Back to Single Motherhood

My marriage has ended. The Man finally moved out on Monday, and will now need a new nickname, although I am not supposed to write about him anywhere.¬†It was unexpected, and there was no reason given. It made for a hellish summer. And that’s all I’ll say about that. Now it’s over, and we are looking forward to new habits, ways of being, and opportunities.

It is good (and also sad) that I have experience to fall back on and help carry me through. I’m watching The Boy like a hawk, and have also had him in counseling for other issues this summer, and I think it helps him to have another outlet. There has been much upheaval in his world, both at home and at school, and there is more to come. It’s so hard to be a teenager. And then add autism. And then add people leaving you unexpectedly (your stepdad, band director, favorite assistant principal…). Through all this, he’s been handling everything like a pro. LIKE A PRO. He had one major meltdown this summer. ONE. His transition back to school has been smooth as silk. He amazes me every day, and I am so thankful for him. So thankful.

I am getting back into my writing, and it feels amazing. I’m preparing for NaNoWriMo this November, and have been selected as a Municipal Liaison for my region (which means I help coordinate events and support for others participating in NaNoWriMo). I’m also taking a writing course offered to NaNoWriMo participants through Wesleyan University in Connecticut (online), and it has been an awesome experience and quite validating.

As always, my closest friends, and my incredible parents have been my rock and have seen me through to the other side. Thank you all for being so patient. Onward and Upward, or as my favorite Doctor (#10) from Doctor Who says, “Allons-y!”

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The Boy and I at a bowling party hosted by our local Autism Society Chapter this summer

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Rigidity Again, but Better

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having my own sort of meltdown when we had a two-hour delay for school for no apparent reason. I resolved at that time not to get stuck again, and the next time this happened, I would stick to my normal routine of getting up at 6am to get myself ready.

It happened again yesterday morning, and I think the fact that the delay was utterly ridiculous added fuel to my fire. But that is another blog post… I did what I had resolved to do, and woke up at 6am, got myself ready. I still had a little bit of a time crunch – I’m really not sure how – but the process of getting everyone ready was much smoother.

BETTERMORNINGSAt one point, I was putting together The Boy’s lunch, and The Man stood in the kitchen, a little warily, I suppose, and asked if there was anything he could do. I told him no. And I realized I needed to have a yes answer to that question. I need to allow him to help me when it gets down to it. I was a single mom for so long that I get into that mode sometimes, that I-am-fierce-I-can-do-it-all-on-my-own-and-no-one-can-stop-me mode. But I’m not all on my own. And it’s OK to ask for help. It might take a little training for everyone involved, but it would be better for everyone involved if everything didn’t fall on me in the morning.

And another big part of that is that The Boy can do some, too. So much of what I do for him is just routine left over from when he was eight years old. Now he is fourteen, and much more capable of handling responsibilities. I need to step back and let him.

So, I guess it’s time for a morning training plan. I’ll get that on my list of things to do, and I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. ūüėČ

Acceptance

Sometimes, I look back on my time being a single mom rather fondly.  Doing it on my own was something I needed at the time.  In many ways it was very liberating, and I bonded with The Boy in a way I never could have as a married parent.  And then I remember how lonely it was, as well, when I thought it would always be just the two of us.  When there was no one looking out for me besides myself, money was tight, and I had to fill every adult role. Being ill was completely out of the question because there was no one to take care of either of us.

And then I remember even further back when I was married the first time, and one of my friends tells a story about a time soon after The Boy was born when I was so ill that I called her to take me to the hospital.  She tells the story because I have absolutely no memory of it (funny how the brain works). Yes, I was married at the time, and when my friend tells the story, she says that when she arrived to pick me up, she watched the ex step over me, lying prone on the floor, on his way out to his grown-man basketball league.  I guess I was dehydrated, for which I have gone to the emergency room a couple of times in my life, and apparently he had no inclination to take me to the hospital himself, regardless of the fact that I was very visibly ill, and we had an infant at home.

Some single moms get very vocal and agitated when married moms say they feel like single moms.¬† I’ve been in both positions and try not to judge.¬† Life as a single mom can be very, very difficult, and life as a married mom can be very, very difficult, as well.¬† Both positions can also be incredibly rewarding and satisfying.¬† And unless you are living someone’s life 24 hours a day, you really have no idea of another person’s challenges.

I find the same type of vocalizing and agitation in the autism community on various topics, and judgement all around. Words like “aspie” and “high functioning” can cause full-throated arguments, as can person-first language, vaccines, Autism Speaks, and even the varying parts of the spectrum and who has it “harder”.

I don’t often swear in my writing, but I call bullshit.

EarthEveryone, EVERYONE on this planet has their own struggles, some more visible than others.¬† Everyone also has their own opinions.¬† And there is very little in this world that is truly black and white, right and wrong.¬† Our diversity and duality make us human, and dare I say, interesting.¬† We don’t have to agree to like each other, learn from each other, or coexist.¬† We don’t have to compete for whose life is the hardest – there is no trophy.¬† But I have learned that experience is the best teacher, and if we can be civil to each other long enough to listen to one anothers’ experiences, there is a lot to learn about our kiddos, ourselves, and these interesting people with whom we share this space on Earth.

The Man, The Teacher

Can I just start this post off by saying I know how incredibly lucky The Boy and I are? I know there’s a lot of single mamas out there with kiddos with special needs, and I know that loneliness, and that feeling of hopelessness that you may never find someone to share your joys and burdens. I write this post in gratitude that life, circumstance, karma, or whatever or whoever you may think had a hand in it, helped us get to be this blended family of three.

The Man is a natural teacher and kid magnet. ¬†Whenever we go to the beach, he picks out a couple of kids who show even ¬†the slightest interest in his surfboard, puts them on, gives them a few pointers and lets them fly. ¬†And after about 10 minutes, a whole beach-full of kids wants a turn. ¬†Our little neighbor often comes over to see if The Boy wants to play, and just as often ends up “helping” The Man with his projects around the house, wearing his tool belt, and learning how to use a power screwdriver, under the closest of supervision, of course.

He shows me how to do stuff all the time. ¬†I put windows into our trailer flip all by myself, you know, and I didn’t know how to do that before I met The Man.

He was the one to teach The Boy to ride his bike. ¬†He taught him how to pee while keeping his trousers up. ¬†He’s taught him how to surf and mow the lawn. ¬†The other night, The Man had brought home some m&ms for The Boy and had told him he could have them when he was done practicing the tuba. But when The Boy and I ended the practice session, I was frustrated. ¬†He is so freakin’ smart that he thinks it’s funny to play it incorrectly and doesn’t know when to stop joking around and get work done. ¬†This is something we’re working on, and this lesson just didn’t go right. I was tired of everything and decided to go to bed early. ¬†The Boy quickly grabbed the m&ms and headed to his room. ¬†In his mind, he was done practicing which meant he could have them, while The Man and I both agreed that you only get rewards when you do things the right way. ¬†I gave up and headed to bed, very aggravated and ¬†unwilling to fight anymore. ¬†The Man stepped in and I could hear him speaking to The Boy through the bedroom door. He came to bed and said he had explained that we needed to save the m&ms for when he actually got the work done on the tuba, and asked him to think about it, and also suggested that when he returned the m&ms to the fridge, he needed to come and tell me he had done so.

I was so impressed. The Man had calmly explained the reasoning and left it in The Boy’s hands to do the right thing.

Not five minutes had gone by when we heard a knock on the bedroom door. ¬†The Boy entered to tell me he had returned the m&ms, and I assured him he could earn them the next night by completing our work on the tuba. He wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t melting, either, and he had made the right choice, guided by The Man’s words.

This is something that would not have occurred if his dad had been around.  This is something that would not have occurred if I was still doing it all on my own.  This occurred because The Man is a good teacher, and a good parent. I am grateful.

Another

512px-Broken_glassYet another friend of mine told me recently that she and her husband were separating.¬† And they have a son on the spectrum.¬† I don’t think it had a lot to do with their decision, but it may have been an elephant in the room because her husband is probably also on the spectrum but was never diagnosed.¬† They just told the kids this past weekend, and they are all still reeling.

And my best friend at work called a lawyer today to make an appointment to get the ball rolling on her divorce.

People in my circle are hurting, and I empathize.  They are in places I was in, what seems like a long time ago.  Ages ago.  Lifetimes ago.

Luckily I know what not to say.  I know what they do not want to hear.  And I hope they see me at the other end and take heart that the pain they are going through does not have to last forever.  They are both strong ladies, but even the strong have weak moments, and this is one of the hardest struggles they will ever live through.

My heart aches for them, but I also admire them for their strength to face what they are in for.  And I stand ready to catch them when they need to lean on someone.

Men and Boys

There are things in this world that boys need to learn from adults.¬† I find that as a single mom, some things slip through the cracks, and I’m surprised when I realize The Boy doesn’t know something (like what the phrase “laughing like a hyena” means).¬† Since The Man has been in our lives, he has often stepped in to teach The Boy something that boys (and really all growing kids) should know how to do, like ride a bike:

First Time on Two Wheels

Today, we had an up and down day, which ended up being mostly up.¬† Luckily, we were able to turn around a dramatic morning and spent most of the beautiful day at the park.¬† When we eventually came home, The Man immediately set The Boy to work, teaching him how to wash Mom’s car:

carwash

The Man even points out to me the times when I am doing something for The Boy that he could be doing himself.¬† I bristled at this at first, but it didn’t take me long to realize that he wasn’t telling me how to parent The Boy, and that he was usually right.¬† Now I find his insights invaluable, and these lessons he teaches The Boy are so important.¬† And even more important is the relationship that comes from these lessons and insight.¬† This stuff makes me smile. ūüôā

Going to the… Gazebo

Exciting news, kids! We’re getting real close to setting a date! Of course it depends on the 4-6 people we’d like to be there, and when officiants and venues are available and such … Planning an albeit tiny wedding in about two months means we have to be a little more flexible, but I’m geeked, especially because I think The Man is or soon will be on board with my modest plans, rather than his idea of a quickie courthouse wedding – nothing wrong with that (and certainly not ruling anything out at this point), but I’m a bit excited to be in the planning stage. A combination of “Whew!” and “Yay!” and “Gulp…”

But mostly “Yay!!!” ūüėÄ

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The Other Part of Our Story: The Final Installment

English: A S'mores made with a half a Hershey'...

It was a messy summer.¬† He left us without a vehicle for the fourth of July, so I had to rent one to get from place to place, and without my knowing, he had given our grill to a friend, so the backyard grilling I had planned for The Boy and I was almost derailed.¬† But my mom suggested one of those “disposable”-type grills, and we were able to have our hotdogs and s’mores and watch the fireworks on our driveway.¬† And we were OK.

I had waited so long at first because I had been raised Catholic – ’nuff said.¬† And then I waited some more because I didn’t want to end up sharing The Boy.¬† And then I waited some more because I wasn’t sure I could do it – be a single full-time parent to a child with special needs.

And then I realized I was already doing it all by myself.¬† I didn’t have to share The Boy, and probably wouldn’t (I knew his dad would fail to keep his side of the parenting agreement).¬† And frankly, religion had left me out in the cold with regards to my son and his needs.¬† I knew he needed consistency.¬† I knew he needed to not be yelled at, and not be spanked.¬† I knew after the failed counseling that none of this would change, and even though I was scared to do it alone, our trip down south reminded me that it could be better.

The ex moved out at the end of the summer.¬† We were arguing about who was going to pay what bills (I got stuck with piles of bills that had been left unpaid for years, he got stuck with an extra vehicle in his name).¬† I attempted to buy a car and almost couldn’t because of the state in which he had left my credit.¬† His mother attempted to sue me for money she had given us for my graduate school.¬† It was a messy, horrible time.

And then he moved out of the state.¬† And then he defaulted on the divorce papers.¬† And then after four months, we were divorced – the judge waived the normal six month waiting period due to the fact that the ex hadn’t paid any support, and had already moved out of the state.¬† And I had full legal and physical custody of The Boy.

Financially and emotionally, it was a difficult time.¬† But I always knew I had made the right decision.¬† And it just kept getting better and better.¬† Yes, I still have to deal with the ex’s antics from time to time, but as my attorney recently pointed out to me, I can do whatever I want.¬† And it is so much better at this end of the tunnel.

All Wrong

I just realized I did this all wrong.¬† I mentioned before about the day I have to drive away being the worst. And I let myself be a baby and cry all I want.¬† That day is today.¬† And I should’ve pampered myself a little.¬† I should have reserved a little nicer room, something to take the sting out of this awful, awful feeling and the tears that pop up at every little thing.

But tomorrow will be better.  I will get The Boy back after two weeks (TWO WEEKS!), and I will get to see his smiling face and hear his laugh again.

And as The Man has reminded me several times today (he always calls me a few times on this day, I think to try to cheer me up), there are only about five months until we don’t have to do this anymore.¬† Which is really something good, because this gets so much harder every single time.

So tonight I will watch sappy Lifetime and Oxygen movies, do my nails, and hang out in my bathrobe in my hotel room.  Tomorrow, I pick up my little partner and chip away at those last five months.

Hindsight