About Me

I have something to say... But a blog let's me spew until I figure out what it is.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Guilt of a Single Mother

Going into motherhood, I knew that "guilt" would be a part of my daughter's getting older.  I knew that there would be times that I would disappoint her in the interest of her safety or that I would make her furious for not allowing her to do the things she wanted to when they weren't appropriate.

At three, we had a challenge with bed time - Olivia "can't sleep" (she tells me), so she wanted to get up and play around a dark room.  No child - you're going to bed for a list of reasons too long to even begin itemizing.  

So, every night, I would dutifully (and usually with frustration and attitude) go back upstairs to correct he behavior and put her back in bed. 

But the thing "they" don't tell you is that there will be times, when disciplining your child, that you will literally not be able to make eye contact with them because the sheer heartbreak they feel is written all over their faces - and it's contagious.  Looking them in their tiny little heartbroken eyes (and remember, we are talking about telling my kid that she cannot PLAY at TEN o'clock at night in a DARK room with NO supervision) will compel you to change your mind, let them stay up, or read them more stories until they pass out... which, as you know, I do not advocate.

Le Sigh - the manipulation!

So word of advice to those who haven't gotten there yet - DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT - they can sense your weakness!

But the bigger reason for this post is the guilt that I carry with me for meeting, falling for, marrying and choosing to have a child with a person who didn't really want her.  MY choice, MY na├»vety, MY will, MY stubbornness and MY ambitions are what got me pregnant and divorced.  Now, and for what may amount to a substantial part of her life, my daughter (for the most part) is fatherless.

When I was a little girl, I worshiped my father - he was kind, funny... etc etc.  If you have met my dad, he requires no further explanation.  They say that a girl's self esteem is built by the father - so the challenge to me, as her mother, is to learn what components of self esteem are usually part of that equation and determine what I can do to substitute the role.  Is it telling her, genuinely, that she looks beautiful? Aren't we hard-wired that the feedback from the opposite sex is key to our chemistry/makeup?  How do I support her, love her and encourage her in the ways that make her feel as though she has both a mother and a father?  To allow her to feel that her life is just as full as those children who have both parents full-time?  

YES, I know - better ONE loving parent who can expose her to healthy relationships  than TWO distracted parents who barely liked one another.  If things hadn't changed, she would have wound up "instinctually" attracted to a man who felt nothing for her, didn't keep her a priority but rather a responsibility and something to be answered to... 

But the guilt that I feel for bringing her into this world and subsequently losing a "headcount" in her life which is known to be a rather important piece to the puzzle... what do I do about that?  What I know is this - my kid is very bright.  She has a rapidly expanding vocabulary and she has a strong grasp of concepts.  For now, she is happy, healthy, inquisitive and sometimes stubborn.  For now, I don't need a game plan... but I am evaluating my options.  

While it is my hope that I will meet someone awesome - someone independent, loving, affectionate, involved and whole - I simply can't and will not hold my breath.  The answer is not in finding her another father... that would be short-sighted and simple-minded.

The answer, for the time being, is figuring out who *I* am... and then using my independence and rationality to develop a life and a lifestyle in which she doesn't feel as though there is some huge void.

...What matters not is the event, but one's perception of the event...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chapter 4: Aftermath

Sometime in mid-October, 2010, (one month after my brother took his life) my brother's wife de-friended me on Facebook.  Her decision came on the heels, I can only imagine, of my decision to support my mother by attending the memorial that my mother was organizing for George in Pennsylvania.  I had told Kristen that I wouldn't be attending because, in my heart, I wasn't going to.  Mom and I were having a very touch-and-go relationship at the time and I was in no position to afford a somewhat-last-minute trip to the Garden State where my mother was living at the time.  

To make matters worse, my mom very specifically told Kristen that she didn't want her to show up at the event.  I can understand where my mother was coming from AND I can understand how it must have made Kristen feel but at the end of everything, my mother's son had just committed suicide and she was within her rights invite or ban whomever she wanted.

Kristen was really hurt and offended and she called me to talk about it - and I advised her that to let it go.  I told her that I understood where she coming from; I told her that my mom felt the way she felt and she wasn't going to change; I tried to convince her not to "crash" the event and asked her why she would want to be someplace that she wasn't welcome; I asked her if she thought George would want her to crash the event and, lastly, I told her I wasn't going.

I meant every word.

But when my mother called in tears about a week later and implored me to come to New Jersey and make the trip to PA with her - when I told her I couldn't afford it and that I didn't think I was coming - she immediately paid for it.  

It's my mother.  What am I supposed to say? "No?" 

So I said "yes".

About a week later, word managed to circulate back to Kristen that I was going and suddenly she disappeared from my Facebook list.  So - I did the difficult thing and confronted her.

She told me (via text message), that she needed to take a step back from me and my family.  I pointed out the immaturity of defriending me on Facebook rather than having a conversation with me to let me know that she was going to be pulling back.  I told her that I hoped it would be for a few weeks and not a few months - she responded with "me too".

I never heard from her again.

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of George's death.  In the two years since he left us, we have been told by Kristen and her family that "it's all too overwhelming to deal with - we will get to it when we get to it"... George's stuff was put in storage in North Carolina - but at this point.... well... I somehow doubt that it's still being paid for - so, it was either moved out and dispensed of or the entire locker went to some storage wars auction and is lost forever.

Kristen's parents sent us some of George's "things" - but what arrived in the mail were three shirts - 2 of which were literally 6 sizes too big and another that didn't fit my brother's style in the slightest.  I am not accusing them of anything.... either they went to the storage locker and grabbed some items that just happened not be George's but had their hearts in the right place OR they were tired of my dad's anger and tried to do something to put him at ease/bay by sending some clothes to us OR they felt it had "gone on too long" and took pity on our family that it had been over a year and we still hadn't seen a single item of George's and sent something - anything - to help ease our hurt.

For those that know me - for those that read my "stuff" regularly - you know that I am pretty even keeled and that I give people the benefit of the doubt to a fault.  The same is true of the situation with Kristen.  I loved her like a sister.  I knew her from the age of 10.  I encouraged George to follow his heart to North Carolina and to pursue a relationship with her because he loved her fiercely.  I supported her when her relationship with her parents ended in 1998 and aggressively encouraged her when George died to reach out to her parents and connect with them so that she would have support.  

But as I sit here, 2 years later, I can tell you that my sympathy, empathy and patience with her has ended.  I pity her and I pity those that care about her.  Should our paths ever cross, it will likely be my first violent encounter.

I wanted his pound puppy - the item he treasured most as a child, dad wanted a ring that he had given George a few years earlier - a family heirloom, and my mother wanted a few pieces of dirty laundry.  The three of us were hoping to provide her with a passport drive so that we could copy the contents of his computer or, if not, a few of the art pieces he had printed.  

Instead, we got nothing.

I carry the term "widow"in high regard.  To me, the word conveys a level of respect - that a series of unfortunate events left a wife without a husband prematurely.  It communicates tragedy, it communicates sympathy, it communicates regrets and sadness.  It is not, and will never be, the word I will use to describe my brother's wife and my former best friend.  While I can understand that she was in pain, battling her own demons and coping with her own change, I can simply not forgive her lack of maturity or the actions she took (or didn't take) in the name of grief.