Category Archives: Single Parenting

Dear Emily June,

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Before coffee, before the alarm even went off this morning we sat down and I read to you.  Letters from previous birthdays. You were sitting on the kitchen table behind me.  We got to the year you turned five when I turned around and you had tears rolling down your face. “Stop after this one.  I am going to be sobbing when the bus comes.” Oh, my dear, sweet girl, we are cut from the same sappy cloth.  xxoo

 

Dear Emily June,

Yesterday morning when you looked at me and said “Last morning of being eight” I think you were disappointed that I didn’t leap over the kitchen counter and scoop you up in my arms and tell you that you will always be my baby. The truth is that I couldn’t get it out of my mouth without crying.

This year I have shed more tears over your birthday than I usually do (and we both know that I get a little sappy around your birthday.) I have tried to figure out what it is that has me so verklempt.  And here it is, kiddo.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Sometimes I write you letters and I give them to you. Sometimes I write you letters and I know that I won’t give them to you for many years to come.  This is one that I will hang onto for a awhile.  This has been a big, big year for us.  We have had lots of big, scary conversations. You pushed hard on me about the truth about my marriage to your father.  You were ready to ask me hard questions about divorce and love.  For the most part, I think I was ready to answer them.  I had planned on answering them someday.  And the someday just showed up and we ran with it.

We have talked about how sometimes two people just aren’t happy anymore and you have to let go. But here’s the thing – sometimes we were happy.  I don’t really talk about that part much because it opens the little girl door to “why didn’t you just try harder” or “see, maybe you could have stayed married.”   I know both of those doors because if I am honest with myself I still peek inside them from time to time. And one of those times is your birthday.

Because the truth is, Emily, that Jeremy and I let each other down.  We did.  But for at least a few incredible picture-perfect weeks we had it in the bag.  I was enormously pregnant and your dad was on stand-by.  Your dad, who is allergic to answering his cell phone, picked up in the middle of the first ring.  Every time.   The weeks surrounding your birth continue to be some of the best days of my life.  And whether I like to think about it or not, he was a huge part of that.  And that’s hard for me to think about.

It’s weird. I know exactly what to do with the feelings of resentment, anger, sadness and disappointment surrounding a divorce.  I am not really sure what I am supposed to do with the good memories, though.  They break my heart a bit, every year.  I have been struggling with all of these feelings, the good memories that surface surrounding your birthday, since 2011. You were turning six and you were seamlessly sliding into this new life, a new house, a new baby.  A few years later and I still can’t seem to figure out how to feel happy and sad all at once.

You are so much stronger and smarter than me.  You love and forgive and look forward.  I have so much to learn from you.  I am trying so hard not to lean on you, sweet girl.  It is hard enough to grow up, you don’t need to be worrying about me.  I will grow up, too, in my own time.

Last week I had a tantrum on a Sunday morning.  Your dad and your sister left for church and we stayed home for a few extra minutes.  Wordlessly, you just started helping me pick up toys and make order.  You know that I think more clearly when things aren’t a mess.  I was trying to clear the counters of your dad’s canning shenanigans and I might have been screaming about jalapenos and you said so quietly “But it makes him happy.” I just sat down on the floor in the kitchen and cried.  I wanted to have clean counters and you just wanted the people who you love to be happy.  See? You are smarter than me.

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Every day I look at you and I am amazed that you are so big.  Your sister is just the same size as you when it was just you and me and our big, scary, new life. When she slides into the crook of my arm at night and I press my head against hers I can close my eyes and see your face.  It is almost impossible not to run up the stairs and climb into your bed.  You’re so smack dab in the middle of being little and big.  I wish you would climb in my bed and let me hold you while you sleep but I wish I could pour you a glass of wine and spill my guts, too.

This is the messiest, sloppiest birthday letter yet.  And I am afraid it is more about me than you.   I used to write you birthday letters that tried to sum up who you were that year so that we could look back and remember exactly who you were when you were two, three, four years old.  I guess nine is the magic age when I don’t feel like I can write that down for you. I know how you make me feel.  I know how I feel about your birthday.  But I don’t really know that I can say “This, this is who Emily is” anymore.  That’s on you.

Oh, Emily… there is nobody like you.  You are the sweetest, kindest person I have ever known.  I am smiling through my tears as I write this.  My 20th high school reunion is in a little over a week, and here I am writing a letter to my oldest daughter and I am tempted to sign it like a yearbook…. “Don’t ever change, LYLAS, Mom.”

Because I do, love you like a sister.  I never had one growing up, but I imagine this is what it might be like, growing up side by side with someone who understands parts of you that you can’t explain. Like it or not, I am still growing up, too, right along with you. And really, if I had one wish for you…. do not ever, ever change, Em.  You are unfuckingbelievably cool, just the way you are.  You are kind and funny.  And in my book, that’s pretty much where it’s at.

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I love you, baby girl.  Every day more than the day before. You turned everything I thought I knew inside out and I never looked back. Keep being awesome, Ems.  You got this.

Love,

Mom

Day 69: Downsizing Day

Day 69: Today fire someone from your entourage.

Today’s challenge was actually accomplished a few days ago.  I laid off my dish washer, my bus driver, my babysitter, my laundry fetcher, my glass of water getter, my “what did we need at the store, again?” remember-er, my dog walker, my cat feeder, my bed warmer, my cell phone phone caller and finder, my entertainer, my audience and my DJ.  All at once.

MQD has been gone since Sunday afternoon and this morning I yelled at the dog.  And at Emily.  I am tired.  I am frustrated.  I am, admittedly, without caffeine, as well.  But mostly I just feel spent.

The picture below was taken on the very first afternoon that MQD kept Em.  I don’t recall now where I was needing to be, work, perhaps , but it was a picture he sent me to indicate that all was well and they were having a good time.  The day that picture was taken I did it all every day.  And today, not even a year later, I can’t remember how to get us all out of the house on time all alone.

Like childbirth, being a single parent is one of those things you forget all about once it’s over.  I’m okay with that.

*I hope you’re having a good time, baby.  But come home soon, ok?  And don’t be alarmed when you get there.  It’s a wreck.  But all the animals slept in our bed.  And Em, too.  And Floppy Dog.  And Snoopy.  I checked to make sure the doors were locked at least four times before I went to bed every night.  We’re safe and sound.   Don’t know how I ever did it without you… For the record I plan to re-hire you on Saturday morning. xo
-Kel

Day 55: A Test of Patience

Day 55: A test of Patience, Flip the Perfect Pancake!

Today’s challenge is called a “test of patience” and invites you to learn to flip the perfect pancake.  Well, I can’t.  And it is not for lack of trying.  In fact, I can’t even cook the perfect pancake.  And I think it is largely because I lack patience.  When MQD and I first started dating and he first started hanging out with Em and me he would make pancakes pretty frequently on the weekends.  I didn’t realize that I had managed to do this, (and it was not my intent) but one morning Em asked for pancakes and specifically asked MQD  to make them.  I thought she just liked his better than mine.  Until she pointed out that she didn’t think I knew how to make pancakes.  Only Mike and Daddy.  Perfect.  Em thought I didn’t even know  HOW.  I was off the hook permanently.

And truthfully?  I don’t think I have made pancakes since.  I make waffles.  And they’re tasty.  But they don’t require patience.  Don’t open the waffle iron until it beeps.  Done.

Several weekends ago we had a weekend guest.  A guest that can flip the perfect pancake and I thought about asking him to teach me.  But in thinking about that I realized that he has already taught me patience.  It’s funny that I am sitting down to bang out my feelings on this today of all days, the day before Thanksgiving.

Three years ago I had a turkey sandwich from the Kangaroo in Newport News on Thanksgiving day.  I had just dropped off Emily with Jer and my in-laws for Thanksgiving. I was invited to stay but elected to get on the road so there’d “be less traffic.”  Truth be told I couldn’t keep myself from crying and would rather just rip the band-aid off.  It was the first holiday I’d spend away from her.  I drove all day towards Chapel Hill.  I pulled in Amy’s driveway in Hillsborough at about six that evening, stopping for another gas station turkey sandwich.  She wasn’t home yet and I called her parent’s house to see if she was on her way.  I had my laptop and I could get on her wi-fi from my car.  I double-checked my email, again.  It was still there.  The email from a landlord that was happy to show me an apartment the following day.  A landlord that didn’t care to check my credit.  A landlord that would walk through the apartment I’d later rent  and turn his face while I weeped, pretending he didn’t see me.

That weekend was messy, full of tears and wine and laughs and new friends.  On Monday I went back to the beach.  And I moved the following weekend.  I might be the only woman in the history of the world that ever separated from her husband and enlisted him to help her pack and help her unpack, but I did.  When he left my apartment the day I moved in my family was still there, and a few of my friends. He gave me a hug and he said I was “gonna be okay.”  A question I asked him often for years, always “is it gonna be okay?’

That day I thought we were starting over.  That our friendship would begin anew that day and somehow we’d be this unstoppable force, parents, ex-spouses, friends.  The following year brought many arguments and ugly phone calls.  We were “friendly” in front of Emily but the ease we’d always had with each other was gone.  As my life moved forward and his did, too, we didn’t share the day-to-day.  We didn’t know each other anymore in the familiar way we had and nothing had moved in to take its place.  There was just an empty spot where our marriage had been.

A couple years later when MQD and I got more serious and I could see the future I was building I felt like it was important to try to extend my hand in friendship, again.  Jer came to visit, to get our Christmas tree.  It was awkward.  We were polite.  I invited MQD over that evening so that Jer could meet him.  And then I beat feet outta there as fast as I could.  I spent the night out with MQD that night and argued with Jeremy when I got home in the morning.  I was ready.  Ready for us to talk about my relationship with MQD and about the future and about how we’d work it all out.  He didn’t want to.   Worse than that he wouldn’t even really argue with me.  He was just gone.   Christmas passed with more polite conversation.

In February of 2009 I sent him an email.

I know you’ll likely not reply to this email but I wanted to talk to you.  I think it is really important for us to be  able to maintain a dialogue about Emily in order for us to be the best parents we can be.  And I think we’re doing a great job with this. But …. I also think it is important for us to be able to have a dialogue about well…. us.  Not about you and me, but about you and about me.  No one has known us, either of us like we know each other and I hadn’t bargained on this.  Losing our friendship all together.  Maybe I’m naive, but I thought we could do this, and still have each other.

It was about twenty months later that he called and said “Hey, can you call me back when you have a minute? I need to run a few things by you, figure out what I am gonna do.”  It was my friend Jeremy.    Calling me to ask for advice.  Because no one has known him longer.

The following week the house guest, the one that can flip a perfect pancake, came to stay the weekend.  We all stayed up late, laughing, talking about music and telling stories, playing games.  We made Chicken Penne.  We took Em out to run around downtown.  We all went for pizza.   And ice cream.  And beers at He’s Not Here.  We watched the SweetWater Brewing Co painter paint a new logo on the wall.  We talked about Jer’s plans to move off the beach soon.  Maybe to Colorado, maybe someday settling closer to his little lady.     MQD and I talked excitedly about wedding plans and the band that we hired.    We all talked about the future.  Not the past.

He left a day later than we’d planned.  At MQD’s suggestion that he stay another night so he could go by Em’s school on Monday morning.

So… three years.  It took three years.  My old friend, Jeremy, came to visit.  He came to visit my home, my amazing fiancée and our, all of our’s, beautiful daughter.    It was worth the wait.  And pancakes are over-rated. Friendships are never perfect, anyway.  I’ll take friendship over a perfect pancake.

This post is for you, Mike.  Oddly.  Your patience with me has given me the strength and the capability to heal.  I know it has not been easy.  I know it has been maddening at times.  I do not know how you have held my hand through the last two years.  I hope that you did it because you knew this day would come, and that it was worth it.  Because while my friendship with my ex-husband will benefit Emily, and it will benefit me, surely, it stands to strengthen you and me and our marriage more than I ever knew.  I have moved on.  I have let go.  I can love you with all of my heart, with everything I am and not look back.  And I have only you to thank for this.  Your understand and your encouragement and more than anything your love and your commitment.  You made me see a future where I’d never thought there’d be one.  And god damn… it looks good, babe.  That future looks really good.  I love you, babe.

10 Day Challenge (2) & Day 53

Quick and dirty, right to the point…..

Day Two: Nine things about yourself.

  1. I miss my family even more now that I am happier.  That seems backwards to me.
  2. Lists like this make me very self-conscious.
  3. I don’t read as often or as much  as I wish I did.
  4. Of all the things I no longer have a budget for (booze, smokes, shoes, drugs & rock and roll) the thing I miss buying most is underwear.
  5. If I hadn’t encouraged Em to wean at 3.5 I think she’d still be nursing.  And I am okay with that.
  6. Watching shitty television, while it is an embarrassing habit, is more relaxing to me even than napping.  Because I have an awful time falling asleep.
  7. Locking the doors to the house at any time other than before I go to bed makes me feel unnecessarily frightened.  I feel more comfortable with the windows open and the doors unlocked than I do barricaded in my house.  Even after our home was broken in to last year, I still rarely lock my doors when we are home.
  8. I would much rather be cold than hot.
  9. I think I cry once a day.  Sometimes more.  The Happiness meter is judged by whether or not I was crying over something silly and sentimental or something sad.   But I’d rather be over-emotional than a robot.

And as for Day 53’s challenge to “Return to Sender” all my junk mail, I finally got some last night.  (Heh, some junk mail, I mean.) However, none of it is really worth sending back.

Can’t send back catalogs, they provide countless hours of entertainment in our house.  They barely qualify as “junk mail.”  And while I generally consider unsolicited requests for charitable donations to fall in the category of “junk mail” I am not going to go to mail it back to them, costing them time and money in processing its return.  So, in order to keep today from being a total wash, I did look up the way to stop receiving ValPak coupons.  Because they annoy the crap out of me.  I have never used one.  Ever.  And yet, I’d bet there are a few on my fridge right now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I am gonna wake this lazy bag o’ bones and take him outside for a few.

Graduation Day

I was standing in the bathroom just now washing my hands when I started to laugh. The pearls, black shirt with a boat-neck combination kinda gives me a High School Senior Picture vibe today.  I have had it in the back of my mind for a little over a week to try and write down how I have been feeling recently… like I graduated.  I’m not exactly sure when it happened.  But I am not a “Single Parent” anymore.  It wasn’t a role I was fond of having and not one I took on over night, it was a gradual transition in some respects.  Just as shedding it has been.  Last weekend we met up with a friend of Em’s and her mom.  She’s in the thick of it, the negotiating, the lawyers, the business end of falling out of love, or at least marriage.   I had so much to say.  But I felt myself bite my tongue.  All of a sudden my “been there, done that” freshly divorced advice sounded like it came from someone that had “been there and done that” a long, long time ago.   Moments in my life that stung, that made my eyes swollen, that made my arms ache from just trying to keep it all together… they were fading.  Moments you tell yourself that you will never forget… some good, some bad, defining moments.  They do fade.  And if you’re not careful you don’t even see them leaving… so I thought I’d best get it all down before it feels like it happened to someone else.  I tell MQD that someday Em will barely remember a time when she didn’t have a mom, a dad and a step-dad.  I never imagined that I wouldn’t remember it either…

Strangely, I have mixed feelings about not being a “Single Parent” anymore.  I love that Emily is reaping the rewards of having a larger everyday support system.  I love having a partner to bounce my thoughts off of and I obviously appreciate not being the only care-giver in our house on a day-to-day basis.  There’s “me” time, whatever the shit that is but moms love it, apparently.  But strangely… I am mourning the loss of a certain badass-nesss that came with the “I got this” attitude that I brought to being a single mother.  It was hard. Sure.  There were harried nights when the dinner I put on the table left a little bit to be desired.  There was more television viewed in my house than I cared to admit.   But we were an unstoppable team, me and Em.  It was Us against the world and I felt no need for an apology.

No one asks you how you manage it all when you have a partner in crime.  Like somehow the job of being  a parent is supposed to be unilaterally easier when you have another job, that of domestic partner/girlfriend/lover/fiancée/best friend, added in to the mix.  Yes.  Having MQD makes being a mother easier.  But being a mother AND a woman is harder, infinitely harder than being only Em’s mother ever was.  All alone, me and Em, my heart was never torn about where I should be.  I never wanted two things all at once.  Both with a desperate ferocity that only love can bring.

Last night I was awoken by a weird banging sound.   It scared me.  I woke up MQD and he checked the doors for me.  I was grateful he was there.  We laid back down and my heart was still racing the way it does when you wake up in the middle of a nightmare.  I couldn’t get back to sleep.  I rolled over against him and as is often the case when we are awoken in the night he was almost completely back to sleep in mere moments.  I was frightened still.  And I hopped out of bed, Snoopy, PillowDog and bed pillow in hand and headed for Em’s room.  I recall saying that I didn’t like her being so far away from me, I couldn’t protect her from the Boogie Man that was surely lurking outside our doors.  I slid in to bed beside her and she placed one hand on either side of my face.  Her teeny little body warm against mine.   She leaned her head against my chin and I could smell her.  And all at once I felt safe.

And then I felt guilty.  I imagined the Boogie Man entering through the minuscule crack below our bedroom window and who was there to protect MQD?  I’d all but given up an offering to the Boogie Man.  Saved myself and my little lady without a backwards glance.

I have graduated.  I am not a Single Parent.  But I haven’t quite figured out how to love them both all at once without feeling like someone gets short-changed.  And I think I’m gonna keep that BadAssMom cape you get at Single Mom school.  I earned it.