Captivating

As parents, when our children are born we find our little babies captivating. We love watching every single move they make. Was that a smile or just gas? Look how alert her eyes are! Did you see him grasp my finger? We are mesmerized by these little people we brought into the world.

As my kids grow I find them no less captivating. I’m awed by the people they are becoming.

My oldest daughter is intelligent, articulate and mature. Having breakfast with a friend of mine one day, the conversation the two of them had about nursing was incredible. You would never expect a 12 year old to know so much about the subject or be able to express her thoughts so well.

My youngest is funny, affectionate and thoughtful. It was her idea that we start fostering for the local animal shelter. She did all the research herself online, writing out everything she thought I should know about fostering, and then sat down with me to explain why this was a good fit for us. And I have to say, she was right.

My kids are just a year apart in age, but such completely unique individuals I’m captivated by the qualities that make each one of them a special person. I wish they appreciated each other more than they do today, but I know as they grow older they will understand their uniqueness better.

Captivating

Photo by Courtney Prather on Unsplash

Get a Life!

My life is a work in progress.  I am constantly learning from my mistakes, even when I think I’ve finally gotten it right.  Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from dating is how important it is to have a life of your own, outside of any potential relationship.

When I lived in NH I had family and friends.  It was easy for me to find things to do and I actually appreciated the rare moments when I had a few free minutes.  To be honest this is one of the main reasons I was able to stay married as long as I did.  After moving to FL everything changed.  I tried to make friends and meet people but that took a back seat to the other things going on in my life (specifically my divorce).

So when I entered my first relationship I had no other commitments, nothing to keep me from focusing all my time and attention on this person.  When he had things he wanted to do I waited patiently for him to be free.  I failed to make plans of my own in case he became available.  Eventually when this relationship ended I continued this pattern with other people I met.  Until one day I finally got it.

See, I felt like I had to keep time available in order to have a relationship.  Being a single mother, a good deal of my free time is spent with my kids.  Any time I wasn’t with them I kept open for finding or building a relationship.  At the time this seemed logical.  If being in a relationship was important to me then it made sense that I had to make time to work on that.

Except that made me dependent on a relationship to make me feel complete when I wasn’t with my kids.  This also made me come across as needy.  Plus when I met someone I was interested in I didn’t have anything to talk about outside of work and my kids which did not make me seem appealing.  I made myself too available, too accommodating.  It sounds cliché but men like the chase – and I did not require chasing since I would bend over backward for anyone willing to spend time with me.

I knew I had to change.  I knew I needed to get a life.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step but how do you fix it?

I had been part of groups on meetup.com for a while but had never made the effort to attend the events.  I was part of a couple of parents groups, a walking group and an “adventure” group so I had the opportunity to meet people and do things, but going to events where I didn’t know anyone pushed me out of my comfort zone so I made excuses not to go. I decided that I would start responding yes to any event I was even a little interested in.  If I changed my mind or couldn’t go I could always change my response to no later, but simply responding yes suddenly had me getting out more.

And when all else failed I started going out alone.  Yes, I said it.  Alone.  Many people are shocked, or at least surprised, when I tell them I go out alone.  For many the idea of going out alone would never cross their mind.  I was the same way, but I met someone who changed that for me (I’ll go into this in a different post).  So I found a local bar that I was comfortable in alone.  There was live music that was often very good and to my surprise I started meeting people.  About half the time I went in I would end up having a conversation with someone, or several people.  I probably would have met more but some nights I left after only a short time, especially in the beginning.  If you can master this it is very liberating.

Gradually the time I spent without my kids was filled up with fun and exciting things.  When I had my kids I got us all out among other people.  I started meeting people and making friends, some with kids, some without.  I still had time or could make time to date, but I was no longer focused on finding someone to be with.  I had many, many people to be with.

Now my life is full and complete.  I love every aspect of it whether my kids are with me or not.  I still haven’t found that person I want to share it with but eventually I will, and until then I am happy, happier than I ever thought I could be.

Meandering

I love to walk. Sometimes I walk downtown, heading toward a park near the water, meandering this way and that depending on which light is green. Each turn brings me closer to my final destination but the way I get there is different each time I go. Other times I head to a park, following whichever path seems most appealing at the moment. I might have started with a plan to head to the observation tower only to find a large noisy group walking that way, encouraging me to choose a different direction. I’ll still get to the tower, only I’ll wait until they have gone.

I meander through life this same way. As a single mother sometimes I’d love a roadmap, a straight line from where we are to where I want us to be, clear directions to follow. “Want your children to be happy and successful? Turn right now,” the sign should say with a big flashing arrow that can’t be missed. But that’s just not how it is.

Instead I follow a meandering path, choosing the next direction as the decision is presented to me. I might head one way only to find the road blocked, causing me to back up to the last fork in the road to head a different way. Life is not perfect; I’m not perfect. But I have faith that no matter how winding the trail is we will eventually get to our destination.

This weekend was a perfect example of the twists and turns of our life. We had a plan. Friday night we were going to go shoe shopping for my oldest daughter. Saturday morning we were going to go bike shopping as they both need new bikes. Saturday afternoon and evening we were going to meet my friend and her daughter at the beach then head out for dinner. Her daughter would spend Saturday night with us then we would get together Sunday afternoon to send her home.

That’s not what happened.

Friday morning the decision was made to have 3 friends sleep over, all good kids who spend a lot of time with us. Friday evening this expanded into 4 friends. Saturday morning all but one of these kids went back to their families, and my oldest went with the remaining one on an adventure with her friend’s dad. My friend, being tired from a morning hike asked to meet us for dinner first after which we took the my daughter and her daughter to an arcade since it had started raining. My girls were invited to a fair Sunday so the sleepover planned for Saturday night was pushed off a couple weeks, and they have just left on their next adventure. This afternoon, having a rare weekend day to myself, I’m meeting friends at a beach bar to listen to a local band.

I’ve always been a planner. I love to come up with a plan and follow it through to execution. But I have learned that often that just isn’t how life is, at least not my life. It’s much better to meander down the path and be open to opportunities as they come up. We stick to our commitments but remain flexible when circumstances change. You never know what you might see along the way.

Meandering

Suddenly

When my children were born I had this sense that I would get to watch them grow up over time. I watched as little by little they changed and learned. Each milestone was photo worthy – rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling themselves up, walking, talking. The first few years went by in a flurry of camera flashes to record each precious moment.

But at some point the obvious physical changes slowed down. The learning continued but not in a way that was easy to document with pictures. They learned to dress themselves, pick up their toys, share, and eventually read, write and so much more.

Suddenly my daughter is about to turn 13. Suddenly she’s fighting to become her own person, no longer going along with what I say just because I’m the mom. Suddenly she’s more critical than praising, more disagreeable than agreeable, more independent than dependent.

I know this is all part of growing up. I want her to question and challenge me, or at least the part of me that wants her to grow up to be a strong woman does. I am her safe space. I am the person she can challenge who will always love her.

I need to teach her to challenge and question respectfully. There are right and wrong ways to do it. But teenagers need the freedom to grow into an independent human being. They need to be allowed to make mistakes now so that they can learn there are consequences to their actions, beyond the ones I dole out. It can be hard to stand by and watch, knowing I could help but also knowing that allowing her to make these mistakes is better than any advice I can give her.

Suddenly I need to learn how to be the parent of a teenager. It’s not going to be easy. I know that. But I also know that she will grow up to be a beautiful, strong, independent leader. She will know she can do whatever she decides. I will support her the best I can, but I also know that one day, suddenly, she will be on her own.

Suddenly

It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken

When dealing with divorce, or the end of any relationship, it’s easy let sadness and self pity overwhelm us. As I’ve mentioned, I used a new relationship to help me avoid dealing with my divorce. As soon as that relationship ended I started looking for a new one. I was in a self destructive pattern that ultimately would lead me nowhere.

I came to this realization on my lunch break at work following a text conversation with the person I thought I was dating at the time. I had seen him a total of 8 hours in 3 weeks, amidst promises that his time would free up sooner rather than later. Here is how it went:

Me: “Can I ask you something?” (brilliant opening line – but at least makes sure that he is available to respond)

Him: “Yes”

Me: “Are you still interested?”

Him: “I am but…”

Me: “But?”

Him: “I don’t think I can give you what you need.”

Me: “So, you’re interested but I’m too needy?”

And I never heard from him again. To my credit I deleted the conversation and never attempted to contact him again.

Devastated that I was still alone, I finally went looking for answers outside of a new relationship. I love to read so I searched for books on dating, realizing the problem was me and knowing that the answer had to be out there somewhere.

I found many books and will post about the best (and worst) ones. There was one book that really helped me put this relationship into perspective: It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken: The Smart Girl’s Break-Up Buddy.

Co-authored by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt, it truly let me see the folly in trying to have a relationship with this man. This is a book I return to after every big breakup and it has helped me focus on improving myself instead of wishing for something that just wasn’t there.

Try it out for yourself and post a comment letting us know what you thought!

Wonder

Being a single mother has filled me with questions; questions about myself, my life, parenting and so much more. I wonder who I am, if not a wife and mother.  I wonder what I really want out of life, and how I’m going to get there alone.  I wonder how I can not only help my kids cope with divorce but learn and grow through our experiences.

Being a single mom of two young girls has been the scariest thing I’ve ever attempted. Managing the house, fixing problems as they come up, living with only one income and handling everything alone was overwhelming at first.  Add to that the demands of two children – cooking meals, homework, reading stories at bedtime, packing lunches, extra-curricular activities, birthday parties, school events – and I felt like a juggler standing on one hand trying to keep the balls in the air with just my feet!

Sometimes I wonder how I made it through those early days, but it has also been a time of the most amazing growth I have ever experienced. I never could have become the wonderful person I am now if I’d stayed in that toxic relationship.  I have developed a sense of self-worth I never knew was missing.  I have achieved things I didn’t know I could accomplish alone.  I have learned that I really can juggle with just my feet while standing on my hand, and I have developed friendships with people who will catch the balls that I might otherwise drop.

My girls never would have grown into the strong, confident leaders they are becoming. Watching them today I feel a different sense of wonder.  It’s the feeling you get when watching the most beautiful sunset.  They’re not perfect (none of us is) but they are remarkable and often surprise me with how grown up they are.

Knowing how far we’ve come, the struggles we’ve been through, I feel a sense of wonder at how much control we really do have over our lives. The world is ours!

Wonder

Uncompromising

When you think of parenting do you think of uncompromising standards or needing to compromise at every turn?  For me, and I would guess most of us, it would be a bit of both.

Raising kids, especially as a single mother often requires compromise.  I can’t fight the girls over every life detail.  They don’t want to clean their room?  Close the door.  They don’t want to eat what I have planned for dinner?  Have them help make something different that they do want.  They don’t want to help plant the flower beds?  Invite their friends over and turn it into a party.  Compromise.

My life is full of compromise.  But I do have standards, ways in which I am uncompromising.

We will be on time for commitments, whether it be work, school or meeting up with friends.

We will maintain the common areas of our house at an acceptable level of messiness.

We will behave responsibly.

We will treat those around us with kindness (ok, we’re working on this one).

We will have fun, enjoy life and appreciate all we have.

In these ways, I am uncompromising.  I encourage my kids, friends, family and those around me to be uncompromising as well!

Uncompromising