Archive for the ‘single parenting’ category

Single Parenting – A Bit Of A Lump

August 20, 2009

What do you do when you turn around and realize that your truly wonderful, generous,  sweet child has become a bit of a, you know, lump?

I’m not talking about weight gain.

I’m talking about sitting there.  Or lying there.  Curled around a laptop computer.  Or cell phone.  Surrounded by dirty dishes.  A half-full cup of juice or tea balancing.   A peach pit to the side.

Wait a second.  Make that a laptop computer only.  Because at about 1 a.m. the child realizes he or she has lost their cell phone.

They don’t know how it could have happened.

It being 1 a.m. you don’t feel like starting a lengthy discourse on the demerits of a bag (used as purse or messenger bag) that doesn’t close and from which you, as parent, have repeatedly witnessed things fall.

But seriously, how did it happen?

I’m not talking about the loss of the cell phone.

It’s possible that some single parents are stern taskmasters.  They know they can’t do everything and make that clear to their children at an early age.  They inculcate chores.

But some single parents (ahem) find it easier to just do the chores themselves.  They hate to cajole, nag, fight.  Such single parents value the household harmony achieved from separation from a mate; they can’t bear to disturb that peace with harsh words about undone dishes, unclean rooms, untaken-out garbage.  “You’ve got to choose your battles,” such parents insist.

And then these parents are surprised by the sudden realization that there is a bit of a lump sitting on the couch.  Texting or IMing into the night.  Surrounded by food-smudged dishware.  Who’s just misplaced something.

Boot camp is difficult to carry out.  A maiden aunt may be useful in this area.  Or a martial arts instructor.

Or maybe you yourself can muster the requisite sternness.  Consistency can be hard to maintain for a single parent who has, historically, hated confrontation, but it’s worth a try.

Because here’s the point: one some level, the missing cell phone is actually the byproduct of the sofa’s dirty dishes.  An extension of parentally-enabled inattention.

But how to impress that fact on a child, a truly wonderful child, who’s somehow gotten, well, just a little bit lumpy?

You may have to get really quite mad.

(At a certain point, this can generally be arranged.)

FINAL NOTE – Many single parents (i.e. people like me)  have repeatedly through their lives lost cell phones, keys, wallets, keys, glasses, credit cards, keys, clothing, dog leashes, keys, important documents, credit cards, glasses, keys, etc., even when they pride themselves on their dish-doing, and would hate for people to characterize them as in any way lumpy.    So all tongue in cheek, please.

Check out 1 Mississippi at link above.

For Single Parents About to Explode – Put On Some Shoes

August 3, 2009

There’s a Buddhist teaching about the most skillful way to protect one’s feet from all the sharp stones that litter one’s path.

The question is whether you should wait to walk until the path, the whole earth, is covered with soft leather so that your feet will be protected from the sharp stones.   Should you yourself try to cover the earth with this soft leather?

The answer is no, silly.  (Although Buddhists don’t usually add that last part.)

Still, the answer is no.  You can’t coat the earth with soft leather, you should put the soft leather on your feet.  You should put on shoes if you want to mitigate all that sharpness.

I’m probably misphrasing this teaching.  (Sorry!)  But even my garbled version offers good advice, especially for single parents.

What are some of the main characteristics of single parents?

  1. The single parent is generally exhausted.
  2. On the good side, the single parent is usually less likely than the paired parent to be having daily arguments with another adult (except on the phone or through attorneys.)  On the bad side, the single parent is less likely  to have the daily succor (sorry) of another adult.
  3. Because of the lack of adult company, the single parent tends to want their kids to be their friends.  (As much as they try to resist this.)
  4. The single parent has to be the heavy.  Because of the child’s dependence, the single parent also has to be the softie.   Agh.

What does all this mean?

That, for single parents, it can be very hard to say no.  Even when we really really want to.

“No, we can’t go to the toy store right now, I’m exhausted.”  “No, you can’t stay out till 1: 30.  That’s too late and besides, I’ll be exhausted waiting up.”  “No, your boyfriend can’t stay over again.  The whole situation is still a bit strange to me and I’m already exhausted by it.”

Now keep in mind, I’m not advocating any particular limitations here (though I do believe in limitations.)  The important point are the words:  “even when we really really want to.”

Also, before going further, maybe I should broaden my audience.  This advice may not just be geared to single parents but to boomer and post boomer parents.  People who are constantly explaining things to their children; people who want to be understood by their children;  people who believe that if they only explain the reasoning behind their decisions (ad nauseum), the children (rational beings) will simply have to see agree.

But the children don’t always agree.  Often, no matter how much the parent explains, the children continue to want, to wheedle, to wish for.

So what?

But the guilty single or boomer or post-boomer parent can’t stand discontent in their children.  They want everyone to be in agreement.   So they frequently say yes, reluctantly, even though they really want to say no.  Even though they may believe no is the correct answer.

Sometimes, this is no big deal.  Sometimes it works out just fine.  Sometimes, yes may have been the right answer.

But when the parent really really wants to say no, saying yes is a bad idea.   Because, in that case, the parent’s patience grows thin.   That parent already feels compromised, put upon, and she/he is not in the mood for more.  So one wrong move on the part of the child, sometimes even a move that is not truly horrible–such as a polite request for a really cheap toy, an arrival at 1:43 due to the unavailability of taxis, or the child (not such a child) and boyfriend leaving shoes straddling the living room floor, can set that parent up for a major snap.

And once the single parent, the boomer or post-boomer parent, snaps, she or he feels bad.    (What happened to rationality?  How could I have said that?)

The problem is that you simply let yourself get pushed beyond your limit.  You were trying so hard to be your biggest, most p.c. self, that you snapped into your angry, most intolerant self.

In other words, you thought that your feet were tough enough to take sharp stones without any leather.

The overworked single parent can even begin to blame their explosion on the child.  Why did they ask you for something they must have known you were against?  They know how you hate to disappoint them?  Why didn’t they protect you?

In other words, why didn’t they coat the path with soft leather for you? 

But they’re the children.  They want.  You’re the parent.  You decide.

So put on some shoes.

And just say no.

(And if you have snapped, remember that life is long; and both children, and parents, forgiving.)

P.S. If you are a parent (or know a parent), check out 1 Mississippi, counting book on amazon for little children:

Also, my series on Blocking Writing Block will definitely be continued soon.   Thanks for comments.