me deal with it.” At that Sam was done. Exit stage left.
About half an hour later the boys were in bed, peace was restored, and no one was broken in pieces on the floor.
“Do you hate me?” Shrek asked walking quietly up to me.
“No. I think you were right. But it sucked. I felt like I was choosing you over him. I felt like I was letting Sam down.”
Shrek just listened. In the silence nine years of my parenting patterns with Sam rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. What business does he have trying to help me become a better parent? The nerve.
Last night Shrek and I exhaled. We even shared a sense of a semi accomplishment of sorts: a very low key, and mostly uneventful blended family holiday week. With seven kids between us there is all sorts of potential for eventful… Low key may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me these days it is a prize. It is in the calm that I find connection, and the chance to notice more of what we are capable of individually and collectively.
The last few months have been remarkable, but also very challenging and demanding. I used to find such solace writing about the hard stuff here. Then as I deepened with Shrek, my hard, was often our hard, or in part because of each other hard. This makes blogging about it complicated. SInce the hard was itself complicated, the act of writing about it became less of a way of finding my way out, and more of a way of finding my way deeper in. No thank you.
I even contemplated wrapping up Mama C, considering perhaps that an era had come to an end. Mama C and the Boys is no longer a container for who I am I thought. We are not 3.25, or 3.75, we are for real 4. But, there it is. We are four. With four comes a whole host of new ways to explore, examine, and reflect on it in this venue. Shrek is marrying a writer after all…
So here it goes, an attempt to shift into Mama C and all her boys. A dip into a new realm which looks with consideration and compassion into blended families, choosing life partnership after forty-five, shifting from single parenting to co-parenting, aging, adoption and transracial just about everything for starters. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll do my best to share some of my and our hard, and some of the ah-has here, in my singular voice that resonates with reflection, vulnerability, insight and humor. Peace.
Good morning all. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a lovely afternoon with friends of Shrek a little west of here. Part of the deliciousness of the day featured a stroll on their land in the crunchy snow. Land. trees. No properties for miles. This is the way much of the state is, although I often forget this, living in the “city”. I love that the boys are as at ease racing through the woods after a lumbering glove snatching golden retriever as they are taking in all the majesty of a gospel concert celebration for MLK day at the theater.
A few other sweet moments captured below include Sammy belting out A Sick Day for Amos McGee to his brother before bed, and he and Shrek finding their groove during a little harmonica and guitar duet. The weekend also featured all sorts of craft things like sewing, looming, and drawing by the lot of us. One source of great pride for the two of us as co-parents (yes I did just write that) is our commitment to no television before 10:00am on the the weekend. It’s not that we object to screen time–it has it’s place over here indeed. It’s that we both objected to the intrusion of the sound of it, on our combined living space early in the morning. Over time we have helped the boys learn all sorts of other things they can do–electronic free until then. Reading, drawing, and the ukelele are on the top of the list. Connect the dots, playing with the million figurines Marcel has amassed, looming, and cuddling are up their too. It seemed like an uphill battle at first, but come around here at 8:45 on a Sunday these days, and you’ll think you’re on the set of Little House on the Prairie or something.
The sounds of little feet coming towards me signal the end to this sweet little start to my week with the MamaC extended family. Thanks for sharing the morning with me, I feel you out there, and miss you when I don’t write. To being seen, reaching out to others, and believing in the best in all of us today. Bring it on Monday!
It takes 3.5 weeks to deliver a boat from Maine to the Virgin Islands
in case you were wondering.
The boys missed him terribly.
Uncle missed the boys just as much.
The men in this house give themselves permission to love each other.
I celebrate this quietly.
“UncleDaddy” as Marcel calls him-
Because he is kind of like a daddy, and kind of like an uncle
stuck together. UncleDaddy has dance moves
that Marcel imitates by swinging his hips in a slow circle
and sticking out his lower lip.
In his absence I had two morning drop offs instead of one,
(Uncle is bus stop guy with Sam) and no nights off.
In his absence storms pounded the windows,
and lifted shingles off the roof while I lay on the floor in the boys’ room.
I had only myself to imagine pulling them to safety
if the house shook to the ground.
It’s not like what I imagine you
who might be partnered experience when your other leaves.
Because, I chose this single mama thing.
I do just me well enough and then some.
In a way I dig pulling that superwoman suit out
and placing one boy under each arm as we fly through the universe
just the three of us.
Being a single mama unleashed a magnificent
strength in me. I had to prove to the world that I could do as one,
(what they could as two), and then some.
Then two years later-that I could manage two as one, with ease
and then some.
A soothsayer once said that my job in this
lifetime was to have a long term relationship, because
I have been single for many lives.
She also said I had adopted many times, and
have been adopted too.
Sitting across from my son’s teacher at his conference,
and looking her squarely in the eye
as she says; He is right where he is supposed to be
I take all the pride in the world that I have done my job well.
Walking through the woods, watching them race
over wood chips with laughter
flying in every direction. A brotherhood
echoing through the dry leaves-I see that I have done my job well.
Marcel’s curls in my hand, as I cut his hair
down tight because he wants to short short
hair just like Uncle and Sammy. Music playing,
as Sam sits next to him, reading him a story.
We are doing fine.
Because his watch was on hour off,
Uncle had the boys in bed an hour early when I returned from
ran an errand (being able to run an errand alone after dinner
is an insanely exciting thing for a single mom).
Just like that, two boys almost asleep an hour early.
My latest post on Moms of Hue is the first published version of my thoughts on co-parenting with your sibling. (I am working on another version for a Co-Parenting 101 Guest Post, and one for the Modern Love column of the New York times.) This is my intro to the way it looks on the light and lovely side. Meaning it has it’s moments, as does any kind of co-anything relationship. It’s how we handle those moments that make or break you. The piece starts like this;
When I invited my oldest brother Marc to live with us, it was not just because my mother was worried about her grandchildren not having a father figure-even though she never said as much. He didn’t have a job, and I was a single mom raising two boys under the age of five on my own. He landed in the United States a year before after his twelve year European chapter ended in divorce. He had no kids, and a 12×18 color picture of the beloved sail boat he had to sell when he moved stateside. Stateside could have meant Virginia, where we grew up, and where he has a zillion connections. Instead it meant Maine, where they have a zillion sailboats and two boys who call you Uncle-Daddy and say; I love you Uncle Rabbit Will You Play Airplane With Me Now Silly Head after they give you the bump, and lunge into their footy pajamas because you want them to explore their own “gravitational pull”.
Sam had a great reaction to Uncle coming home from Washington D.C. last night. Uncle asked if he could come give the boys a hug when he got in-or would it be too disruptive. The boys were in bed, and we had sung our songs. But it is Uncle and he had been away for six days! After Uncle went back downstairs Sam says; Mom you know what? Seeing Uncle just now, and giving him a hug, well that just made my whole day! I was laying down in bed next to Marcel who is going through some intense separation anxiety at bedtime these days when Uncle came up. Seeing Sam climb out of bed and into Marc’s arms was pretty damn sweet. They just hung out in that embrace for a minute or two.
By not being in a traditional parenting arrangement, I’ve missed out on moments like those. I used to wonder what it would be like to see my partner, whomever I might have had in my life if I had lived that story instead of this one hold “our” child. I used to feel some deep longings for it in fact. Noticing how much I appreciated that tenderness between them awakened those feelings in a gentle and appreciative way. Once again reminding me how what we have created here for the time being, is nurturing all of us.
Having Uncle away also reminded me how much I love our Mama C and the boys existence too. We do three well. I am such an inclusive person by nature that I forget it is OK to create outings, and time for us to just be the three of us too. Uncle can do the dishes while I throw the football in the rumpus room. He has offered many times. And a good catch, and a humming pass is not only satisfying, it happens to be when Sam is at his most effusive. Yes, at five, the I can talk when I have a ball in my hand phenomena has commenced. (Evidence is in the birth mom conversation two days ago.) As the three of us, Sam is allowed to be more of a helper, which in small doses he thrives on. It allows something other in Marcel too, but I can’t explain that one yet.
Oh my elusive shadow balance, there you go again, skirting in around the periphery..