Sunday, January 10, 2016

Evening the Odds; Single Parent Survival Tips and Observations

One of my little super heroes

Like most people, I usually start the year off with a bunch of new year resolutions…commitments to become better organized, establish a routine, work out, and drop a few pounds.

At the end of last year, I did more than shed a few pounds, though my jeans size remains the same.  I joined the ranks of single parenthood.  And for every ending, there is a new beginning and for 2016, I wanted to create a bubble of serenity around an otherwise insane world and hectic schedule.

If you’re reading this, you know we haven’t even moved out of the first month of the new year…and you already know that I failed miserably in creating that bubble.  And said bubble eludes us all; but still we all keep trying! 

I’d like to say that I did absolutely everything and this transition has been smooth…but I can’t.  There may be inequities and the scales may feel more heavily weighted in one direction, but I am now convinced that this one woman show is having a few growing pains with two boys, who, at the moment, bear a striking resemblance to Bevis and Butthead in their current pre-pubescent state.

Catch phrases like, “deez nuts” and ridiculous Youtube quotes like, “he needs some milk” send them both into fits of laughter, leaving me to choose my battles carefully.  Especially when they continue to feed off each other’s laughter and explode into nonsensical hysteria more when I put my “stern mom” face on.

And if a little silliness was all I had to contend with, I could handle that just fine.  In fact, it’s a camaraderie and closeness I see growing where they were more indifferent before.  I like it – so many other by-products of single parenthood involve therapy later in life.  I'm taking this one as a positive sign.  

This new normal requires a completely new toolbox of tactics to manage work and life balance.  They say it takes a village, so here goes (and I welcome any others that are constructive or have humor in entertainment value…I’m more than happy to post and share!):

1.              Yes, there are dishes in the sink when you go to bed…and they will be there in the morning too.  Even if you have a dishwasher, someone has to load it.  And if it breaks, remember it’s expendable and you grew up in a house where there was only a sink and dish drain.
2.              There’s no such thing as a sock monster, but I have no rational explanation for where my kids’ socks disappear to between the time they are peeled off their stinky feet and work their way back into the laundry room as a solo act.  I did create a matching game, though.  For every matched pair, they get a quarter.  I’ll let you know how that goes.
3.              If you have more than one child, you will never know who broke it…doesn’t matter what “it” is.
4.              Kids can be bribed and if you’re not above that, consider Cosmic PVP for Minecraft, @Cosmic_PVP, with virtual ranks and chests.  Today, a small virtual chest was exactly what it took to get my 11-year-old to shovel the sidewalk…and it didn’t take long for word to spread to the 13-year-old, who took care of the driveway.
5.              Kids spend too much time on computers and video games; if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have anything to take away.  Just need to find a way to make it work in the right direction.
6.              If you decide to wait a kid out to see if they will finally do something, my personal best is that every cup in the house was dirty, some with caked and dried sour milk…with the remainder resembling some kind of a science experiment.  Although I had better success with laundry, leaving their dirty clothes in their rooms until they realized they would not have anything to wear if they didn’t put them down the laundry chute.
7.              To save face, in my case, I threw away every plastic cup in the house (without exception) and purchased plastic, disposable cups.
8.              To save the planet, once I’d moved out of crisis mode, and we created a family plan to each have a single cup for which we are responsible for drinking out of and washing for re-use. 
9.              I hate laundry…I’ve always hated laundry and just to spite me, when I began keeping up with it in earnest, the 15-year-old dryer was kind enough to break, with the motor seizing up beyond possible repair.  I guess the shock was too much for it.
10.          I’m a confident 21st century woman, but I still don’t like dealing with any kind of installation or service…suffice it to say I did not know where the gas valve shut-off was, and by the time I found out, the delivery men were long gone.  Thank goodness for great friends or I’d still be drying my clothes over the gas fireplace (which by the way, works really fast and can melt some fabrics fairly quickly…approach with caution).
11.          Creating a calendar and schedule, with chores and time limits only works if everyone reads said calendar and tasks are enforced, with consequences. (TBD)
12.          No matter how hard you try, you’ll always be too easy on your kids…guilt will always work. 
13.          While your kids are praying for a snow delay, you are canceling out their requests with your own…please God, if there is any schedule interruption, let it be an entire snow day that doesn’t affect my morning commute…a 90 minute delay would decimate any hope for a smooth Monday.
14.          Kids say the darnedest things…both their dad and I have been on the receiving end of Bevis and Butthead and trying to have a serious conversation about preparing them for the new normal.  According to the boys, dating = sex, sex = Viagra, and “you don’t have to be lonely at”  And if you think this makes me uncomfortable, you’re wrong…I think my kids are hysterical and in between the punch lines, I make it a point to reset their world views formed from television, internet, and observations.  And when they are in complete fits of laughter, I occasionally crack a smile…because life is funny and you can’t take it too seriously. 
15.          Kids say the darnedest things Part II…apparently, I am a mom and not allowed to be anything more…but dads are allowed to date and have sex according to my kids (because they are men and that’s what men do).  I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP
16.          Kids will gang up on you and your former spouse/co-parent if you let them…they will expose every weakness, play every broken dysfunction of your former family.  It’s important to remember that this was true before becoming a single parent…and the only reason it works now is because of guilt (see #12 above).
17.          Once you can accept imperfection, your life will feel a little more perfect.
18.          Of all the mistakes you think you may have made, the choice to become a parent will never be one of them.
19.          Because the choice to become a parent will never feel like a mistake, don’t be too hard on yourself for other life choices.  You can’t have one without the other.


Good Luck! 


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