Let's take a moment here to appreciate the survivalism that is single motherhood. I'd like to list out the number of things I have learned of late, leading to a broader message by the end, of course. What would this blog be without the cliched mixed metaphor? I know. Let me also take a moment to say that I know that these are not experiences isolated to single motherhood, per se. It's motherhood in general, for sure. But, in my case, this is what I have learned:
How to make school lunches with zero ingredients for said lunches:
I bought those ridiculously expensive "Planetbox" lunch kits a few years ago, prior to brokedom. I think they're like $75.00 plus $85.00 in shipping, for the record. They come with a 7 yr warranty though, just FYI. (Side note: If my kids are still eating out of compartmentalized steel in 7 years, please institutionalize me.) At the time, when I first bought them, I was like, YAY! I can organize all my deliciously organic and expensive spread of fancy lunchy options into 4 easy compartments. Now, however, these four compartments present a unique challenge. How do I best pack the most nutrients as possible using the least amount of actual food? Today, for instance, we have salami and crackers and american cheese in one spot, whatever remaining fruit I might have on hand in another, some sort of odd snacky snoo in the other, and then ... hmmmm ... that fourth tub always remains the loose cannon. Do I fill it with something she'll actually eat or do I be a good mom and put some carrot sticks or edamame in there (if I have them)? Or maybe I'll just fill it with some cardboard cut outs of hearts. That would count as love nutrients, after all. AND, I'd win some major points in the "my mom is awesome, she put crafts in my lunchbox" category. Plus, that is one less compartment at risk of causing severely lethal allergic offensive moves to her very sensitive tablemate who can eat like, maybe, coconut milk yogurt and only coconut milk yogurt for every meal. Anyway, she loves her salami and american cheese. And she always eats her carrot sticks. Win win.
How to use a power drill (for the first time):
Well, I would be able to give you this answer, but, alas, apparently you have to charge the drill. Let me explain. You see, the gas guy came out to check the furnace prior to cold weather and the eventual need for heat and asked me the very awesome question: "How do I access the attic?" During my 12 minute confused and dumbfounded pause, followed by the 16 minute attempt to reach the landlord, the fabulous gas guy decided that the strange looking panel on the ceiling in the hallway was the actual entrance. Now, in his defense, there were handles on this mysterious panel, which could understandably have blinded him from the fact that it was laden with tightly bolted screws all around the edges. Nonetheless, with a less than gentle tug, that mysterious panel came a-tumbling down, insulation and who knows what kind of debris on its way after. I'm quite sure he could have fixed it for me, what with his pocket knife that he was trying to use as a screwdriver and all. After about 1.5 minutes, I excused him and said I had it covered, convinced that I was going to use this as a learning moment in power tools. I'll let you know when the battery is charged. It's been two weeks, so I imagine it could be tomorrow.
Pets can survive with little care:
Ok, ok. This is not actually true. But, I have learned that your old dogs will survive if not walked every 25 minutes on the weekdays and without expensive rawhide bones from the local dog bakery store. I have also been thrilled to see that they serve as the most fantastic vacuums known to man, especially with a toddler in the house with a penchant for leaving salami and peanut butter waffles and other delicacies in odd places. Bonus. As for the bearded dragon, Happy, he is living quite well without his one foot and has learned that if I forget for one day to feed him his quota of 80 large crickets sprinkled with calcium and vitamin D followed by a pile of half frozen mealworms with a chaser of freshly chopped kale and carrot tops that he can always eat the skin he sheds. I know, disgusting. Please, do not call CPS. Or whatever is equivalent in reptilian foster care. I promise, this dude has a decadent life. I even googled about an upcoming vacation for him: "Can bearded dragons survive in the bayou?" Apparently not. Next year.
Children need not cable television:
This little lesson is the sort where you "pretend" like you are deliberately choosing a more quality life, whereas the truth is really that the cable bill no longer fit in the box "paid and worth it" and thusly are thrown into an existence sans flippable channels. The good news? A seriously welcome void in our life now. One word: Netflix. Another word: The backyard. And, this one: Paper and markers. Yet another word (or two): Those silly rubberband looms that make bracelets. Just sayin. Kill your television. Get some other great distractions that you can pretend are more evolved (they're not, except the backyard, which is).
Texting shall not become my version of another grown up:
Ok, now for the serious sauce. Dang it. I've realized that in my current parenting landscape, I've become very dependent on easy access to easy communication, aka texting. The thing is that I don't really want to actually talk to anyone because I'm too tired and far too introverted, but I do want some sort of adult contact. I want some sort of reminder that I have something else to say other than, "Hey, I don't think your sister really likes being prodded like a racehorse." So, yeah. Some digital banter is welcome. BUT, it's become a bit of an addiction. And this where I get to get serious. I think I'm not alone. I think a lot of us, mother or otherwise, have grown accustomed to textual relationships. It's easy. We can connect and react and purge and dump and laugh and be witty, with very little actual effort. And it is soothing. I feel important, loved, seen, held, known, even if just digitally. Yet, it works mostly because it is convenient, which also makes it as powerful as any other drug or form of escapism. And I'm here to say that I use it too much and it's taking time away from my kids' needs for true attachment and humanity.
Confession: My kids are growing up watching me attached to an object and not only attached to an object, engaged with one and not fully engaged with them. We all do it. Or, well, maybe you don't, which makes you awesomely bonus. But, if you are like me, join me in taking a stand for becoming an example of embodied connection to the flesh and blood we surround ourselves with. I did this afternoon and was shocked by how hard it was. I had to turn my phone OFF and hide it in a dirty sock in my dog's stinky bed to ease the pull to it. And what happened was gorgeous. It wasn't that I did anything really very different than usual - I always play games with my kids, eat with them, swing them, chase them, bathe them, read to them, and sing to them ... but, half of me is somewhere else. Distanced by the potential pings of digital grown-up communication. Something sacred happened when I had that darn thing hidden and gone from reach. My eldest especially could tell. She lit up. We laughed. We looked at each other. Really looked at each other. And then she did some weird air guitar dance and sang about kolaches and guinea pigs while I was trying to get her to brush her teeth. She asked me about things that must have been floated around in her little body for so long - something about the god of the dead from Dia de Los Muertos and how her dogs must be sad that they can't tell time and how I should rename that exercise in my workout from donkey kicks to horse kicks and how her friend Faith was really her best friend and and and and. The truth is, my kid is always here like this, exactly like this, creative and odd and inquisitive and funny and smart as hell, but I'm not always on the receiving end. And when I made the conscious choice to be fully there and to truly receive her, even just for a few hours, it was if I scraped away some film from between us. It was as if there was some silent communication available to her that was usually filled or grasped by my sidekick, the iPhone.
I'm a good mom, as are you. I work really hard at being that alert, present safety net for my kids, but there are so many ways I allow myself a little leeway because I work so hard ... because of I'm a single mom ... because I'm tired ... because I deserve a break ... because because because. Digital escapism feels silent and slight and unnoticed. But, it's felt - specially by our wee ones with a sensitivity for who among them are truly ready and armed for their journey every day, every second. Ugh. What a modern day lesson.
Here's my deal. Join me if you would like. When I'm home with my girls, for those few precious hours in the afternoon after school, I'm going to be there. If anyone needs to reach me, I beg that they call me. I will show my girls that talking equals connection should someone need that contact. But, otherwise, I'm signed off for those few hours. And when those hours are over, don't get me wrong, I'll be back to the textual life in whatever conscious way I see fit. I love texting. I love modern technology. I just am choosing to be a conscious user of it. I'm going to encourage my friends to hold me to it, to remind each other that as mothers our primary goal is to teach our kids how to be real, fully present, fully fleshed-out parts of this odd world.
It's a good life. Especially when that power drill gets charged. To be continued ...