There’s a great article on The Next Family’s website called “Dispelling the Myths of Becoming a Single Parent By Choice.”
I love this article!!
P.S See if you recognize the mom solo in the black and white photo at the top.
There’s a great article on The Next Family’s website called “Dispelling the Myths of Becoming a Single Parent By Choice.”
I love this article!!
P.S See if you recognize the mom solo in the black and white photo at the top.
I’m really into the whole gender fluid movement. Who ever decided that boys wear pants and girls play with dolls and boys can’t like pink and girls can’t like baseball, really did a number on our society. And yet, it’s worked. It chugs along… people laugh or give knowing glances if a boy likes to wear dresses. People mumble tomboy at the girl who wants to play with cars.
I want Spense to like whatever he likes. No judgement – although there are restrictions on weapons. Toy weapons, of course… and he is drawn to weapons, which, some might say is gender appropriate.
So you can imagine my delight when he asked me, “Mom, do they make toys of Ariel’s sisters? Because I really want them.”
When Spense takes a bath, we play with Eric and Ariel toys from The Little Mermaid and often some other forces come in to the game like purple squid, K Crock and sometimes General Zod. One time, Batman and his boyfriend (a farmer toy who Spense named Rosh Hashana) visited the ocean kingdom. Love is Love in the sea, as it should be everywhere.
I’m always Ariel and Ursula. He won’t play any of the females (we are working on that). The games always include Eric and Ariel’s deep love. Sometimes they are married, sometimes they are dating and sometimes Ursula is trying to split them up. Lots of drama and intrigue; plots driven by him. Females played by me.
The mermaid sisters arrived for Hanukkah. I couldn’t believe how excited he was to get them. He hugged me tightly and thanked me profusely and said, “Can I take a bath right now so we can play!?”
The fact that we can only play with the mermaids while he is in the tub is hysterical. They aren’t really even bath toys.
I filled the tub and he got in, parting the sea of tiny white bubbles as he splashed down with an excited giggle. “OK,” he said. “Tell me each sister’s name and then line them up here,” He pointed to the tub ledge.
I knew the mermaid sisters all had A names, so I tried my best. “Adrina, Adina, Alana, Arista, Alissa and… Adella. And Ariel, of course.” There they were, all lined up.
He gleefully pulled Eric out of the water and donned his lower, mature voice, as Price Eric. The game had begun. “Um, hello ladies,” Prince Eric directed to the mermaids, who lay on their backs.
“Oh, hi Eric,” I said in seven different voices. He made a disapproving face at the mermaid with a New Jersey accent. Then he continued.
“Ummmmm, Ariel, may I speak with you,” Prince Eric said, with all of the confidence and composure of a royal leader.
“Sure,” I said as Ariel. And I, as Ariel had no idea what fresh hell I was walking into.
“Ummm, Ariel… I need to break up with you,” Prince Eric said, his painted smile never wavering.
“What!? Why? Eric, we love each other!” I/Ariel said. This had really caught us off guard.
“Well, it’s just that, all of your sister are here and I really think that some of them are prettier than you and I want to ask one of your sisters to be my new girlfriend.”
I was blindsided. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or blame myself for being a secret watcher of The Bachelor. This was now a teaching moment. My 4 year old son was about to learn how to break up with a mermaids, like a mensch. “That really really hurts my feelings, Eric.” Ariel said. “Our relationship was based on more than just looks, so when you talk about others being prettier than me, that makes me so sad. And it would be extra hurtful if you dated my sister! She’s my family. And sisters, as a rule, don’t date the same people.”
“Ummmm…. wait wait. Time out, OK? Mom, I don’t want her to say that,” Spense said. “I just really want Eric to date one of the sisters but I don’t want Ariel to say she has hurt feelings.”
Not to gender associate, but…. I’ve heard sentiments like this in my lifetime before.
“OK,” I said, “Then let’s find another way to end this relationship. Being respectful. Do you understand it would hurt someone’s feelings to not want to be with them because of the way they look?” I wasn’t going to get into the laws of attraction yet. That’s much later.
“OK,” he conceded.
“How about if Prince Eric realizes that they want different things in their lives…” What other break up excuses have I used? “Or if they’ve just grown apart and he really wants to be friends.”
“Alright. And what if she want’s to break up too,” he said. “So she’s not hurt.” Smart boy.
We resumed the game with an amicable break up.This time, Ariel was not only unscathed, but relieved. He asked me to dial that part down. Prince Eric went back to the mermaids, who’d he’d now placed in a plastic cup of bubbles. “Pretend they are in a hot tub,” he said. (I swear, I only watch The Bachelor when he’s sound asleep!)
Prince Eric approached the hot tub and said, “Ummm, Adina, may I speak to you?”
Adina happened to be the one with the New Jersey accent, which I was promptly asked to change to just normal. “Um, Adina,” Prince Eric said, “Would you like to be my girlfriend? I just broke up with Ariel.”
Oh God. Flash back to college when I told the guy I was secretly into that I’d just broken up with my boyfriend. Ironically, this was at the same time I was dressing up as Ariel at children’s birthday parties.
“Oh,” Adina said in a very normal voice, “Thank you for asking, Eric, but I could never date someone my sister was in a relationship with…sorry.”
Prince Eric was surprised but not forlorn. He looked back to the hot tub of fish fins and asked, “Um, do any of you want to be my new girlfriend?”
The mermaids were silent, except for Ariel’s comment, “It’s not really sensitive of you to ask this in front of me…”
“Mom! Time out!!” He was beyond frustrated. Why wasn’t I letting Eric have his way with all the mermaids??!!
“Why don’t we pretend that some of these mermaids aren’t sisters with Ariel,” I suggested. “And Prince Eric can ask one of them out on a date so he can get to know her. And he can ask her on a date away from the other mermaids so he won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Spense was slightly annoyed and also glad to be getting on with the game and on with his plan to have Eric date someone new. He was so over Ariel. Was it something she said?
I know I question this a lot but… does my being single make him more obsessed with dating and relationships? It’s neither good nor bad… I just question. And I can’t help getting into gender differences now but… I don’t know any other boys his age who have been so obsessed with marriage and dating since they were three years old. But I know lots of girls who have been.And I know little girls who would never think of it.
And, as I’ve written here before, Spense got married quite young.
“Spense, what would you think if I had a boyfriend?” I asked.
“Grrreat!” he answered. “And… a little bit… um, this is a bad word and a very strong word – stupid.”
“Oh,” I responded. “Why would it be stupid?”
He shrugged and smiled.
It’s really hard not to gender stereotype. I love the idea of letting a child be who they are and like what they like. If Spense wants to play The Bachelor with Mermaids, that’s fine. Obviously it’s a popular concept. Strange, hideous and horrible, but somehow deeply rooted in us. No matter what gender. Do we all just want to date a few dozen people at the same time to find the perfect one, as they fight each other for us? Or do we just like watching other people do it to feel better about ourselves….
Whatever… it’s a great show to fold laundry to.
The first time I ever bathed while Spense was awake, he was probably 3.
I put him on my bed, turned on a movie and sank into a hot bubble bath, shaving my legs for the first time in 3 weeks.
I just had to. I needed it.
After about five minutes I heard his footsteps. He’d left his movie and came in to stare at me. I smiled at him and he just stared, as if it never occurred to him that moms needed to clean themselves. Then, he plucked his favorite Superman bath toy from the toy basket and reached his little hand out to me. “Here,” he said. He dropped the toy in my bath. And then added Batman as an afterthought.
It was the sweetest. He was taking care of me. I thought about pretending to play with the toys, but couldn’t pull it off with a straight face.
Spense went back into my room to watch a movie.
When he was 4, he always asked, “Con I shower with you?” when I’d attempt to get clean during normal hours.
Now that he’s almost 5, he knows I don’t play with bath toys in the tub and asks, “Do you want a hot lava shower?”
I always say yes.
This involves him turning off the bathroom lights and shining a flashlight quickly darting around my body and the 3 by 6 curtained-off discotheque that is the shower.
“Mom! His sword fell into the water! Mom! Look!” Spense calls as he manipulates his Playmobile.
I look. I stop whatever I’m doing to look. I always do. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing ever to abandon sweeping croissant crumbs mid sweep or put a dish down mid wash or stop stirring the sauce or stop folding laundry, but I do it. Sometimes, I just don’t want to look at another little plastic knight sword fight another plastic knight, that I’m supposed to recognize as the bad guy.But I do.
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Look,” he says. RELENTLESSLY. Until I look and give him my undivided attention.
Why do I stop everything to look and watch? Because:
One time, I watched him make a stuffed animal and an Elf on a Shelf dance to Baby It’s Cold Outside for a good two minutes, possibly longer. It felt longer. I was mid sentence, writing an email and after many rounds of “Mom. Mom. Mom, look. Mom, look,” I stopped typing and just surrendered with a big smile on my face watching the show. Anytime my eyes strayed down, I got a “Mom. Mom. Mom, look.”
It’s almost like he’s testing me. Does she really care?
There are times I tell him “Give me a minute…” but I don’t ever want to dismiss him.
“Mom. Mom. MOM, look…” this time, he’s boxing an imaginary opponent. Often, he’s pretending to knock himself out with those pchew pcheww sounds I remember boys in my elementary school made. Sometimes, it’s sword fighting he needs me to see.
He’s almost 5 now. He’s just started to play by himself, in his room. He’s not going to be including me too much longer. And that’s what I tell myself as I watch and smile and nod. I always want to be included in his thoughts. Today it’s watching his toys dance or sword fight, tomorrow it might be listening to his adolescent fears or concerns. I believe it’s connected.
Make these little guy’s days matter as much as possible.
I just reread this one and really enjoyed it. Wanted to share it 2 1/2 years later….
I went to put something in my trunk this morning and stopped… where was my stroller? It’s always in the trunk. It wasn’t in my house. Was it stolen out of my car? Think. Think. When did I see it last…
It was Thursday night, when I met my friend and when Spenser said, “Crap!” Was that his way of telling me I’d left his stroller in the mall parking lot? That’s the only thing I can think of… I’m going to just assume that’s what happened.
Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. I never used to feel like that. I was sharp. I remembered details. I remembered names and places and food and outfits and who gave me what gift and where I’d been that week and if I’d taken my vitamins that day or not – I laughed at the idea of a pill planner
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Spense has been missing me. When I drop him at school, he doesn’t want me to go. It breaks my heart because I don’t really want to go either, but I know that it’s important for his (and my) independence.
His amazing pre school teacher suggested we make kissing bracelets … Spense picked the color and we tied them around our wrists, filling them with kisses as we looped the bow. When we are apart and missing each other, we just kiss the yarn and send kisses to each other.
I must confess, I kiss mine all the time.
I had a lot to do. And there’s always cleaning to do and I had some paper work to finish and… I started thinking about my old life. The life where I was out every night, having wine and socializing, wearing make-up and nice shoes. Sometimes a high kick in the street (while wearing beige underwear)
Hahahahaha… yeah, I remember that life. It was nice.
I like my life better now because I have Spense, of course. I’ve been in a bubble of love with my son.
I had a lot of bad dates, as you may have read about here (Oh, you haven’t? Well go over to the right side and click on the Category Dating and get ready for some laughs.)
I’m not saying I gave up on love – I just found love a different way. But maybe I did give up on romantic love a little bit.
The long term relationships I see around me are my role models. Some I envy, some I don’t.
Mostly, I don’t think of myself as on the market anyway. I feel my family is complete.
But, last night, in the interest of important procrastination, I got the itch to shop for a man on line. (Ewww. Don’t say it like that.)
I signed up. I posted a recent photo. A good one. Not a mediocre one like I used to use – thinking that when I met the guys in person they’d be pleasantly surprised. But this time around, I’m not even sure I want to meet anyone, so I put up a good photo.
I mean when would I have a date? At night?! God NO! That time is reserved for the sweet bedtime rituals of books and baths and negotiating teeth brushing. And getting a sitter is reserved for special people. People I already love and want to see and spend time with. I could have a date while Spense is at school. But any guy who can meet me for a date during the day is either unemployed or so rich he’s flexible… how will I know which? Not sure I can risk it.
I scrolled through all the men matched up to me in my age range and thought, “JESUS!!!! I’M OLD!!!!” The last time I was searching on line was at least 6 years ago. My pool has really gone down hill. OY! And the old guys are all looking for relationships and I’m… well, I’m… I don’t know what I am. It’s so hard to shop for a man on line!
I think I’m ready to hide my account.
Maybe I’ll try Tinder.
Oh yeah. I have so much work to do.
I was set up with Patrick by a mutual friend. She didn’t say too much about him except he was a great guy.
Back then, I thought it was perfectly fine to let a guy I didn’t know pick me up at my place. The night of our date, I walked into the lobby of my building and there he stood, leaning against the wall, in a pose, leather jacket collar turned up, chomping on gum. “Hey,” he said – holding his pose for a lingering effect. He may have thought looking like a character out of Grease would be attractive to me.
Patrick was a big guy. He was tall, he was broad and he was loud.
We walked out to his car, which was the biggest pick up truck I’d ever seen. Like a boat. On steroids. I could barely step up into the cab.
He had an upbeat energy. Or was it hyper nervousness? “So I thought we’d go to Ruth’s Chris,” he said, referring to the steakhouse chain. “You ever been there?”
“Yeah, once or twice,” I said. “You have a really big truck.”
He laughed, but it seemed more like a laugh for show rather than for humor’s sake. “It’s my baby,” he said. He continued to chomp on the gum. “So, how’s the acting going?” He asked.
I’d told him this on the phone when we talked, but I didn’t know what he did. He said, cryptically, I’ll tell you when we meet.
Once, I got into an email exchange on Jdate where they guy wouldn’t tell me what he did, because he said I wouldn’t want to go out with him if I knew. When I finally got him to tell me (via email) he told me he hosted a show on the Playboy Channel and then never wrote to me again. I think I still would have dated him, though. His photo was so cute.
I was pretty certain Patrick had nothing to do with Playboy.
“How’s your career going?” he asked.
Might as well have said, how successful are you? How talented are you? I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell him about the commercial audition I’d just had for Curves where I walked into the casting office and the casting director said, “Hmmmm. I’m not sure you are over weight enough for this. Turn around.” After looking at my butt for a few seconds she said, “OK, let’s put you on tape.”
“My career is… well, you know,” I laughed, also not for the humor, rather for the misery that was this date already. And also because I didn’t want to talk about my stagnant career.
“I can help you if you want. Coach you…. I’m a life coach.” He pulled into a parking space.
Ah ha. Yes, I wouldn’t have made a date with a life coach, if I would have known – for this very reason. “Oh, thanks, but you don’t have to.” I opened my car door and tried not to fall onto the street as I slid out of the giant truck.
A date with the Playboy guy would have been so much more interesting.
We walked into the restaurant and the hostess smiled, “Hey, Pat!” She said.
“Hey, Dianne,” Patrick said. “Table for two.”
“Sure,” Dianne said, as she picked up two menus and started walking us to the table. “How’re you doing?”
“Livin’ the dream!” Patrick practically sang.
“Hey Pat,” The bartender called out. “How goes it, brother?”
“Livin’ the dream, man,” Pat called back.
OK. OK. So livin’ the dream is his catch phrase.
We sat down at a table and opened our menus. “Order whatever you want. Get the lobster!” he said. It was a little paternal.
“Thanks,” I said. I actually wanted the lobster, but would not let him have the pleasure of deciding what I ordered. I selected the filet and shrimp. “So, you come here a lot?”
“Not really,” Patrick said. “I mean, you know, once in a while.”
A waiter came over, “Hey Pat, how’s it going?”
“Livin’ the dream,” Patrick said again.
“Good. Good,” the waiter said. “Can I get you started with some drinks?”
We ordered. I didn’t believe him that he came here only once in a while, unless that meant only once and a while per week.
“How long have you lived in Los Angeles?” I asked.
“Uh, about eight years,” he said.
“Where is your family living?”
He looked at me for a second, the bravado escaping from him like a balloon losing air with a slow hissssss…..
“They are all back in Minnesota.” He gulped some wine.
“Do you have siblings?” I asked.
He took a breath and didn’t answer. “All right, let’s see if we can figure out why your career hasn’t taken off,” he said. “What are you doing everyday to help yourself?”
I tried to answer him, “Umm, well… I don’t know.”
“Maybe that’s why you aren’t working,” He was pumping the air back in. Inflating.
I thought about the casting director checking out my butt and deciding I was over weight enough to be put on tape. “I do a lot of theater, I go to acting class…”
“What kind of frequency do you put out?” he asked, interrupting me.
“Frequency?” I asked. “Oh, you mean like attitude?”
“No,” I watched as Patrick fully morphed into life coach mode. My date was gone. I was the student. I didn’t think I’d be able to get in an actual conversation. The lecture began, “You see, people’s frequencies directly correlate to colors…”
He went on and on, excitedly, passionately explaining his metaphysics. Though he was just trying to help, my date felt like I was low status. I listened to his lecture as our food came and waited for an opening to equalize us. “So, I’ve noticed you say living the dream when people ask how you are. Why?” I asked, hoping to get him talking about himself rather than orating.
Patrick chuckled with a mouthful of food. He swallowed and said, “When you say livin’ the dream, you are that much closer to achieving your goals. When you say it, it becomes true.”
I knew it. I knew it had a programmed feel. “Like an affirmation!” I added.
He squinted at me like I wasn’t getting it. “Um, not really. You see, when you say something about how you wish to live, your frequencies….” he went on to explain what I still interpreted as affirmation. “So what to you do everyday to achieve your goals? How do you speak about your career?”
I thought of all the roles I hadn’t gotten. It was depressing. Acting was a painful thing these days. I felt pretty awful in that moment. I felt low and stupid and like a failure. I tried to answer. My answers sounded pathetic. My date had turned into that nightmare where you don’t know the answers in class and everyone laughs at you. Why weren’t we just conversing?? I’d give anything for small talk right now.
“I’m gonna give you some $500 advice,” he said. I guessed that was the cost of his workshop. He spoke in more metaphysical lecture style. He signaled for the waiter and asked to borrow a pen and paper. He then began to diagram his , what I assumed was lecture from class one: intro to Patrick’s frequencies for success.
I needed this whole thing to stop. I was taking the date back. “Whatever with my career,” I said. “I just really want to be a mom. Do you think about having kids?”
Patrick was speechless for the first time all night. He turned a little red and cleared his throat. “Huh?”
The more questions I asked, the more uncomfortable he felt.
We took turns trying to take control of the date, thus making the other person feel crappy. I wanted to discuss LIFE, he wanted to explore COACH.
At the end of the date my head was spinning.
Driving home in the monster truck, somehow he’d managed to pop another piece of gum in his mouth and again chomped loudly. “So this was fun, right? Next time I can teach you about how to apply color theory to project success.”
It was clear to me we weren’t on the same frequency.
“Why do you put all that pretty shiny stuff on your face every day?” Spense asked as I smeared oils, creams, illuminators and shimmers into my skin. “Is it so you don’t get old?”
“Yes,” I said, amazed that this was in his awareness. Then I thought better of the word choice. “Actually, it’s so my skin stays healthy. There is nothing wrong with looking or or being old. Everyone get older and everyone looks older. Our job is to stay healthy.”
I was thrilled that he agreed with me.
I’m overly conscious about commenting on the physical appearances of others. I shudder at the word “hot” being used to describe attractiveness in front of my son. I cringe at the word “fat” used in a pejorative way rather than just as a descriptive adjective.
Spense has already formed opinions about physical attributes he likes or doesn’t like – we all do that. But do we need to talk about them in such a way that we hurt peoples feelings? That we set standards that make people throw up their dinner rather than nourish their bodies?
Parents can start this thinking early. Words judging people’s appearance should be treated like swear words.
Can’t we love people for who they are, not what they look like?
Spense has seen the movie Into The Woods 3 times in the last year. We love it. I mean, it’s brilliant – the show is truly brilliant. I’ve seen it many times – many productions. Spense even saw a great production of it last year in the theater.
Watching it again today I realized what a love letter it is to parenthood… the parent/child relationships are so full here- the wanting a baby to not wanting your child to grow up. What it means to be a parent. What it means to love a parent….
PI used to relate to the Baker’s wife character – who desperately wants a baby. Now I listen to it, aching for the witch who sings “Stay with Me” to her child – the witch is the mother who doesn’t want her child to grow up and leave – yes, already, I can relate. Did you know kindergarten is from 8-3???
In the car we were listening to the soundtrack. Spense listens closely, memorizing the words, singing to himself. His favorite song is Jack and the Beanstalk’s There are Giants in the Sky, but he likes them all.
Towards the beginning of the show, the Baker and his wife have a song in which they are arguing. Spense said to me:
“Mom, aren’t they married?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He was confused and asked, “Then why are they fighting?”