Thursday, April 2, 2015
Single Parenting: Don't You Yell At My Child!
It's funny, but it is only just now sinking in that I am a single parent. How strange is that? I would read articles online about the struggles single parents face and think to myself about how hard it must be for all those single parents out there. Which is ironic, because with one parent of the parenting team dead you don't get much more single. I have been a little slow for the past 24 months, but I finally got it.
I am actually a single parent, and it sucks in one really unexpected way: no one will ever share my child with me the way Dane did.
Yes, dealing with financial worries and plumbing and the stupid fucking computer and discipline and The Teenager's crushes is really hard. Yes, I have friends around who will give me a break and willingly take The Teenager when she is being awful or will let me sit at their kitchen bar or table and drink really delicious cocktails or work in peace when I just can't take it anymore. Yes, the practical parts of being solely responsible for the life of another person is sometimes crushing and requires huge sacrifice, but that's not the hardest part.
The hardest part is that no one will ever share The Teenager with me on a cellular level. No one will ever look across the room when she does something amazing and feel the same kind of pride I do. No one will love her the way I do. The only other person who was there THE WHOLE TIME is now in a box on my dresser. The only person that shares the birth story (and, well, the conception also) is no longer here.
I am not currently dating anyone because I am a hermit and strangers are awful so how will I ever meet someone, but in the event that a miracle occurs and I suddenly become less critical and judgmental and meet a dude to date, he will not understand that when I say, "I just want to poke her in the eye!! What a jerk!!" that he is not really allowed to say, "I know! She's a total jerk!!" Dane could say she was a jerk and get away with it because underneath there are all those little cells that make her part of us in a very physical way, a way that prevents us from meaning too deeply what we say when we call her a jerk.
A stranger, some new dude, won't have those cells. He won't know on a cellular level about the time when she cried for five hours straight and almost fell off the bed because she refused to just LAY DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP. He won't get how compassionate she is, even when she pushes the dog away, because he doesn't really know her. He won't know when she is nervous just by looking at her hands, or how happy she is by watching her walk.
And when she is being 100% teenager he might be tempted to criticize the way she thinks, acts, or dresses, but he won't have the right to do that. To be clear, no one really has the right to do that, but some dude thinking he can waltz in here and insert commentary should probably just waltz right back on out of here.
Dating after divorce (really, the more common form of single parenthood and the whole reason for this blog, as a friend of mine is going through this right now) is probably very much the same, especially when your ex- is a shitbox. My friend's ex- is a dangerous shitbox, so in addition to being on edge when her kid is with the ex-, many states away, she has to deal with knowing that her boyfriend is happy the kid is away for awhile. I don't think it is possible to describe in words how deeply hurtful that is. It's also not grounds for a sustainable relationship, knowing that the person you are with is biding their time until The Kid is out of the picture.
Newsflash: The kid is NEVER out of the picture. Maya Angelou said that having a child is like consenting to have your heart walk around outside of your body, and I can't find a better explanation of this type of love. The kid may be off at college or in the world, but they are forever a part of you in a way that is real and true and inexplicable. When someone insults The Kid, they are insulting you, even if you are the healthiest, most non-striving parent who is not living through their child. And the insult is not a flesh wound; it's deep, slow to scab, easily re-opened with the smallest conflict.
I have another single parent friend who deals with this by just never introducing her boyfriend of many years to the kids. Or rather, they have been introduced, but the contact is minimal.
Are you a dating single parent? How do you deal with this thorny issue?