They are all that parents talk about. My kid is crawling now. My kid is walking. My kid is eating solid foods and sleeping through the night.
My kid’s first two teeth have poked through and he’s actually crawling (though he often gets frustrated and whines like bad brakes on a car). I’m so excited! It’s changing his look so much to be getting teeth and more hair. Such a little man already. I can’t wait to see who he will become as he gets older. He charms all the ladies and they coo at him or talk to him like he was older. “He’s trouble” they say, grinning. And I smile too, because he’s happy. He also is dancing, which is a very cute version of horizontally based head banging. He twists his head and body side to side and shakes his fists. He makes me happy when he’s happy.
As a single, I look forward to these milestones with trepidation but also joy. Part of it means that my baby is growing up a little too fast for my own comfort. I relish in the small accomplishments, feeling like a thief as I steal the memories for later. I could say I hoard these moments, simply because telling the story later on is little equivalent of the excitement I felt at first sight. And yet…part of me is agitated. Sharing these joys with a partner would make them that much more sweet. It would seem real. Not that it’s not real. He’s growing and changing, that’s all too very real. But, it’s almost as if a piece is missing. I can call my mom to tell her, but she’s done this before and it’s not as exciting as it is for me. This leads to me dummy-ing down my excitement, so much so that, at times, I fail to even let myself feel it. I long for someone to call in the middle of the day and to celebrate with me. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but when I think of how it will feel to have that, it feels different.
I hurt. I hurt for my son, who is without a father. I hurt for myself, who is alone. But I am lucky. I am loved and have people around to love him. They are there for me and I’m blessed. But it doesn’t hurt any less. Sometimes I sit there and wonder why it hurts so badly. Why do I long for someone so much? I know it wouldn’t necessarily be any easier to deal with the stress and such, but I think I’d feel differently about my lot, myself, and my frustrations. So, I guess that counts. We may not be meant to live longer than our children, but it often feels like we are also not meant to raise them alone. Like it’s against nature. I know there are some women (and men) out there who can and do handle it. Maybe they even chose it for themselves. But I’m not one of them. I will do it. I do accomplish it well. But I feel alone.
Sometimes, the choice of “no choice” is the easiest one to make. I have none. So I just do it.
At times I feel disconnected, as I’m sure many of the single parents do. I feel apart from myself. As if I’m going through the proper motions, but willing myself not to feel. I don’t know what kind of mother I am. I try my best. I love my kid. I want to give him everything he needs and more. Yet, at times I feel as a stranger to myself. Who am I? Maybe it’s my muting of my own excitement. Maybe it’s the reality of doing it alone and feeling like I must be strong. I don’t want to whine too much. I shouldn’t cry. I just sometimes feel as though I’m unfeeling. Not “not feeling”. Unfeeling, like the opposite of an emotion. I don’t know how to describe it, but it leaves a hole in my chest and confusion on my face. Maybe it’s just a parent thing. Maybe it’s just a “me” thing.
I feel like I’m not loving him enough. That I didn’t do a good enough job ensuring his future before he was even conceived. That I have failed and I’m trying to catch up. Maybe it was the loss of my “together family” ideal. As a kid, that’s where babies came in. You got married, you tried hard, and POOF..a baby. Not, “oops a baby”. That came when you were in your forties and had the child that was separated by 10 years from your other kids.
Yesterday, I went to the store. I bought almost 50 dollars worth of diapers, wipes, shampoo and sleep pants for my kid. There I am, standing at the register thinking about my ex…
Where are you now? Do you even know how much I sacrifice? You’ve wasted your existence and I’m stuck here doing everything alone because I picked one of the “never-get-fixed-er-uppers”. I’m spending money I barely have. You suck.
It’s not that I actually want his help. I will survive without it. If I have to sell my left kidney I’ll do it. It just all comes down to the discussion of “rights”.
I’m all for the present father, two parents working together evenly for a common goal of raising the kid right. I am. But, sometimes that’s just a bad idea. Or a fantasy. Rights are earned. Everyday I pushed for my kid. Everyday I had a huge belly and couldn’t sleep and was being eaten alive by my heartburn. Everyday my back hurts. Everyday I walked to the store for diapers or wipes or a jacket. Every night I woke up a thousand times because he was teething. Every night I woke up a thousand times to puke or my whole bed being wet because his diaper leaked. Every time he bit me while I was sleeping and kicks my stomach while I try to rest, so that I get up and have a stomach ache. Everyday I played with him, encouraged him to eat, and took him for a walk. Every time I don’t buy something so that he can have something else. Everyday I went to my appointments alone and talked to people about their experiences in order to gain a ground-level understanding. Everyday I filled out paperwork and snatched my pride back from people who looked at me like I was trash. THAT, ladies and gents, is love. That is fighting for your kid.
He may call himself anything he wants. He can call himself the Queen of England for all I care. But I’m the one fighting the good fight. I’m the one who doesn’t give up, and knows that there is not even the choice when it comes to my kid.
He can do however many drugs he wants, or drink and call it “moderation”, or play video games until he drops. His choice. Herbert Kaufman once said, “Failure is only postponed success as long as courage ‘coaches’ ambition. The habit of persistence is the habit of victory”. I am victorious everyday, because I have courage. He tells me I keep him from seeing his child (despite months of no communication on his part). He says he hates that I have The Kid. I only asked for persistence and consistency. Not a unicorn-drawn carriage. You would have thought I asked for his heart in return. No. I asked that he act like a grown-up. It’s my fault his life is awful, he says. It’s my fault that he lost his job or told me that he’d sooner die than quit drugs all the way. It’s always everyone else’s fault. I gave up things too. I sacrificed more than he’ll ever understand.
I sacrificed my body. I sacrificed my time. I sacrificed music, and language. I sacrificed sleep. I sacrificed sanity. I sacrificed my mind. I stole away love to give to him. I stole moments from myself, to give to him. I laid my pride, my need to be right, and my ability to look good in a bikini, on the altar of love for my son. I sacrificed my need to be approved and fix things. I sacrificed control. I lost “me” and gained “mommy”. And I had to murder. I laid to rest my picture of “us” together. I had to sacrifice my love of someone who I know is bad for me and my son, but who I deeply care about, so that we could be happy. He would have smothered me, but I would have stayed. If not for The Kid. My ex was my mistake, and The Kid did not deserve to pay for that. He wouldn’t mean to be cruel. He might not even “remember” it. But, he’d do it anyway. And I wanted more for my baby. I had to kill our love to have The Kid’s. I had to murder it in broad daylight. All my hopes and dreams and desires. All the things I thought I could fix. All the words I wanted to say. I had to kill it. Kill the thought he could ever change. Murder the idea of him as a “one day he’ll be better”. Cut off the leg of everything I’d come to cling to and let it bleed out. It wasn’t easy. I thought I’d die, as I could feel the stress in my body tightening and battling what my mind knew was right. It felt like being crushed inward. But I did it. I survived. I got away.
Doing it alone is much less scary than doing it with someone who is out of control. Whether they are abusive mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Whether they are cheating on you with drugs, alcohol, work, or people. It’s cheating if he can’t choose you or your baby over those things. Whether he steals your happiness. Whether he beats you down with words or his fist. Whether he hurts your friends or family. Whether he pushes you down to feel big. It’s less scary to wake up at night and wonder how you’re going to make it, than it is to wake up and wonder how you’re still alive with the deep scars you have. Don’t wake up and wonder how you got here, wake up and know.
So, for all you doing it solo out there…Go you! You can do it. Be strong. Stay strong. You’ll be amazed in the end of the beauty you’ve created. Absorb the little moments, the ones that will pass without a word. Let the love of your child seep in, so innocent and beautiful and non-judgemental. They love you. You love them. It’s your journey together. Take in the sunshine.