single parenthood

all in all the time

It is mid-afternoon on Saturday, and the kids are away. I had to give a work-related presentation this morning, so this feels more like a Friday than a true weekend, and I am trying to think of all the ways I can find the fast track to relaxation. Maybe a bath or a slow dinner or a good soundtrack. But writing always gets me there faster than anything else does, so here I am.

The kids and I went away last weekend for the Labor Day holiday – back to one of our favorite spots in the mountains of northwest Georgia.  It was fun, and it was exhausting… which seems to be the theme of my time with these two lately.

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We spent three nights in the woods, and I more or less just let kids be kids. It was three days of loud noise and sweaty shirts and sticky hands and a body that was so bone-tired every night as we fell asleep in the darkness that I didn’t mind the hard surface beneath me.

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I’ve had a lot of frustrations with parenting lately, and it is like some grumbling thing that I cannot even entirely put words to very easily. It’s under the surface, and I never have time or space or silence to comb through it. I think it is mostly just exhaustion. The start of a school year is a shock to the system, and every year the demands grow a bit. The homework and the expectations and the after school clubs and activities and the big feelings that begin to brew in these years. They have likes and dislikes and blooming personalities and so many needs. It is not the same as the never-ending needs of a baby which are just physical mostly. This is different.

They need me to be all in all the time with them, and it’s hard to even finish typing this sentence through the mom guilt, but the truth is that I cannot be all in all the time. I need a rest sometimes. And of course other times it’s that I need to think about something else — like my own classes I’m planning for my students or my own writing goals or maybe even a personal or relational thought sometimes about the million other things that make me a human being. In short, I wish I had super powers to be on all the time with them … or maybe just a clone of myself to be at home stirring dinner on the stove while this self takes them to activities or stays in the office a couple extra hours to catch up.

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I tried to stop the clock last weekend, to run away to the woods and hit the pause button. There were some beautiful moments, but it wasn’t entirely a pause button. My brain hummed the whole time with other things as well. It pains me to write that, but it is true.

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I’ve been listening to a Ram Dass lecture series when I’m in my car or washing dishes, and in a portion I heard yesterday, he said something along the lines of taking something seriously doesn’t make it go away any faster. It made me laugh. It’s so pervasive in our society to see everything uncomfortable as a problem to be solved or as a pathology of some kind. His words encouraged me to try to look at my current feelings of overwhelm with some playful curiosity instead.

What would it look like to accept that this is life and this is single parenting and I cannot be all in all the time?

What would it look like to do the best I can and leave the rest well enough alone?

What would it look like to lessen the weights in my life that bring me chaos by just taking everything a little lighter, a little less seriously?

Yesterday morning, the kids were moving slowly and it took at least five commands of BRUSH YOUR TEETH to make that happen. I couldn’t find the right mate for Norah’s sock, and when I finally did, I came downstairs to see that the dog had thrown up twice in the middle of the kitchen floor. As I cleaned that up, I remembered that we didn’t do Norah’s reading homework the night before, so I told her to get started then and we’d get it done just in time for the bus. Jude had his backpack on and begged to walk out to his friends at the bus stop, and I told him no. He’d have to wait on his sister. He paced and huffed and asked again, but when he realized I was serious, he just sat down next to her and helped her. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that the three minutes of their quiet concentration and his gentle help was the absolute highlight of my entire week. It was over fast enough, and we rushed out the door, and the rest of Friday’s demands tumbled after.

I am Jude sometimes – pacing and hurrying and sighing and grumbling and wishing things were different. But I think maybe if I would just sit down it could make it all better and let the space settle around me. Perhaps I need to take a deep breath and know that I won’t miss the bus, that I am here and this is real and I am always right on time.

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gratitude, single parenthood

snow and quiet

Atlanta was bracing for something more exciting than we we ended up with, but we were left this weekend with a little dusting and some uncharacteristic windy chill. The high is only 30 today, but the sun is bright, and I can hear drops running down my gutters right now as the rooftop thaws.

I went to take the dog out last night before bed, and the neighborhood was quiet. Just the slightest dusting can feel special when you live in Georgia.

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The kids are away this weekend, and it brings more consolation than sadness – if I can be honest. I have been trapped inside with them for days at a time alone more times than I’d care to remember. In 2011 when Jude and I spent 7 days alone in the house unable to conquer the driveway and neighborhood streets. In 2013 when I had two kids under 4, both sick. And again in 2014 when Atlanta was hit with a lot that year and I had a husband working in sunnier climates. I love my kids. I do not love winter and the thought of icy streets and no snow plows. When I remember the frayed nerves that resulted from days on end of no real adult contact in those storms, I’m grateful for the time alone to pause this weekend.

This morning, I wandered down the stairs at 8:30 to brew the coffee, and I already heard the chatter of neighborhood kids outside with hats and mittens. It brought a tinge of sadness and a tangible ache for a minute, but as I’ve settled into the rest of the day busying myself with things around the house, the solitude feels worn and comfortable.

I was told that this would happen eventually, that being alone would get easier. It felt so unnatural in the beginning, but I am there finally.

Winter takes a lot of deliberate focus for me to see the bright side and push through. It can feel long and dark. I’ve been making a conscious effort since the new year began to be still and use the early dark and time at home to tend to what’s close. It’s working well to calm the restlessness or anxiousness or dreary outlook that can sometimes emerge from winter.

Ram Dass so famously said, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” And one good thing about this time of year is that it is so quiet – if you let it be. School and work and activities keep us rushing, but by 6pm it is dark and we are home and glad to be here. The kids are in bed by 8, and I make myself (no matter how much I don’t want to) turn off the distractions and unroll my yoga mat for half an hour. This goes in the category of duh, why didn’t I know that already? but that half hour has brought so much foundation and awareness to the rest of my day. It’s funny how much I’ve paid for occasional classes in a studio in years past, and it’s the home practice that is making such a difference for me. That’s how it always goes though; it always starts at home, all of it.

Looking to something or someone else to get you somewhere has hollow results. You have to see the abundance in your own self. Winter is good to remind me of that. All these little things – baking a bit, getting an extra hour of sleep, lighting candles after dark – they all echo what I already know which is that what you need is all right here.