One On One…

I got to spend some one-on-one time with my mommy and daddy darling this weekend past.
My Glugster had a bit of a social get together and a meeting with his hunting club, so I grabbed the chance and got him to drop me off at my folk’s place.

I can’t tell you when last I had the opportunity to do so, and it was so good to do it again. My mom and I strolled around a mall, did a little shopping, laughed a lot. We had lunch with my daddy darling, window shopped some more, giggled together.
The afternoon was spent setting up my mommy darling’s new phone, looking at photos, and listening to music.

It was glorious.

And I am truly blessed that I am still able to do things like that.

The Mommy Wars

I was visiting Tertia’s page the other day and I came across this link: “Why the mommy wars tear us apart”. I have copied the first paragraph here to whet your appetite, but it truly is a fascinating piece, especially since it’s so regularly a bone of contention in our society. Tertia refuses to discuss it on her blog anymore because it gets so heated that her comments page actually catches fire (I promise- I’ve seen it!) and it upsets her no end. Here’s the first paragraph:
When Gaby Wood returned to her old school in New York City for a reunion she was struck by how vexed the issue of work and motherhood had become for her generation. No one seemed happy with the choices they had made. Forty years after the birth of feminism, the ‘new moms’ who believe their place is in the home have added a new twist to the gender wars.
Honestly- as much as I berated myself for leaving Damien in daycare and nursery schools when I started working, I had to suck it up and go on because I didn’t have a choice. I have always been a single mom with one income- mine- and as often as I still dream of having my own business (one day) I cannot take the risk of having a possibly wildly fluctuating income when I have a child to house and feed and school fees to pay and petrol to budget for. And in working, I have been able to give Damien a much better life so far, than if I had stayed home and attempted to scrape an uneducated living out of South Africa’s sometimes dodgy economic climate. I say uneducated simply because I was 17 when Damien was born and I didn’t get any tertiary education. Since Damien was born, I have surprised myself with just how resourceful I can be, and although we live far out of the cushioned lap of luxury, we are comfortable and neither of us wants for anything. I own my car and if I save properly I can even afford to take us away on holiday and send my boy to a school of his choosing! All his life he has wanted to be a marine biologist- and even if he changes his mind in his choice of career- I should one day be able to help him pay for university or college (perhaps even pay all of it).
Do I wish I could have stayed home with him?
Of course!
Do I regret working full day?
Of course not!
I leave you with this absolutely brilliant quote from her article:
A mother is by necessity a chameleon, shifting shape to meet needs she is always trying to teach herself to identify.

More On Single Parenthood

(e-mail post) This came off one of the many parenting newsletters I subscribe to. I am a SMBC (single mom by choice). But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I do not, nor will I ever, recommend single parenthood to anyone. No matter how much money you have and no matter how old you are. IMO Hollywood “stars” are unfortunately glamourising single parenthood by either adopting or having children on their own. Yes- adoption is brave and fabulous and I have no end of admiration for people who adopt a child. But ample money isn’t enough to be a parent. This letter says a lot and I think it’s very accurate.
What We Can All Learn From Single Parents by Hal E. Runkel, LMFT
I cannot really imagine being a single parent. Yes, I’ve counseled with hundreds of them, spoken to hundreds more. And yes, I’ve experienced countless moments of “doing it on my own” with my two kids when my wife was out, or out of town. And yes, unfortunately, I was raised by two single parents after my parents divorced when I was eleven.
But even with those experiences, I do not really know what it’s like to be a single parent. I am nowhere near being able to accurately empathize with those moms and dads struggling to do it on their own night after night. Whether by death or divorce, or whether you’re the custodial or visitational parent, being a single parent carries with it a unique experiential perspective that cannot be fully understood unless you are one.
But rather than extend those of you single parents a little sympathy, I would rather thank you for what I’m learning from you. I think we all can. And here’s what I’m learning so far.
Every parent is a single parent.
One of the things that plagues married parents is the continual negotiation of “who does what” with the kids. I believe a large part of this can be avoided by one simple step?operate as if you’re the only parent around. I know this goes against so much common wisdom about “teamwork” and “united fronts”, but operating this way really has revolutionized my relationships with my children. Here’s why.
One of the concepts I work with comes from Jamie Rasor’s book, Raising Children You Can Live With. He talks about the two sides of parenting: the “personal” side (play, affection, nurturing conversation, etc.), and the “business” side (scheduling, discipline, tough conversations about family rules, etc). These two sides get worked out in some fashion in every family, but the stereotypical way is that one parent is “the nurturer” and the other is “the disciplinarian.” This used to mean “Wait until your father comes home!”, leaving Dad no room to enjoy his kids. Now this balance has shifted, with Dad the stereotypical buddy and Mom having to do all the dirty work.
But single parents, because they don’t have the luxury of balancing the two sides with another person, actually get this right. The key is to find the balance within every parent. In order for me to be the best dad possible, I choose not to depend on my wife to do the dirty work or the nurturing work?I choose to do both as I see fit with each of my kids. And I encourage my clients to do the same. Choose to befriend your kids, play with your kids, learning to truly delight in them as individuals. But also choose to respect them (and yourself) enough to set consequences for their choices and follow through with ridiculous, yet calm, consistency.
This doesn’t mean crowd my wife out of her relationship with our kids, but it does mean that I have a relationship with each of my children that is not dependent on her. That’s one thing single parents are teaching me.
Two more important things I have learned from Single Parents
1. Guilt is a four-letter word.
One of the hallmark principles I work with in my life and my therapy is that “What Doesn’t Get Addressed Will Get Acted Out (and Vice-Versa).” Most of us know this instinctively to be true. Whenever we do not address a concern we have with another person, we end up treating them differently (passive-aggression, avoidance, pettiness).
Whenever we are struggling with certain emotions associated with our children, we ignite an internal battle. We begin to resent them, for instance, when they don’t obey, or respect us, or appreciate all our efforts. If we don’t address this resentment with a peer or mentor, then it becomes all too easy to lash out toward our kids for just being kids.
One negative emotion single parents struggle with is guilt. Guilt over creating (or choosing) the single parent situation in the first place. Guilt over not having “enough” for their kids (time, money, living space, patience). Guilt over resenting these kids when it just seems like life is too overwhelming and it would be so much easier without them. If not addressed, this guilt can overtake a single parent, or any parent for that matter.
What impresses me about so many parents I’ve worked with is their resolute decision to deal with it. Talk about it with me, with their peers, even with their ex-spouses. This takes so much courage to actually admit, but loses so much power when given permission to see the light of day and just breathe. Guilt is only destructive when kept under lock and key, but when exposed it can be seen as simply faulty, perfectionist thinking. It can even help us change certain behaviors that are eroding our self-respect.
2. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
While it goes against our natural instincts to take care of ourselves before we take care of our kids, the airlines have got it exactly right: if we’re out of breath, we can’t help anybody. And so many of us parents, particularly single parents, feel like we’re out of breath. So many parents feel so overwhelmed that they’re ready to pull their hair out, throw their hands up, you name it. But there’s no wonder why: We’re orbiting our whole lives around our kids and still wondering why it feels we’re just running in circles.
We as parents have been sold a lie, that once we have kids our life is now over?now it’s all about the kids. Look at our minivans. We’ve got stickers emblazoned all over with our kids’ names on them, shouting out to the world who really owns the van, and our lives. What I’ve learned from so many single parents, though, is that in order to truly be available and responsible to their kids, they have to take self-care very seriously. Single parents have been forced by life to realize that no one is going to take care of them physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually any better than they are taking care of themselves. And while that sometimes feels selfish (getting a babysitter while going out with friends or going to the gym or talking with a counselor), it’s usually the most selfless thing they can do.
This is because the more we take care of ourselves, the less we need our kids to be perfect. The more I take care of myself, the less I need my kids to respect or obey or appreciate me in order for me to still be the parent I want to be. Strong single parents I’ve had the honor of watching have taught me that taking care of myself, putting on my own oxygen mask first, is the best thing I can do for my kids.
And lately, I’ve needed these lessons. This summer has been among the most challenging seasons of my life, one that has led to an even greater appreciation for single parents. In early June we learned that my wife, Jenny, has cancer. As she has begun her battle through chemo, I have had plenty of occasions to consider what if. And plenty of occasions to practice doing this parenting thing on my own.
I know, however, that my wife will be victorious in this battle. All the signs so far point to imminent victory. But even more importantly, I know from watching so many single parent heroes that I have plenty of great examples to learn from in the meantime.
We all do.

In Praise Of Single Parenting

I just had to put this in, I saw this picture of my son again this morning and it made me think of this article. I have found other stuff of hers on the web that makes for interesting reading, but this one in particular is very close to my heart.

Pity the poor single mom! Not only does she bring home the bacon, she also has to cook it. Not for her the comfort of a partner to pick up the slack, a Daddy to do homework duty, a husband to haul out the trash. But the perks of single momming aren’t to be sniffed at: most Single mothers get every second weekend off, it’s usually agreed Dad will have the children for a Saturday and Sunday every fortnight. Which other parent can have four child-free days a month? I adore my children to within an inch of their miraculous lives, but sometimes, when I drop them off on a Friday evening, I drive off singing. No dinners to cook. No bedtime battles. No 6am “Ma, can we watch K-TV?” to negotiate. And, for those who’ve been brave enough to embark on another relationship, no hiding under the duvet. Yahoo! Chandeliers, here we come. The children are more independent. Any kid who’s had to help his mom unblock a noisome kitchen sink, or let himself into the house every afternoon throughout high school, is going to develop an innate independence. I’m amazed by the initiative shown by my children – they sew on their own buttons, change their own light bulbs, and clean their own teeth (admittedly, only after 13 years of reminders). Single mothers can be as childish as they like. There’s something about having a partner watching that keeps you in line. You may want to put a lampshade on your head and dance the hokey-pokey at a dinner party, but a warning look across the table will smartly curb the urge. Your sudden feeling to swap your customary pale cords and linen for orange flares and purple velveteen, will quickly fade in the face of your partner’s flared nostrils. Children are, however, eccentric. They love swimming straight after they’ve eaten; they love running inexplicably around the garden, shouting war cries; they love dressing up and putting on musicals. And they’re really appreciative of anyone who joins in. Single mothers can release their child within – without paying thousands to a therapist. Single mothers can make decisions alone “Can I come home at midnight?” asks the 15-year-old. “No,” says the father. “When I was your age, I had to be home by 8.” “But darling,” says the mother, “when I was 15, I was going
on holidays with my friends alone. I was…” “I have spoken,” thunders the father, and the subject is closed. Sure, single mothers don’t have the “go ask your father” option (as in when your child asks, “Mom, what’s oral sex?”), but decision-making is a simple process: what Mom
says, goes. Although, of course, it’s ideal to reach consensus through discussion, being a single parent does mean you can say, “Because I’m your mother and I said so.” It’s heady stuff. Meal times aren’t set in stone Family therapists tell us that quality time is important, and that, in these days of TV addiction, eating a meal together around a table is paramount. I find it much more fun to watch a video in bed with my kids at 6pm as we stuff ourselves with popcorn, and much more intimate. We can always throw together some pasta later. We’ve breakfasted on Smarties at 5.30am, lunched on chips and Coke at 11am and then, starved for “real” food, gone out to a nearby farm to pick cherries until we all got sick. Now, that’s what I call togetherness.
Single mom’s friends are interesting. Because they’re distrusted by wives and lusted after by husbands, single moms are usually pariahs. So they make up their own circle of friends. I’m proud to say that the adults who influence my children in wonderful ways include a gay artist,
a deeply thoughtful author, a genius plumber, an autistic masseur, a lapsed (but not for sexual reasons) priest, an alternative healer and a terrifyingly energetic photographer. None is married, and every last one of them is wildly interesting. Vive la difference! By Tracey Hawthorne

Oh the joys of mommy-dom!

Well, anticipation fast turned to disappointment on Friday night when Damien and I set off for our nearest shopping centre to see Star Wars Episode III, only to discover that it wasn’t showing at this particular chain of movie theatres! So, off we went to the internet café around the corner to see if any of the other shopping centres nearby were showing it. Unfortunately, the one that did have it was just a little further away than I was prepared to drive – I also knew it would be horribly over-full on payday Friday. So Damien and I decided to see it on Saturday morning at the aforementioned over-full shopping centre. Instead we went to Steers and then went home and got some videos to make up for our disappointment. I must stress again just how excited we were so that you can understand our almost total dejection. We are both HUGE Star Wars fans (not fanatics mind you – we don’t own all the movie “stuff” or talk funny, we just watch the movies* over and over again… ok weird enough), and in the week after Episode III was launched, Damien re-watched ALL five of the previous movies – each one at least twice.
And then* disaster struck! My mother’s maid arrived early on Saturday morning to help me out with the housework (my pet hate) and then nearly left when she saw Damien’s room!!!!! Damien’s room, and the generally untidy state of it, is a constant bone of contention in our lives. For the preceding week (at LEAST) we had been arguing about the state it was in, and on Saturday morning I told him that if he didn’t sort it out enough for the maid to do her thing, we weren’t going to go see Star Wars.
I should have known better.
With Damien, one of the few punishments that “work” is grounding, or privileges being revoked, both for only short periods of time otherwise we both forget about it. Unfortunately, when he is grounded (or his privileges are revoked) then – me being the mommy – I am too!
And now, as I sit here typing this (watching Taxi blink groggily at me after my cell phone woke him up) on Sunday night, it struck me that having postponed the movie for a week – providing Damien can keep his room tidy – we may never actually get to see it on the big screen! You see, that’s just how our lives are. I can’t just ignore the punishment and go to see the movie anyway. Naturally that just defeats the object of the lesson, and – I admit it – I suffer from what I have started calling SMS (single-mom-syndrome) and one of the symptoms is that when I have money I have a hard time NOT spoiling my baby. And Damien is all but incapable of keeping his end of deals like this one, even when the reward is something he REALLY wants. The ONLY way I will ever keep his room tidy is to empty it completely and pawn all his stuff, or do it myself.
I am beginning to think that certain behaviours are related purely to the male chromosomes. Like the cliché about men being incapable of putting dirty washing in the washing basket – despite the basket being 2 inches from where they just dropped their dirty clothes. Or like always remembering to lift the toilet seat and I don’t even mind it being permanently up! And it’s not like he has anyone to copy these bad habits from either.
Anyway, after sherry and homemade soup at my folk’s house, and using their washing machine ‘coz mine is STILL broken, my brother, sister in law and myself watched the European F1 (a better day for Ferrari than the last few races). I wish you could see how excited my 10 month old nephew gets when he sees motor racing on TV!
Till next time, goo’night.
The only mystery about the cat is why it ever decided to become a domestic animal ~ Compton Mackenzie.