mom of boys

Single mom life with twin boys: Overnight Illness

Most parents I know are over this Winter and it’s many illnesses. I am one of them. We’ve had the flu- actual flu- and a couple bouts of stomach bugs. It never runs concurrently. Always consecutively. So as the single parent with one after the other illnesses…unfun.

I realized I reached my max when I woke up to a chunk of my bathroom cut out. I thought, “What the hell happened?” then the fuzzy memory of 1 AM entered my hazy and tired and brain.

We had been on play dates on Friday. We got home late and my sons are extra dramatic on Fridays because it’s the end of the week and they are tired. I was feeling pretty pumped about the playdates because one of them I actually got to drop the boys off and leave! It’s a family I’ve gotten to know well, and we’ve hung out a bunch, and I magically had two hours free on a Friday evening. I drove home with visions of happy hour and fun…in reality I played with my dog, cleaned my kitchen, and caught the first half of a new murder doc on Peacock. Yes. That’s where I’m at age 38 when I snatch two hours free.

I wrangled the boys to bed and stayed up too late finishing the murder documentary. We were scheduled for a playdate the following day which they were very excited about. This was also day seven since son number 1 got the stomach bug. I was so naive. So innocent. Thinking I was in the clear with son number 2.

I woke to son number 2 screaming and running down the hallway to my room. At 1 AM. Once I realized no one was dying and his stomach hurt I walked him into my bathroom and we sat on the floor because he was now insisting he was not going to puke. But I was still waking up and very confused by the screaming and not puking stomach ache.

He’s also crying and tells me his long sad story. He woke up and also woke up his brother, and “I asked him to go get you Mama, and he wouldn’t! He said No! He told me to go back to sleep because if I’m sick we can’t go on the playdate.” As he finished that sentence he puked. A lot. On the bathroom rug. In between heaves he was hitching his breath, crying, saying, “But I want to go on the playdate,”

I’m not the best without sleep. I’m not the best when I’m woken up from sleep. So I was still back on the screams that woke me up, why did he have to scream like that? My heart was still racing and my adrenaline was pumping. I rubbed his back and waited for the puking to stop. I also was thinking about our new carpet in my room and the hallway. I didn’t want to risk puke on the new carpet. This all makes me sound like a horrible mom because I was definitely more focused on the screaming and the carpet then on my puking son.

When he stopped he stood up, and asked to take a shower. Good, yes, into my shower he went. There was a lot of puke. I could not fathom dealing with it. I also did not want him leaving my bathroom and puking on the carpet. My bathroom is freakishly large- like as big as their bedroom- so I went and got his sleeping bag and pillow, and the meat scissors from downstairs and a garbage bag.

In these moments there was no future thinking. There was only survival and the quickest way to get him back to sleep and ultimately me back to sleep.

When I walked into their room to get the sleeping bag his brother rolled over and muttered, “Did he puke?” “Yes” “Well I can still go on the playdate!” then he rolled back over and fell asleep.

I used the meat scissors to cut the area rug in the bathroom. I cut the puked on area off. Put it in the trash bag. Lysol wiped and sprayed the entire area. Laid out the sleeping bag on the rug with a puke bowl, and now clean boy crawled in and fell asleep instantly. He actually told me he was happy he could sleep there so he would be close to the toilet. Not that he ever puked into the toilet. But he had good intentions.

He and I were both exhausted the next morning. And both boys were fixated the canceled playdate. All. Day. Until I rescheduled for next week and we have now been counting down to our make-up playdate. Cross your fingers. Everyone stay healthy.

The rug looks like some one took a bite out of it. I pondered my frame of mind as I was reflecting on my 1 AM decision to cut the puke part out of the rug. I tried to make sense of this decision. I think it made a lot of sense around 1 AM when I wanted to get back into bed, did not want to spend two hours cleaning a rug, and definitely did not want to touch the stinky puke. Then I remembered about him asking his brother for help and his brother refusing!

I went and confronted the brother. So he asked you for help and you said no? That was not nice. Please do not do that again. He shrugged, “But the playdate.”

This. Is. 7.

The Rug

lesbian mom · mom of boys

“I Used to Have Fun…” A Mom’s nostalgia.

There’s this scene in Mamma Mia where Meryl Streep looks wistfully at the sky in her overalls as she wanders around doing repairs and paying bills and says nostalgically, “I used to have fun…”. The context being her 20 year old daughter is there with her friends and they are having fun.

When I first saw Mamma Mia I was 23 and…I was having fun. Honestly I started having fun when I was fourteen. I partied hard in high school. I actually partied less in college than high school…not to say that I didn’t party though. Then my 20’s, well the first half of them, was freaking phenomenal.

I know this sounds bad coming from a mental health professional- but in this post I’m just a woman. And I don’t regret one freaking hangover or bar fight or spontaneous dance on a stage with two gay boys who totally choreographed with me in my hat…because I had a good freaking time.

Then my 30’s came along and boom. Kids. Dad died. Divorce. Kids. Work. Kids. Work. It became super un-fun. Okay well still fun, in very different ways.

My 20’s were filled with pee your pants laughter. And not because I had a weak bladder due to carrying twins. But because the shit I got into was that hilarious. Especially when we filmed it. Which we did. Often.

I still don’t regret any of it. I don’t regret falling on my butt in an icy parking lot in front of about 100 people on my birthday after drinking prosecco with some of my best friends at the time and then sliding on my stomach over to my friends car because I was too scared to try walking again. I don’t regret filming me and another nurse in the bathroom at a staff Christmas party doing…well things…and then going out to show literally every one at the party…I don’t regret the many times I went skinny dipping-everywhere I could-, and the dancing. All the dancing. OH and even that time I fell down the stairs, didn’t drop my drink, and then yelled “Lesbian sex is awesome” in the middle of the gay bar.

I don’t regret the five years of attending the “herbal conference” in New Hampshire where we brought tents, danced around a fire, ran through the woods and the lake and “studied herbs”. We were told repeatedly we could not dance or swim naked. That place was wild.

Right now my life has less raucous fun. And it has less people in it who I had that fun with. Which sucks. But se la vie right? People move. Friendships change.

There is fun and laughter now but different fun and laughter than in my 20’s and I am damn glad I had my 20’s to make me into the somewhat serious 38 year old whose eyes twinkle with restrained laughter when my 20’s clients tell me about their hijinks. Because internally I’m like…I got you beat.

And that pee in your pants fall on your butt dance on the stage 20 something is still in me. Waiting to re-emerge when I’m through this serious Mama phase.

When I first saw Mamma Mia I remember identifying more with 20 year old Amanda Seyfried. Falling in love. My future ahead of me. But now at 38, I saw Meryl Streep say that line and I was like damn. I feel that. When did I become the parent in all these movies of my youth? Age 30 and 11 months. That’s when.

I spend my days treating the mentally ill and supervising employees. I spend my afternoons, evenings, and weekends parenting two seven year old boys. Not a lot of time for raucous fun. I spend it dealing with school about whichever boy is not listening this week or acting up on the bus or presenting at the assembly. I chauffeur to karate and basketball. I became this Mom Boss lady and while I love the confidence and not give a fuck attitude that my 30’s brought I can’t help but every so often stopping in the midst of a moment with the boys and thinking wistfully to the Summer fling when I was 22 that led to an embarrassing I don’t remember you moment when he moved in with a friend…or the Halloween parties, or, well everything wrapped up in that moment “I used to have fun….” because yeah Meryl. I feel that. Hard.

There was also a stripper.

And sharp-ied mustaches.

I think the dancing on stage with the gay boys was the best though. I think they were actually getting paid to be there and I sorta hopped up with them and we all gelled so the club people let me stay. It. Was. Amazing.

Halloween NYU. Epic.

Divorce and Separation · mom of boys

Parenting Twin Seven Year Olds…The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (and basket-ball).

Parenting.

When the boys were five months old I remember sort of stumbling into morning rounds a couple minutes late and the Attending looking annoyed as he continued through the patient list. I mentally replayed my morning up to that moment at 8:35 AM.

I was up from midnight to 2 AM nursing both boys. Then I was up at 4 AM. For good. Nursing them. My ex left the house at 6 AM and there I was. Trying to get ready for work, making myself look human, while also getting two babies dressed, fed, and out the door. I remember it started raining just as I opened one of the back passenger doors in the daycare parking lot. I carried the two car seats with two five month olds, and stood in the rain as I buzzed the daycare door to let me in.

Those were some damn hard days and nights. But in some ways they were easier than the parenting I do now a days with two seven year olds.

These boys, man. On the way to basketball on Saturday. We had already had a morning. Because there was a lot of not listening that occurred so I was heightened in terms of my ability to tolerate any further nonsense from them. There I am. Driving on a main road and the seatbelt light flashes and I yell the offending child’s name. “Dude, seatbelt!” “But I dropped my Nintendo Switch!” “Well grab it and put your seatbelt on” … seconds go by. The car starts doing that obnoxious ‘You don’t have your seatbelt on’ beep and I’m like “What is taking so long?!” And then I hear some talking back in the form of under the breath muttering and he’s thinking he’s slick, and I’m just done.

I pulled over to the side of the road. It’s a narrow main road with not much of a shoulder. So I basically took up half the road. I stopped. Put my flashers on, and dared any drivers behind me to come mess with me. I turned around to face my children and waited in silence as he finally got his seatbelt on. I put my hand out for the stupid Switch and then tossed it on the seat next to me. Waited for the cars to pass and then pulled out to resume our journey.

He leans over to watch his brother on his brother’s Switch. I hear the critique start. Because brother without the Switch feels he knows how to play better than brother with the Switch. There is some bickering and then brother without the switch and the seatbelt offender says, “What the fuck?!” He did use it appropriately in context as he questioned his brother’s move which did lead to his brother’s death in the Switch game.

I pulled over again. Turned around and talked about appropriate language, and he was apologizing, and then we are on the road again. I’m not sure he was actually sorry, I think he just wanted me to start driving again.

We make it to basket-ball miraculously all in one piece. Basketball is a ten minute drive from my house. This was ten minutes of my life with twin seven year old boys.

Today I spent the morning trying to decipher the $8.25 charge on one of the boys accounts at school. The boys bring their lunches and eat breakfast at home. There should be a .75 cent charge for the ONE chocolate milk I was asked if he could purchase last week. I look closely and discover not one chocolate milk charge but 11. The boy had chocolate milk eleven of the last twelve school days.

When I talk to him in the afternoon he looks exhausted before we even start, and I ask what’s wrong and he says he had a hard day because a girl made fun of him, and called him a name “lots of times” and he asked her to stop and she wouldn’t. Then he’s crying. So we process another kid being mean, and then I still need to talk to him about lying about the chocolate milk. Which I do. He feels bad. He feels worse when he realizes he’s going to be paying the $8.25 for all the chocolate milks. He feels even worse when I tell him that on top of paying he is going to be doing firewood runs with me every morning this week.

I’m not trying to kick him when he’s down, but he still has to own the lying about the chocolate milk. There was no yelling. It was a calm discussion with hugs. But damn that was a rough fifteen minutes of my parenting day.

So that’s what I mean when I think back to when they were 5 months and my worst problem was carrying two babies, nursing two babies, and trying to stay awake for work…because now adays I have these two people. Two people who say things like What the fuck?! Two people who lie. Two people who hit each other and pick their noses. Two people who feel such big feelings and who look to me to contain them, hold them, and love them.

This Saturday at basket-ball, there was the whole countdown at the end of the game and the crowd joined in and my What the Fuck son got the ball and dribbled down toward his basket, and we were at the “THREE TWO…” and he threw that ball up there and nailed the shot right at ONE. The crowd went wild and his teammates, including his brother were grinning ear to ear and slapping his hand and back, and he shoved his hands in his pockets, turned and walked away from his basket like he was just going for a stroll, and he tilted his little head over toward me and made eye contact and I smiled and clapped and he did a little smile and kept walking.

It’s those moments that I live for. When my kid looks for me because he wants me to be watching. For all the parents missing those moments- you’re missing out. Because even in the worst and hardest moments of parenting, it’s those moments when you know they want you to be here, by a little side eye and a smile, and if you’re absent you’re missing it. And I wouldn’t miss the What the Fucks?! Just like I wouldn’t miss the heroic buzzer shot. I want to be there for it all.

And I want my kids to want me there. Because that’s one of those warm gooey feelings that lacks definition. As a parent you want your kids to want you around and those moments when you can see that they do…are few and precious and keep me going through those horrific ten minute car rides.

Uncategorized

Single Mom vs. Christmas Tree: year 3.

Everything I thought I knew about parenting when there were two adults in the house went out the door with my ex back in 2020. Because single parenting is a new ballgame.

We got our Christmas tree this weekend. And it was a debacle because I wanted pre-cut and went to a place, it was cut your own, before I knew what was happening a guy was shoving a saw in my hand and the boys were running up a hill. It’s not a little hill. It’s a half mile completely up hill. Since doing this on my own I have always gotten a pre-cut tree so I’m trekking up the hill already nervous that this is going to go poorly.

We make it up the hill. We find the tree. I’m on the ground in kind of a nice outfit because I was expecting a pre-cut tree, and with my hair down. I have a lot of hair. Curly. Trees. Sap. It was a thing. So I’m sawing the tree. My son keeps trying to grab the saw to “help” and I’m like please stop because I’m going to cut off your finger by accident.

When I hear a male voice from above, “You need a hand?”

I emerge from the ground/tree. There is a very nice man and five children of various ages and a small wife all smiling down at me and my kids. He and his teenage son get the tree down within about ten seconds like freaking champs. And the family is circled around us and I’m thinking they are going to start singing a song from a the Sound of Music or something. They look picturesque and sort of whole in a way that a single mom covered in sap, crazy hair, may have been swearing at the tree, and her two twin boys…well don’t. If my sons and I would break into song it would be a song from Jungle Cruise. Because, man, we are just trying to survive.

We get the tree. Thanks to the very kind Von Trapp-esque family. The tree farm people seem to emerge out of the trees as we are dragging the tree out and take it from the boys and I and throw it on a tractor that brings it down the hill. They strap it to our car. I mean overall it was great service and all inclusive.

The hardest part was when we got home. Because then it’s just me. I set up the stand, and the boys helped me hose it off, and I drag it inside, and am wrestling with it to get it in the stand and upright. This of course is after I got if off the car.

So there I am, wrestling a tree. It was a lot fatter than it looked in the field. And I still had on my nice clothes. And I am in the damn thing. And I’m trying to drop it on center of the stand, then lean down and screw the screw things and then it kind slouches over when I think I’ve got it.

It happened then. One of my sons was standing on the other side of the fat tree. I thought he was watching his brother play a Switch game but he was apparently monitoring me quite intently. I made a noise- somewhere between a sigh/sob/groan of frustration.

It’s in those moments that- well you ever get those flashes of the most intense thoughts and emotions that sort of leak in? Like when I first got divorced I was angry, grieving, resentful all the time low level. I’m not anymore. But in those moments it comes through- a flash of all that hurt and pain and anger at having to do these moments alone. It’s quite visceral and unless you’ve experienced it rather difficult to describe.

But it’s important to name it. To write it. Because if there is one single parent out there who reads this and feels that and this normalizes it for you, then it’s for the best. We, as a society, do not talk about divorce and the repercussions of it and single parenting two and three years in because we are all just supposed to adapt and smile and post on social media pretending every moment is liquid gold.

But it’s not. Because when my son heard that sound I made he came around and looked at me concerned, “Are you okay Mama?” “Yeah baby, I am okay, some things are just really hard to do with one person, and this is one of them.” He looked more concerned even though I was trying to take deep breaths and smile and act okay. “Mommy should be here.” He said quietly. And I knew in that moment he was remembering the Von Trapps at the Christmas tree farm, and yearning for that for himself. And for me.

I had to be at my sisters within about twenty minutes, and they went with my ex that night.

I got the tree up. It’s still standing and mostly straight. But this is divorced single Mama life. Moments of utter punch in the gut raw parenthood while I’m standing there alone putting up the tree. Then I just carry that. Alone.

My kids see me. They see cracks in my invincible Mama armor because I am human and how can I not have moments where I let my feelings slip through?

Other then hugging my kids and telling them I love them there are not “happy endings” to these moments. I had to finish the tree and then move on with our day. But that was a hard one and I was not okay after that. I don’t want my ex here. The divorce was very necessary for many reasons. And I am better as an individual and as a parent without her. I am allowed to feel alone though and lonely. And I would have appreciated another person over five feet in the room helping me with the tree.

And my son saw this whole family and then saw me break a little bit.

And this is why parenting changed when I started doing it alone. This is why it became harder and I feel even more blind navigating it.

Since becoming a single parent I’ve done some research and what I found were alarming statistics including 63% of suicides are individuals from single parent households. The stress, the shame, and the loneliness of single parenting is real and of course it impacts the children in the homes. Study after study showed an increase in anxiety, depression, and substance abuse as well as poverty and welfare among single Moms. There are of course many postulations on these statistics but seeing as how I live it I want to throw my own in there.

We have to start talking about these moments. We have to bring them into the light and out of this horrible shaming mindset. Being a single parent and having vulnerability and having sad moments with our kids is okay, normal, and should be expected. Because it’s hard and there are no normalizing factors within our communities for single parents.

It was less than ten seconds. That interaction with my son while I was holding a sappy Christmas tree. I’ve had other moments like this. They are intimate and visceral and raw and they make me feel like the worst human and also the strongest and most resilient and most alone.

I have resources though. I have great friends & family who see me and support me and I engage in my own therapy and I have built and continue to build financial security for myself and my sons. I also am a strong person and I’m too damn stubborn to give up on anything but especially not on my sons and myself. But there are many parents out there who don’t have the resources and maybe are not as strong. This is for you. You are not alone. These painful moments happen to us all and you are allowed to feel that pain in the moment and you’re allowed to let your kids see you feel it too. Give yourself some grace and accept help from people who offer it. You are not alone.

988- Lifeline/Suicide hotline

http://www.thetrevorproject.org

Trans lifeline- 877-565-8860

mom of boys

Welcome Cheetah. The dog.

The last year of my Dad’s life he kept talking about how he should have had a dog. The man fought in Vietnam and especially after retirement had serious issues with the military. He had a whole lot of family stuff happen. I mean. A lot. And his one regret…not having a dog. That has been a niggling thought in my head for three years. When my cats died in 2020 I brought up getting a dog. But my ex, at the time my wife, did not want a dog. She actually said she would leave if we got a dog. In retrospect…that was a missed opportunity. But here we are. Two cats. Two kids. Single Mom. And Pup.

Her name is Cheetah.

I had no say in her name. See above (two kids).

Now within the search for my dog I was adamant that I wanted a dog that could be a therapy dog, I wanted a mutt, I wanted to rescue, and I didn’t want a pitbull.

I’ve learned a few things about dogs since adopting one. Pitbulls are terriers. So a “terrier/hound” mix could actually mean a Pit mix. I did not know that before I happened to fall in love with a “terrier/hound” mix.

I applied to 4 or 5 rescues. Which by the way, is stressful. Then I waited. Then I heard from a few. Then I waited. I kept saying I would wait for the right fit. That I wanted a dog who is good with kids and cats and overall fit was more important than rushing it.

Then I got a call about a dog I found online. She wasn’t necessarily my first choice. But by the time she came through I had been in contact with a few shelters/rescues and I was basically going to agree to anything. I agreed to meet her. The foster mom texted me pictures and sang her praises. She was not totally cute in the pictures. I mean she was in a smushy dog face kind of way. I showed the boys, and Declan said, “She looks so sad Mama! She needs a family. She should be part of our family.”

Cheetah after our first in-person therapy session

The foster mom brought her over the night before Thanksgiving. She was exuberant to meet us. She licked Declan’s head. She does a tail wag with her whole body. The woman handed me the leash, and said a somewhat tearful good-bye to Cheetah. Then left. Cheetah watched her drive off and then was instantly immersed back in the chaos of our family.

She was perfect on Thanksgiving. I’ve never actually worried at all about her being with my sons. She gets hyper as puppies do, but she would never hurt them. She did try to nip my sister’s min-pin, which I still feel really bad about. But we are working with a trainer now who is socializing her. We’ve gone on walks at parks, and she loves people. She loves other dogs less; which is honestly fine. I don’t love other dogs either.

She loves kids. I’ve had her around a number of kids and she’s a gem.

Cheetah and her Boys

She is without a doubt a Pit mix. The vet, all 6+ feet of him, got down on the floor with her, grinning from ear to ear, as they tussled together. He couldn’t get enough of her. My friend met me recently and I brought Cheetah, and she clearly was happier to see the dog than me. It’s been three weeks and she’s stolen the hearts of most every one she meets. Including my patients on telehealth who see her now on camera. We even did a therapy session live, and she did excellent.

It’s been hard. Every walk. Every accident. Every second; it’s all on me. Takes a month to adjust to a new home. Takes six months to make a new routine permanent. We are now one month in. She feels comfortable. She feels at home. She sleeps in bed with me every night and we now have an understanding that she does not come past the center line of pillows until after 6 AM. Somehow she knows when it is 6 AM. On the dot.

Cheetah and Declan

We found a trainer, a groomer, and a dog walker. The groomer was the fifth? person to slam it down my throat that she is a pitbull. I was sort of trying to deny it. Referring to her as a mutt. The groomer said, “She’s a pit mix. Pit dominant.” I smiled and said, “Can you still give her a bath?” She laughed and said yes. She pointed at a little fluff ball in a crate waiting for her bath and said, “I’d take a pit over that little fluff ball any day.” The tiny ball of fluff then growled at no one in particular.

That was hard though; leaving her at the groomer. I know she wasn’t sure I’d come back for her. She’s five months old and she spent the first 4 months being shuffled from South Carolina, to CT, to a foster, then to me. Her butt wagging when I came back for her was fierce. When the dog trainer took her for the morning, she was unhappy, to put it mildly. When they finally got back in his car and drove to our meeting spot, she refused to get out with him and fell asleep in the front seat. She didn’t get out until I got there. Again, I think she was worried I wouldn’t come back for her. The foster had her for two weeks. We’ve now been the place she’s stayed the longest in her whole little life.

The cats. Ginsburg and Scooby Doo (Scooby the cat and Cheetah the dog. yes I get the irony. Again, I had no say in these name choices. I got to name Ginsburg who is a respectable cat with a respectable name!) So no one has tried to kill the other yet. Cheetah wants to sniff them. The cats sort of let her. Then run away. I haven’t let them all loose together yet…waiting for no Christmas tree as I have this vision of all three of them diving behind it. They did all sleep on my lap or lap adjacent on different occasions. I am hopeful they will all be harmonious. No red flags so far.

And why would I not end up with a pit? I spend my life championing minorities who are misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated. Once I accepted it, I realized of course I have a pit mix. How could I have anything else but the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated breed of dog? The vet called her a “Heinz 57” because she’s some of everything: lab, hound, boxer, rhodesian, etc. He also said if he had to tell a tech to go get her from a crowd he’d say, “Red pit”. She’s a love. She’s going to be a therapy dog. She hates the rain and the cold. She snores.

Welcome Cheetah:)

Cheetah and Ginsburg…adjacent

One of my friends told me I was matched with this dog for a reason. That she needed me and I needed her. I told myself I was getting her for the boys but as she snores softly on my lap as I write this, I know my friend is right.

Uncategorized

The Scent of Grief

Some things still catch me off guard. It’s been over two years since my Dad died. But Father’s Day this year snuck up on me and I got the email from daycare at the end of their day. “We will be talking about Dad’s this week!” it said cheerfully.

I shot an email off to the director knowing I was already too late as they had circle time already that day. They were on their way home to me with my ex. “The boys do not have Father figures. Please do not try and force them to find a male figure during this week’s discussions about Father’s Day. My sister has a wife, the boy’s have two mom’s, my dad died in 2019, and there are no extended male family members they have any ongoing relationship with especially in light of COVID. We literally haven’t seen any one for over a year in our extended family who are male. Do not try and find a substitute father figure for them. Just acknowledge they have two Mom’s who love them and Aunt and Auntie, Gramma, and cousin who love them very much.”

That night at bedtime one of them cried and they talked about how they miss Poppy (my Dad) and I asked if they were upset because they talked about Father’s Day at school. They were. I reminded them of all the people who love them. I reminded them that some people do not have Dad’s and that’s okay. Meanwhile I was trying not to be irrationally angry and Mama Bear wild tempered at their preschool teacher for trying to place a male figure into their lives when they do not have one.

They told me they didn’t have to do the Father’s Day craft. I said why don’t they do it for Mommy or Mama? They didn’t want to. I didn’t push it.

I realize this is going to be a yearly event unless Father’s Day happens to fall late enough that they are not in school by that time in June.

Single Mom guilt can be bad. In that moment hugging my sons as they bemoaned their Dadless lives I felt lower than dirt. Not only do they not have a Dad, but they do not even have intact parents. Their two mom’s couldn’t cut it. I realized I was disproportionately angry at preschool (it’s called displacement or projection in mental health) because I was really angry at myself for 1. forgetting about Father’s Day and not having a discussion beforehand with their teacher 2. for being smack dab in the middle of a divorce with their other Mom and 3. for literally having no male family members for them and for missing my own Dad so hard.

Dude. It was a rough week. I had a client who said she had trouble setting limits with her kid because of single mom guilt. I reflected that I am a single mom. I definitely feel guilt. A lot. But I still make the boys clean up their toys, put their clothes in the laundry, and most recently clean all the bathrooms with me because they climbed over the back of the couch for the hundredth time after me telling them not to for the ninety-ninth time. We laughed that Mom and I. She totally understood what I was saying and she felt seen. I validated that single mom guilt is a real thing. Because lord it is.

The Spring is the anniversary of my Dad’s death, Easter, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and my Mom’s birthday and then the 4th of July all in quick succession. It feels wrong still. All these holidays without my Dad. He was disorganized and often didn’t plan my Mom’s birthday until the last second. But he managed to pull through usually. Not with the same attention to detail when my Mom plans birthday parties, but he got the job done. The last two of her birthdays with him alive were not fun as he was in the throws of Dementia and we all were watching and waiting as he declined.

What I wouldn’t give to give my sons the experience of my Dad. But I can’t. Instead I have to tread carefully around Father’s Day because I am grieving and my sons are questioning why they do not have any one to celebrate. It’s a hard thing. And it’s freaking yearly. Couldn’t be biennial or triennial. Nope yearly. In the past I’ve tried to celebrate their other Mom on Father’s Day and we called it second mother’s Day. But honestly this year we were in the midst of mediation sessions that haven’t all been super amicable and I just wasn’t feeling like I wanted to do anything. Sundays are her days with the boys so they were with her anyway.

My sister invited me over to her house with her family and my Mom and her in-laws who are just lovely and who I actually like very much. But I stayed home. I painted my fence. I thought my Dad would nod in approval to that. I had to stain it this year. It’s a lot of fence and deck. I made some heavy progress that day. I blasted my music and painted up and down the fence and rolled it on the deck. My Dad wanted above all else for us to be happy. I’d say I’m seeking happiness and that I am at least on the other side of unhappiness.

I try and practice gratefulness. I am grateful for my sons, and I hope one day they can be Dad’s to their own children. I am grateful for the time I had with my Dad pre-Dementia. I am grateful for the stroke he had during Dementia because for some bizarre reason that was one of the last truly lucid conversations I had with him was in the emergency department as he was recovering from the stroke. It was like having my old Dad back. It was bizarre and wonderful and heart wrenching and I ate up every second of it. He laughed. Actually laughed. And cracked jokes and was his old self.

I am grateful for my marriage because without it I would not have become who I am. I am grateful for divorce because without it I would not be able to be who I am. I am grateful for my cats because those rascals keep me company when the boys are gone on Sundays. They keep me sane with their insanity. I am grateful for my mom, my sister, my sister-in-law, and my niece who have been a constant presence in my life and supported me unflinchingly through this divorce and who love my sons as much as I do.

I am grateful for the intense and sometimes debilitating grief I feel for my Dad because it is a reflection of the love I felt for my Dad the truly unconditional love he felt for me. I wish he were here. I wish I could talk to him about my divorce and mediation and hear him tell me he would support me no matter what and ask me what I need and tell me to just keep moving forward because that’s what we have to do. And he’d make some comment about how at least I’m not Catholic because when he got divorced the fucking priest told him to get the feck out of the church. (He was still a little bitter about that). He’d tell me he met my Mom after he got divorced from his first wife, and look at how lucky he was to have my Mom and me and my sister. He’d tell me he’d never have had me in his life if he hadn’t gotten divorced.

I know he’d say these things because I knew my Dad. So well. We had all those conversations. He always told me he was grateful for divorce because it gave him me and my sister. He told me he felt lost after his divorce felt like he was a failure and that he missed his kids from his first marriage so much. He told me he loved my sister and I and he was always so incredibly proud of us both. He told me he didn’t know how I came from him because he admired me.

It’s been raining the last few days and so I did a 550 piece puzzle. I don’t think I’ve done a puzzle since before the boys were born. I listened to an audiobook and actually had time to do it because the boys occupied themselves with toys, games, and tv. They would intermittently pop in and “help” me with the puzzle and also make me take breaks to play Memory with them.

The audiobook I listened to had a line about grief. It hit me.

“Smells are the worst. Smells can put you right back into the belly of grief. When you love too hard you can lose the will to live without them. Nothing feels right and everything cuts.” I remember giving my Dad hugs and digging my face into his left chest. If he was wearing his army uniform there would be a pocket there and maybe some pins or his name pin. It always had a starchy smell to it mixed with his deodorant. If I hugged him on a holiday he’d smell of cologne and still have a pocket on his left chest that I would rub my face into. If I close my eyes I can almost feel his shirt, smell his scent, and feel like I am with him.

Dear reader if you take nothing else from this post: remember that grief is a reflection of your love for someone. True grief is a reflection of true love. Do not run from it, do not hide from it, let it in, little by little so it can be felt in pieces and can help you remember how deeply you loved. For what is a life without love? My Dad would say it is a life that is empty. My Dad would say “You have to do it Muffin, because you might just get lucky like I did.”

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Why Parents Don’t Sleep…Wetting the Bed and Monsters in the Closets.

It was about 12:36 AM when I stood in the boys room trying not to scream. Not succeeding very well. I had tried to rationalize. I tried cuddling. I was now at the state of speaking loudly, “There are NO MONSTERS in this house! There is just me, you, Mommy, and Jackson and we are all trying to sleep and it’s not fair that you are keeping us ALL awake! I’m tired! Stop.”

With tears brimming in my eyes he finally seemed to realize that I was tired and there were in fact no monsters.

The boys were never good sleepers. I got to the point where I wanted to throat punch anyone who asked me or stated to me “They still aren’t sleeping through the night?! Did you try….” because the answer was always no. They aren’t sleeping through the night. Yes I tried that. I tried every damn sleep remedy you can imagine.

Three and a half, nearly four years later, the nights are slightly improved.

There are more full night sleeps. Which almost makes the interrupted nights harder. Now it’s not that they want to nurse. It’s that they peed the bed. This week it was one night of peeing the bed and the following night of waking up screaming because there are clearly monsters in our house.

Now if I peed the bed I would want it changed silently and then I would want to immediately crawl back into bed. When one of the boys pees the bed, it’s a freaking scene. There is inevitably some piece of blanket or animal that gets wet that has to be washed which causes the epic meltdown which means we are now all fully awake.

It’s not an easy clean-up and back to sleep. It’s a clean-up of hell followed by more screaming hell. Followed by all of us eventually back in our own beds wide awake. Then the cat who is now frazzled and annoyed starts meowing and making a scene because she was disturbed.

Then the monsters. They literally watch PJMasks and Dino Dana. Nothing scary. No monsters. I mean minus the dinosaurs, but they are generally not scary.

But my son wakes up with complete confidence that there are monsters in our house and it takes me losing my damn mind to convince him otherwise. The lights are already on. The closets are checked. They sleep with the hallway light and the light in the bathroom on. Tonight I added an Elsa nightlight. It actually projects Elsa onto the ceiling. He seems obsessed with it and I told him it will keep all monsters away.

Fingers crossed.

At some point they will sleep through the night. At some point I will sleep through the night. I can’t tell you when that will be. I can tell you that if a parent tells you they were up overnight don’t ask why the kid isn’t sleeping through the night. Trust me if there was a magical cure that didn’t involve us all melting down at 1 AM about pee on the sheets or the freaking cat meowing or the monsters…I’d be all over that.

And yes. We limit fluids before bedtime for two hours. Try keeping that boy away from the faucet though. He steals cups from his toy kitchen and sneaks into the bathroom and drinks water. Then when he pees the bed and is screaming because we have to wash the towel he’s snuggling with- he wants a cup of water because the crying “makes my mouth hurt and I need water!” So yeah. The struggle is real.

I’ve had many people say, “Just enjoy being up with them at night and all the snuggles because these days pass too quickly,” or some equally quaint saying. I also want to throat punch those people. The days may pass quickly but the nights are torturously bad and long. I don’t know what kind of stuff happened with their kids at 1 AM but with mine, we are not quickly and quietly snuggling then drifting back off into a peaceful slumber.

We are more like a massive cat fight where there is chaos, screaming, urine scented, and at the end we all retreat attempting to lick out wounds before passing out.

I will never miss the chaotic middle of the night scenes. Nor will I miss the epic hangover feeling the next morning but without any fun drunken memories just a hazy recall of reasoning with a three year old about there being no monsters in the house. I won’t miss the dread with which I approach sleep the subsequent nights knowing my slumber could be interrupted at any moment by screams from pee and monsters.

Instead at some point, some night, I will realize I have slept through the night. Many nights in a row. And then I will do a fist pump and think sweet. I survived.

 

*** My business partner has twins. She told me when they were newborns that I wouldn’t get any sleep until they hit at least six or seven. She apparently wasn’t wrong. To all the twin mom’s out there. Hang in there. Six or seven years….we got this. I’m almost to year four…

 

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A Night Without Puppy.

This has been an emotional couple weeks. I had a bracelet made for my sister, and a pendant necklace made for me from two of my dad’s military items- dog tag bracelet and pin turned into pendant.

I cried at the jewelry store. I mean not full on sobbing, but tears coming out of my eyes for sure. The lady was nice. But I’m sure also horrified. I’m planning a new tattoo and also has some part of my Dad to it. It’s a full moon so work has been crazy. Yes. That’s an actual thing. I can also always tell when Mercury is in retrograde.

Throw in searing temperatures with an asthma flare-up and I’ve about reached my max. Then Declan forgot his Puppy. He actually calls him Cry-Puppy. Not sure why.

I heard him cry, run to my room, and then tell me through sobs that Mommy (my wife) forgot Cry-Puppy at “New school” because we also started a new daycare this month…hence why Cry-puppy was at daycare. I was letting him bring it because it was a new place.

Honestly I think I’m more anxious about the new daycare than the boys who seem to have adapted beautifully.

Anyway. He’s sobbing. It was bedtime. We couldn’t get Cry-Puppy that night. I started thinking about how we could fix this and now my wife and Jackson were both sitting on the floor with us watching Declan cry. I thought a couple things. We are a real family. It’s weird.

It hits me sometimes when we are all sitting together and all clearly feeling Declan’s hurt. Jackson was somber, my wife had tears in her eyes, and there are these moments we have connections like this that I realize we are growing and connecting as the boys get older.

I remember Russell. Russell was one of my top two stuffed animals growing up. He also somehow survived college, multiple moves, and I told Declan that he could have something really special instead of Cry-Puppy tonight, and I pulled Russell out of my dresser drawer.

Declan could see Russell was old and loved and worn. So he knew I wasn’t lying when I said I’d had him since I was his age. He called Russell a “she” and I didn’t correct him (even though obviously Russell is a boy bunny) and he called “her” “Bunny” not Russell. I also let that go.

He then held up Bunny and said, “Mama, she doesn’t have a tale!” I told Declan I loved her so much when I was little that her tale sorta wore down. At which Jackson ran horrified to his room and checked all his bunnies to make sure they still had tales, and then he showed me all of them as if to say, “I love my bunnies and they still have their tales…” rather accusingly.

Declan cuddled with Russell and slept soundly through the night. The next morning we found Cry-Puppy at “New school” and all was right with the world.

Tonight Declan brought Russell back to me and said, “Mama you have to sleep with Bunny tonight. Bunny back in your bed now.”

So here I am laying in bed next to my stuffed animal that slept next to me through many years of my childhood and there’s this full circle feeling happening.

These moments that we move through as a family strengthen my love for my sons in ways that I can’t really put into words. They make this morning when Declan found scissors and cut a big chunk out of his hair…slightly more bearable.

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Month 3 Dad-less

A lot happened this month.

We switched the boys daycare. We made progress painting our fence around our pool…we started in June. It’s kind of a horrible Summer project but needs to be done.

And we passed the three month mark since my Dad died.

I’ve been super irritable. I kept blaming PMS but then I realized it revolved around July 6. The closer we got the more irritable I became. Then it came and now it went. Still irritable but less so. More just sad.

The thing about Dementia is that you sort of grieve the person when they are alive because you lose pieces of them along the way, but the shitty thing is that for me at least, I also walled off some of that grief because he was still alive. I wanted to enjoy as much time as I could and not dwell in the morbid thoughts of him slipping away.

It was hard and I think I’m paying the price now. It’s like I’m double grieving.

I’m grieving the Dad I had in the last two years because it wasn’t the dad I knew for the 32 years prior. I’m grieving the loss of those two years. That my last times with him were with him fighting an illness. I saw him fall, I saw him have a stroke, literally in front of us at my niece’s birthday, and so many other things that signaled decline after decline and it was heart wrenching.

Death sucks regardless and I don’t know which is worse. Losing them suddenly and unexpectedly or watching them slip away into nothingness slowly.

The boys talk about him less. But we were looking at picture books from when they were babies and there were a ton of pictures of Poppy holding them as babies. He was generally okay when they were born; started to really decline when they were about 10-12 months.

There are so many times I think oh Dad would be playing with them with this toy right now, or Dad would want to know about the new daycare, or Dad would be helping us paint the fence. Because that’s the kind of Dad he was.

The other crazy shitty incredible thing is he was a twin. His twin is still alive and well living in Florida. My Dad and his twin and actually their younger brother too, they all looked incredibly similar. I just think/know my Dad would get such a kick out of all the crazy antics my boys get into because he would see himself and his brothers in them.

The last week or two has been rough. I don’t know why all the sudden it’s hitting me hard but it is. Maybe because we are also now in his birthday month. It was always fun because he made a big deal about his birthday being my half birthday. Because it is. Half birthdays are cool. Don’t knock them.

Time is supposed to make it easier but it’s not. It’s making it more painful.

Because I keep seeing all this stuff happen in my life that I can’t share with him. That I will never share with him. That my sons will never share with him. And it sucks. That he won’t ever see them past the age of three just sucks. It’s like the more time without him the more stuff I have to tell him, and the more I have to accept that he’s just not here.

People told me losing my Dad wouldn’t get easier. They were right. It doesn’t.

I also don’t think I ever discussed the Office with him. He would have loved The Office. I don’t know if he even ever watched it! I feel remiss in my daughter duties for never having this discussion with him. We watched a lot of sci-fi and bad 80’s action movies together. Star Wars and Mel Gibson and stuff. We had similar tastes. I’m sure he would have loved The Office. Dwight would have been his favorite.

Update on waxing- I have an at home situation set up. I was literally laying on the ground ┬áin my bathroom with wax on a delicate area of my body thinking, “My friends will be here in thirty minutes. I’m still going to have wax on me because it hurts too freaking much to pull it off and I’m literally going to have to have one of them pull it off.”

I screamed and cried and writhed around on the floor in the bathroom but I got it off. I told my friends. They think I’m nuts. As does my wife. I mean I got it off…

******In the picture I’m wearing one of my Dad’s button downs. I took many of his shirts and ties. I have been wearing the button downs to work and actually getting a lot of compliments on them. But that face is me trying to hold back tears as I take a photo before work knowing I’m wearing my Dad’s shirt and that he won’t be wearing it again.

 

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Put it All Down and Choose Your Kid

I pulled out my laptop tonight when I finally sat down because I wanted to get some work done and then write. I thought the boys would be at the kitchen table eating. There was a movie playing. I relished this moment of sitting by myself opening my laptop to do what I wanted to do when I noticed a presence on the ottoman.

Jackson was leaning into my legs and trying to make space for himself. The last thing I wanted was to give my space and time up. But I folded my laptop shut and asked, “Do you want to sit with me baby?” And as soon as the laptop was off my lap a little blonde boy had taken its place.

He snuggled into my chest and sat/sprawled on me for the next forty-five minutes until it was time for bed.

He chatted with me the whole time. He laid his head on my chest and let me run my fingers over and over through his hair.

Had I ignored the little presence at my feet and stuck my head in my work I would have missed that.

I hear every day at my job from kids whose parents work all the time or who are on their screens all the time. Kids notice. They remember. I’ve had twenty year olds tell me they had no quality time with their parents and that’s the reason they don’t go home for Summer breaks now because what’s the point?

I had already spent the entire morning and afternoon with my sons. And the whole weekend. I was feeling spent. I had escaped for four hours of work today only and still had more to do for my practice.

But there will always be work to do. There will always be one more reason to check my phone, my e-mail, my messages. But there won’t always be a little boy nudging my legs to make room for him because he desperately wants to spend the next forty-five minutes on my lap.

We went to Pride this weekend in the small city near our town. There was a transgender teenager standing next to us for drag queen story time, she was standing with her mom. The drag queen read the book “Red” about a crayon that identified as red but was in a blue wrapper. The teenager standing next to us started crying and said, “I’m crying because of a stupid crayon,” and their mom hugged them and we all knew it wasn’t about the crayon.

I want to be that Mom. I want to be the one that can be there hugging my child during times of fear and adversity. I can’t do that if I’m choosing my phone or my laptop or my work over them. I can only do that if I put it all down and choose my son.

Choose your kid. You will never regret it.