Well the boys turned six. I have six year old twin boys.
It also marks a year since my ex moved out. She moved out a week or two after their birthday last year.
This was my last “first” as a single Mom. I had a year of firsts after my Dad died. It was all messed up. This was different. This could be a year of new beginnings not mourning. Divorce definitely carries a sting but nothing compared to the loss of my Dad. I was excited this year to navigate this new existence with my sons to be more present with them in these moments. I didn’t have the stress of my crumbling marriage hanging over every holiday and event. It was actually a relief in some ways.
And it was different “firsts” than when my Dad died. Like it was my first time managing the pool as a single mom. It was the first time stacking firewood by myself. I mean I stacked it often by myself in the past but I had someone else I could ask to watch the kids or help stack the wood while I watched the boys. This year the boys helped me.
I was nervous for the birthday though. Because it’s hard being a single parent. I’m bad at planning. Even worse since doing it alone because I feel like I survive day to day and there isn’t room for future planning. I decided to bring them to an arcade and a movie on Friday, their actual birthday. Then Saturday rented a bounce house…which was amazing…and had their friends over. It all worked out. Grubhub for pizza. And friends and sister who showed up for me with all the things that I forgot (mainly the balloons- my sister, and my asthma medication that I need to breathe- my friend)
It was a long two days. The boys were spoiled. Starting in the arcade with me. By tonight when they came home I was kind of annoyed. They were not acting grateful for everything that they had been given, and were already asking about an expensive present for Christmas.
There followed a physical altercation over a birthday present and I sent them to bed. I did not yell. I calmly told them they were acting completely unacceptable and needed to go to bed.
There were tears. Then when they were in bed they wanted clarification on why I was upset. I started with the fight that had occurred downstairs. I then went into, “You guys are not grateful, your not thankful for ALL that you have. You are such lucky privileged boys. I did not have what you have when I was little. I never got picked up early from school and brought to an arcade, and a movie, and then a bounce house. My parents would not have been able to afford all I do for you guys. And you are just not getting it.”
“So you didn’t do karate?” one of them asked, “No, I didn’t, not until I was in high school and I paid for it with my own money.” Then one of them rubbed his eyes and said, “That makes me so sad Mama,”
An aside- I was not destitute. I played soccer, basket-ball, and I danced for eleven years. But I knew beyond that there was not extra money for say the dance team, extra lessons; now had I been a prima ballerina I have no doubt my parents would have made it work. But while I was a good dancer we all knew this was not going to be a lifetime career for me. We lived in a town though that was white suburban. I didn’t have designer clothes and my house was not a huge colonial so I was made fun of over the years for being “poor” by the bullies based on my town’s standards. I know I wasn’t poor. I know we always had food, and shelter, and our bills were paid, as was most of my college tuition. I had a car when I turned 16 (not a new car, and the brakes failed but…I had a car). I didn’t have to pay for car insurance until I bought my own car when I was 23. So again- I am not saying I was not privileged. Because I certainly was. But I learned early that I needed to work hard to have what I wanted because what I wanted and what I needed are two different things.
My kids…well I wanted to give them opportunities that I didn’t have. That’s why I let them try out karate- and they love it. And it’s good for them. I also still work my butt off for everything that I have. I’ve built my business. I also still have the cushion of my parents- well now my Mom, if and when I need her. I know she’s there for me.
But I digress. So I say all of this to my sons, and I end with, “I work so hard to give you guys everything I possibly can, everything that I may not have had the opportunity to have.” I don’t yell. I say it quietly and sitting on one of their beds. And they both start crying and one of them leans into me to wrap his arms around me and says, “Well you do a really good job Mama.”
I hugged him back, and then I rubbed their backs for a little while and they are now sleeping soundly.
It’s a hard thing. Balancing. I want my kids to be grateful for what they have, I don’t want them to feel like they have to work as much as I did as early as I did, but I also don’t want them turning into entitled little shits.
They brought home the Scholastic Book Fair magazine. I remember every year we would have to be dragged in front of these beautiful mountains of brand new books for the book fair. The same Scholastic Book Fair then and now. Then I would know that I had a one or two book limit. I would always see at least a few other kids with piles of books they walked out of the room with. It seemed unfair. That I could only get my two books, and other kids could walk out with ten or more. I love books. I definitely felt jealous. What I failed to acknowledge were the three kids who left with no books. Looking back now I recognize there were kids living in poverty in my classes over the years. But I never thought about that at the time. I mean I was grateful for the two books I had, but also incredibly envious that I didn’t walk out with ten. I feel ashamed writing this now but it’s true.
So my sons bring home the Scholastic Book Fair magazine and tell me about the kid who got eight books. I asked them if there were kids who didn’t get any. They were unsure. I let them pick out two each. And then I asked them to pick out two for their cousin. Also those books are damn expensive.
I don’t know what the answer is. I know I want my kids to be happy. I want them to be grateful. I want them to work hard and to appreciate that I work hard for what we have. As he wrapped his little arms around my waist and told me I do a good job. I squeezed him so tight back, and said “Thanks baby. I love you.” I’m going to keep bumbling my way through this parenting situation. And hope I produce two functional, humble, not entitled, woke, white dudes. In the process. I’m learning too.
*** The highlight of Friday was stopping at the grocery store because I needed snacks for the party on Saturday. This was after the arcade and the movie. The boys were tired and on sugar highs. But there we were. I said yes to almost every bad cereal they put in the cart because I didn’t have the energy to say No. We were at the checkout with a seemingly cranky woman who pursed her lips and looked super irritated with the existence of all of us. The boys chatted amicably. Told her and the bagger it was their birthday. Asked for gum. I said No. Hard No. Enamel issues in one kid. Then it was, “Well Mommy lets us at her house,” and I put my hand on my head and squeezed my hair to keep from screaming, and said, “Well you can do what Mommy allows at Mommy’s. With Mama no gum.” They put it down. The cashier watched and heard and scanned the single pieces of cake I had allowed the boys to get. One each. Because we didn’t have cake on their birthday. Just movie popcorn and arcade bad food. I was tired and weak. Well the cashier said, “Mmmhmmm, this is where it’s at. Ain’t nobody got no fucking time to make a whole damn birthday cake. Yes girl. This is the smartest thing I’ve ever seen. Single slice of cake for their birthday.” Then we made eye contact. I realized she was actually complimenting me. I realized she was saying this because she realized I’m a single Mom who was tired and feeling judged by my kids and bought them cake on a grocery shop trip at almost 7:00 pm on their actual birthday. I smiled. Truly smiled. And I said, “Yeeeeessss. Ain’t nobody got fucking time for that.”
*** I told the waiter at the arcade I’m a Queer nurse (I swear it came up in conversation, because I’m not some one who overshares). He comp’d my entree. I left him an insane tip for a 40.00$ bill. He was the sweetest little gay dude. Pay it forward to the Queers.