Ideal

Sometimes kids say the most profound things.

My younger son just completed two weeks of drama summer camp. He had a blast. He played the part of Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty. While he didn’t have the most lines he has had in a play before, he did get to dance with the princess, kill Maleficent, kiss the princess and save the day. Overall, a great show.

After the show we were cuddling on the couch talking about the show and about life. I told him that I let his dad know about the play but he didn’t make it. Instead of making excuses for him (again), I just held him and told him how proud I was of him.

He was quiet for a second, then he looked at me and said, “That’s why when I become a dad I want to be the ideal dad. Not perfect, because everyone makes mistakes, but ideal, as in trying to do the right thing and be there for my kids and their events.” We talked about how important it is to be at your kids’ events: drama productions, sports games, piano recitals, or whatever it is they like to do.

Being a single mom, I struggle with being there for everything he does. I support him in all of his events and I am always there for him, but somehow I never feel like it is enough. I am the “there parent”, the one who is there everyday so inevitably I am also the one who gets the attitude, the tears and the “blah” because I’m there. I’m not the special one; I’m the everyday one. I’m not the one he gets excited to see, but rather the one that he cries to when he is upset, scared or disappointed.

Funny how sometimes we get caught up in being the perfect parent, when all they want is the ideal parent. The one who tries their best and is there for them no matter what. At the end of the day, I would rather be the “there” parent who he relies on for everything.

After a few minutes he looked up at me and said, “Mom, you are an ideal mom. You aren’t always perfect, but you are always there fore me and you always try your best.” He cuddled back into my arms and I grinned – I may not be perfect, but I will take ideal anytime.

Better late than never??

Watching him glance at the door between every punch during karate class.

Sensing him get increasingly anxious as the week goes on in anticipation of his dad showing up or not.

Having to join the “regular” class instead of the father / child class because his dad didn’t make it on time.

Trying to help him hope for the best but not be disappointed if it doesn’t happen is heartbreaking.
But as his mom, that’s my job.

This week at karate class my son had a father/ child karate class. Having divorced parents and not living with his dad, an activity like this brings a heightened level of stress and anticipation.

I tried to start early. I told my ex about the day. Told him that his son was looking forward to having him there. Tried to convey the importance. I told my son that we would try our best but sometimes dad was busy and might not be able to make it (still making excuses for him).

My son was anxious and irritated all week. Not sure what his dad would say. Not sure what would happen. And not sure how to say all the things he is feeling.

He said he would go.

I tried to encourage them to spend some time together before or after karate class. I tried to arrange for him to pick him up and bring him so they could go together. His dad said he couldn’t do that.

On the way to karate I get the text. “Running late”.

Class begins and they ask kids with their dads to go to one place and kids without their dad’s to go to another part of the mat.

As he begins class in the other part of the mat, he watches the door. Glancing over his shoulder between each punch, kick, move. Mouthing to me “where is he?” Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

His dad does come. 15 minutes late. But better late than never; right?

After karate he asked his dad and his girlfriend if they could do something together. They said “no”. He asked when he would see them again. They said “soon”. He thanked them for coming. They gave him some stuff they bought him. And they left, 15 short minutes after they arrived.

My son packed up his karate bag came over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, “Father / son karate was fun. But I liked mother / son karate better.”

I beamed. Me too buddy, me too.

Sick days

sick dayThere is a commercial on TV I saw recently for Nyquil where the parent tells their son that they are taking a sick day, and the tag line says “Parents don’t take sick days, they take day-quil.”

As a single parent for most of my parenting life (even when I was married, I never had anyone to co-parent with me) I have always lived by the motto that parents don’t get sick days.

I remember once when my oldest son was little, probably 3 or 4, my cousin was spending some time with us. I was sick with the flu a couple of days and while there were people around who could have (and willingly would have) helped my son, he wanted his mom. And no matter how sick I felt, I took care of him. I did whatever he needed from me, between trips to the bathroom. My cousin just shook her head, amazed. She tried to convince my son that she could help him, but he wanted mommy. I fear we may have scarred her for life – she still doesn’t have kids.

Recently, my ex-husband texted me on a Wednesday that he was going to be too sick to see his son that upcoming Friday. He sees his son for about 24 hours every other weekend. My son, at the wise old age of 10, looked at me and said, “How does he know he will be sick on Friday, it’s only Wednesday?” I held in my snarky comments and told him to tell his dad he hoped he would be feeling better soon.

Then I put it into comparison. I have been having debilitating back pain this fall, but I’m still a mom. One night before going to bed I was having a severe flare up of back pain and had taken all of the ibuprofen I was allowed for that day and took something stronger to help me sleep. Eventually, I fell asleep, from about midnight until 3:00 AM. At 3:00, it was too soon to take the powerful meds again, but it was a new day so I started on the ibuprofen again. It didn’t touch the pain. It hurt to sit. It hurt to stand. It hurt to lie down. So as 3:30 AM I gave up trying to rest and I got everything ready for my day.

I called out sick to work.

I checked the absentee list for the day and arranged coverage for an unfilled teacher.

I emailed my secretary the plan for coverage.

I emailed my assistant principal anything he needed to cover for the day.

I emailed my superintendent to let him know I would be out.

I packed my son’s lunch.

And I waited until it was time, then I woke him up, made him breakfast, got him ready for school and waved goodbye when he left for the bus.

Then I drove myself to the emergency room.

And I made it home in time to greet my son when he got off the bus.

This mom definitely doesn’t take a sick day.

Disappearance or disappointment

I have 2 sons (the pride and joy of my life) from 2 different husbands (not my proudest moment).

My oldest son’s father was the disappearing one. We left him when my son was only a year and a half old after the relationship turned violent. I tried to keep a connection for my son with his dad, but I couldn’t do it alone. He did not make the effort to stay connected, so he disappeared from his son’s life. I worried about my son and tried to provide him with father-like figures throughout his life. But mostly he had me, as both mother and father. He is an amazing 19-year-old young man who is surprisingly well adapted and not bitter about his disappearing father.

My younger son has known his dad most of his life. He is 10 years old and we are only recently divorced. He sees his dad every other weekend. Every other weekend he is faced with disappointment from his father. He says it doesn’t hurt when his dad shows up late or cancels, but I know it does.

Being the one who’s home with his all the time, I sense a difference in his voice and his spirit when talking about his dad. He is careful and guarded. He is shy and uncertain. When he wants to make a change in his plans with his dad, he asks me to intervene. When he wants his dad to come watch him compete on his swim team, he asks me to invite him. And when he comes home from his dad’s, he holds me tighter.

I think that because he had a dad involved in his life for a long time, he misses the “dad” role more so than my older son did. He talks more about what kind of a dad he wants to be. I have a few friends who he looks to as a father figure. He talks about what he admires in them. He is constantly comparing and questioning.

While both my boys are different and have had different experiences with their fathers, I think that the disappointment is harder than the disappearance. While my older son was probably disappointed by the fact that his father was not in his life, it was not a constant sense of disappointment every other weekend.

It will be a struggle to help my son deal with the constant disappointment. I will continue to give him positive role models in his life, both male and female. And I will continue to be there for him, as both mother and father. And do my best to love him enough to grow into the wonderful young man I know he can be.