Posts Tagged ‘family

18
May
12

Kids. Gotta love ’em. Mostly.

I love the shit out of my kids.

I really do.

But holy hell. Sometimes they (kids) take you (me) for a ride to Bolivia and back and you (I) don’t know what just hit you (me.)

I am not alone in this. (Please, dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-in-a-manger-all-swaddled-up-for-some-spices-and-dudes-a-comin’-your-way, tell me that I am not alone in this. Because I’m not sure I could survive that blow too.) I know I am not alone in this. And if I’m wrong, please don’t correct my delusion.

Most of you already know that I am a single mum. Being a mother is a very, very hard job. Being a single mum, depending on your situation, can be both easier (WHAT?!?) and more difficult. Let me clarify that one…

I am incredibly blessed. Don’t get me wrong, I (we) have worked very hard for these blessings, and they didn’t always come easily. But when my ex-husband and I were first married, there was someone in our lives who was going through a terrible, nasty separation and ultimately divorce. As in, these friends split up while we were away on our honeymoon. And that got an interesting conversation started between us.

On our honeymoon, we talked about what we would want it to look like if we were to eventually split up.

Slightly morbid, yes. But I think that conversation set some things in place so that, fast-forward three kids, five years, and a move to England, when we did decide to separate, we had already decided that we wanted to remain a family. Our family would be taking a different shape, undeniably. But we would always be a family.

And I think that’s one that a lot of people miss. It doesn’t actually matter who has done what to whom, or how angry so and so is, if you have kids together, you will ALWAYS be a family. Period.

Now, our situation was such that our relationship just didn’t work anymore. No one had had an affair. No one had gambled away the life-savings. No one had done anything along those lines that brings out the kind of anger that can be hard to move through and get to the other side of. I soooo get that. In that sense, we had a much easier time than lots of people separating. But we talked it through and we decided that ultimately, our kids came first. We wanted to eventually be able to have family gatherings that included each other and new significant others, when the time came. The point was to give our children two happy parents living apart, but who were still a family, rather than two miserable parents living together, destroying any semblance of family unity. And I am so grateful that we both turned out to be the people we hoped we would be throughout the process of splitting up our lives. I credit part of that to the fact that we chose to pull the plug before we hated each other. There was still love. It was just not the kind of love that could sustain each other and a happy, healthy household.

And we have been successful at that. We still have some holiday dinners all together. Birthdays are a common affair. He still has a key to my house, so that he can come in and out with the kids when needs be. He got remarried last summer, and his new wife and I are each other’s biggest supporters, both recognizing that we have tough jobs. My Mother’s Day message to her was this: “Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for being such a great stepmom to my kids. It takes a village, and I’m so glad that you’re a part of it. ♥” Her message to me was: “Happy mama’s day, sista. I couldn’t have asked for better kids in my life and you’re to thank for that.”

You see, I am blessed. I have three fabulous kids, and a friendly and supportive relationship with their dad and stepmom. We are all still a family. This is what I believe is best for the kids in a divorce situation. It’s not perfect – they still have to go back and forth between two houses, and of course, we still have our issues from time to time. (If things were perfect, we probably wouldn’t have split up in the first place!) But there is a mutual respect and I am forever grateful for that.

The upside to being a single parent? My kids are at their Dad’s house 40% of the time. That means that I have 40% of the time “off.” When my health is acting up, that is a blessing – I don’t have to try and take care of anyone else, and I don’t feel guilty that my kids are taking care of me. When I am in healthier times, I get to be a regular grown-up. I can go out with friends for a meal or a movie. I can stay up late writing. I can make decisions that only affect me. There’s the blessing.

The challenge (or for sake of the phrase, the “curse?”)

I have my kids 60% of the time. I adore my kids. And the older they get, the easier it is getting. HOWEVAH….

It also means that when they’re being little shits (as all children can be, come on now!), there is no one for me to trade off with, no one to back me up, and no one there when I need to take a time out. Parenting requires the patience of Job. And you make concessions you would not make if you were parenting as part of a household team, because there is just not enough energy to police 3 kids, by yourself, in every aspect that you otherwise would.

You pick your battles.

For instance, my kids’ rooms are generally a high holy mess. In fact, most of my house is usually a high holy mess. But, I have only so much energy (less than most, due to my health crap) to mete out. And I choose to spend it with my kids, not against them. That being said, sure they have to clean up their rooms once in a while. But I am not one of those people who will spend my entire day following my kids around, picking up after them (again, I don’t have the energy). So our house is far from a Better Homes and Gardens showcase. The mess makes my skin crawl. When it starts giving me anxiety attacks (which it does), then we attend to it, usually after I’ve lost my shit with them. (Not always the best parenting choice. But there you go.) But I’d rather they got their homework done and we eat a healthy, balanced meal than they have clean rooms. Because I also think it’s important for them to have playtime to just go out and be kids too. Striking a balance is always…something we strive for, and usually miss by a long shot. I’m just picking my battles.

When I get angry, I really struggle through an inner dialogue about whether I am going to stay engaged and in control, or whether I am going to abdicate my parental responsibility, disengage, and go hide in my room, basically just saying, “Fuck it.” Again, maybe that’s because I have less energy than most people to spread out throughout the day and use to meet all my parenting responsibilities. But I’d guess I’m not the only one out there who goes through that process.

Like I said, I love the shit out of my kids, and being a parent is the most important job I have (I did, after all, CHOOSE to bring these three little lives into the world). But it can be a bitch, this parenting thing. Hardest fucking job around.

They push your buttons. They come at you from three sides at once. They are all teenagers, I swear, although none of them are 13 yet. They NEED this and they NEED that and they forgot their lunch and canyoupleasedriveforthisfieldtripmummy and can I have this friend over and I want, I want, I want!!!! Buttons, ladies and gentlemen, buttons.

And then they crawl into bed with you at night, or first thing in the morning, and they fall asleep in your arms, snuggled perfectly into the crook of your shoulder. They look at you and see that you can’t handle even one more tiny thing, and they lift up on their toes and wrap their tiny arms around you and just say, “I love you, Mummy. I love you.”

And suddenly, every challenge you’ve faced along the way, every battle you’ve had to fight with or on behalf of your children, every wet towel on the bathroom floor…they’re all worth it. With that one touch of little body against Mummy’s body, little arms around Mummy’s neck, and that sigh, that exhale, that…release of everything heavy in the world, because they know that you can shoulder it for them for a little while…and it’s all worth it.

I love the shit out of my kids.

Even when they take me to Bolivia.

17
Jun
10

Stripped Bare – Terror or Redemption?

The thing we fear the most can set us free, if we let it. True? False? Let’s discuss.

My greatest fears surround the safety of the people I love.  My second greatest fears are all tied up in money. Not like the neat string around a butcher’s package either.  Tangled like the drawer full of 312 old TV and computer cables, maybe even some from your stereo (replete with turntable) from 1978 which you’ll probably never use again, but you’re not even sure what they’re for anymore, so you’d better hang onto them in case Dad or Boyfriend is trying to help you out with some electrical mojo one day and asks for that cord, and they’re all balled up in that drawer together, inextricably linked for life (which makes good for the argument that you couldn’t throw any away because that would require hours of untangling that, frankly, you just don’t have to devote to something so inconsequential.) Whew. THAT kind of tied up and tangled.

Why, for me, is money so devastatingly fraught with fear and…um…fear? I wish I knew. I grew up in a middle class household. Mum was pretty good with managing money. Dad was pretty good at making money. You’d think things would work just fine. Dad was also good at spending money on the toys he wanted in the here and now. Mum was not a fan of the conflict that arose when she managed the money, so she handed that task over to dad. Dad worked in a business that paid big chunks at semi-random intervals, as well as a base-level income on a regular basis. But those big chunks often heralded a shopping spree…not like, “Ooh, I bought a couple of new pairs of shoes!” kind of shopping spree.  More like, “Check out my new Mercedes!” kind of shopping spree.  We had plenty of nice stuff in the here and now.

I also remember some hard times. His business was hit hard by the recession in the late 80’s. There were other hits they took over the years, but that was the biggest one I remember. All of a sudden there was talk of selling the boat or this or that car, or maybe even the house. There were no vacations for a while. All of these things impacted the niceties in life, but never in my childhood do I ever remember being worried that there wouldn’t be a roof over my head or food on the table. My older sister remembers lots of PB&J dinners before I was born, but it never got quite that scary again. That being said, there was never any sense of ongoing security. When everyone at Dad’s company took a pay cut to keep the company afloat, there was not a lot in the way of savings in the bank, put away for just such an emergency. And when Dad retired, he was pretty darn grateful for the RRSP’s that his union had automatically invested his money into, because he hadn’t made many alternate plans. But STILL nothing points to a reasonable fear of being out on the street with nothing to eat and nowhere to live.

You would think, however, growing up and seeing the positives and negatives in the ways that my parents dealt with money (quite consciously and as objectively as one can from smack dab in the middle of it all) that I would formulate a better working model for myself. You’d think. If you have read other posts of mine, you may have been lightly introduced to the concept of what I should do and what I do do are often rather at odds with one another. This would be one of those times. I have grown up to be less than fabulous with money. Restraint is something I dream of, but have never really tasted for myself. Money management requires restraint. Hence: me, 3 kids, 37 27 years old, with no savings, still living paycheque to paycheque. Still getting my gas or TV cut off from time to time. Some of that is because I don’t make enough money. Some of that is because I’m not diligent enough about staying present, focused and engaged in the financial side of my life. And a little teensy-weensy (OK, maybe not always so teensy-weensy) part of it is because I am a complete, self-diagnosed, unadulterated, unabashed shoe whore. But I digress.

So for the past 7 years, I have been in a complicated financial arrangement with my parents: my house. Complicated because initial intentions were never put down on paper. Complicated because the time-frame of the arrangement extended far beyond the initial intent. Complicated because through divorce, retirement, injury, bankruptcy, economic downturns, hell and high water, no one’s current financial picture is what was anticipated 7 years ago, and the tax man cometh. The long and the short of it is that I cannot afford to live here any longer.

But my kids were babies here. I was married when I moved into this house. I watched my parents split up, my mum move in, my dad sail around the world, my mum move out, my mum date her high-school boyfriend, my dad try internet dating, and my parents get back together, all from this house. I’ve gone through debilitating depression in this house and made it through the other side…so far anyway. I’ve watched my brother work his ass off to become a household name with a certain demographic, and finally watch his records go gold and platinum. I’ve watched my sister fight tooth and nail to support her kids while delicately extricating them from a damaging relationship with their father. I moved from this house with one husband and three children aged three and under, all the way to England, returning 6 months later with three children, less the fourth child husband. I started smoking again in this house, and quit 6 years later. I spent a year stoned out of my fucking mind in this house. I spent a lot of years being not present enough with my children in this house, and those are years I will never get back. Which has brought me to this place: it’s time to simplify.

The thought of moving out of this house is staggering. I amass a fuck of a lot of shit. Those who know me will stand up and testify. I may feature heavily in a future episode of A&E’s Hoarders. But it’s not just that the work involved is staggering. It is terrifying to me to contemplate losing the security of the first family “home” I have created as an adult, without having anything as or more secure to move on to. I don’t know what will happen after this. I may have to go back to renting for a while. I may have to go back to renting for a long while. (At least until my Sugar Daddy shows up. Him or Prince Charming. Whoever gets here first. Ready, set…aaaand go!) The reality is, it is entirely possible I won’t ever be able to get back into the market again. And I have to swallow that one whole.

So I’m thinking…I have lost everything at one time or another over the last few years. I lost my financial sense of self, and a whole lot of pride when I had to file for bankruptcy. I lost my sense of family, security, and to a degree, hope when my parents split up, shortly followed by the implosion of my own marriage. I lost my physical capability when I injured myself. I lost my sense of self when I lost my ability to work. I very nearly lost all my marbles (and I say that only minimally in jest) thereafter, when I plunged into a debilitating and suicidal depression, which turned into a diagnosis of bipolar II eventually. I lost contact with most of my friends…and much of reality…when I spent a year on prescription narcotic painkillers. Through all of these things I have lost bits of my kids’ childhoods, through my own inability to stay present. My house – overloaded with unattainable responsibility and unspoken expectations though it has been – has been the one constant throughout all of these disappointments. It has been the one sense of security as I have watched everything else in my life shatter around me, little bits at a time.

It is the one thing that I have had a deathgrip on, clawing at its porous bones, terrified that if I let go, I would be letting go of the last vestige of my personal sense of safety and security. But the time has come. I have made the decision. I have told my kids. I have posted it on Facebook, for Christ’s sake. (NOW it’s final, if it’s on FB!) I have chosen to be stripped bare.

Bare.

Bare could be taken to mean Empty. Devoid. Without. Or it could mean Blank. Awaiting. Ready. It’s the old glass half empty, or glass half full. I am choosing – and yes, I do believe this is my choice – to make this a new beginning. This is Bare. Blank. Ready to be Rebuilt. Reborn. Renewed. Redefined. Reawakened. So is it terrifying? Absolutely and unequivocally. Is it redemption? I choose to believe so. Redemption in the form of a new start, unhindered, without strings, without the weight of all that has gone wrong before. It is redemption in the form of the opportunity to simplify and come together as a family with my children – rediscover and redefine who we are and what is important to us. It is redemption in the form of flying free of outdated responsibilities, energetic roles, expectations, and fears. That which you fear the most can set you free, if you let it.

I choose to let go and let God.




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