Double Duty

We’re members of a neighborhood pool this year mostly because it’s one yard and one street away from my sister’s new house. What we love about this pool is the incredible “freedom” compared to other pools. From the boys’ perspective, they are allowed to do “flips off the diving board” (best thing ever!) and play “gutter ball” where you sling a ball from one side of the pool to the other and get points based on the chance landing of said ball into the pool side gutter. At this pool, you can also ride on your dolphin floatie and play basketball at the shallow corner and, of course, buy ice cream at the “Snack Shack.” Every boy’s dream. From the adult perspective, you can bring in your own food and your own “refreshing beverages” – every parent’s dream!

A slightly buzzed gentleman walked the edge of the pool this afternoon dragging a three-foot wheeled cooler behind him. He stopped at every man sitting in a chair or standing in the pool,Double duty shook their hand, wished them “Happy Father’s Day!” and handed them a cold one. I observed and smiled at his generosity and good will. I also wondered if it would be impertinent to jump up and say, “Hey, I’m a single mom and so it’s pretty much Father’s Day for me too as I get to do two jobs!” But, I didn’t. I had brought my own beverage!

Double duty – every single day.

Last night, my next door neighbor joined us for dinner at my sister’s house. I gave him a tour. He finally commented as we wrapped up about the clutter that exists in both our places. “Ah,” he said, “I see that my wife stays home all day and spends a lot of time cleaning everything up.” I said, “Yes, whereas, we work full-time, come home to three boys, dinner, bath, bed-time routine and by the time we wrap that up at 9:30, we’re pretty exhausted. And sometimes I sit down to do an hour or two of work after that. Picking up and organizing all the “stuff” in the house is pretty hard to get to!”

For a single mom, it’s pretty hard to get around to the ‘lesser’ priorities. The boys kind of want to be fed. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. I kind of want to put them to bed. Every night. Sometimes multiple times a day. There’s no back-up in chores or discipline or bedtime routines. No back-up other than the grace of family members (Happy Father’s Day, Dad!)

Double duty – every single day.

So this is life for now. I don’t like clutter more than the rest of them, but I also don’t feel like getting up from this computer and straightening up those cookbooks that have fallen over or picking up that Batman costume that has sat on that box for (oh, about) a month and carrying it upstairs. I’m sacrificing orderliness for sanity and survival. I’m sitting down for a few minutes, because my smart phone pedometer says I’ve been moving pretty well all day. I’m willing to have a bit more chaos and dust to have a little more peace and quiet.

Double duty day in and day out and without much recognition – at least not from the boys who still seem to think that their lives are generally miserable and “not fair.” But last week, my sister and I got an email from their karate sensei who said, “I admire what you women are doing in the lives of these boys. I know you only paid to have them do lessons once a week, but I’d like to offer that you can bring them as many times a week as they’d like for no extra cost.” My sister texted me right away with joy. Here, an almost stranger to us acknowledged that this work is hard and committed to being a part of it – jumping in to be part of the village.

Double duty-ing (new word) the best we can at the moment with the help of many because these crazy boys are worth it.

Or at least they better be! 🙂

 

 

Letting them down…Helping them learn

Last week I frantically waved my left hand at the back of the kindergarten classroom hoping that the substitute teacher would notice me, and I could point to an empty ring finger in the hopes that she’d stop asking my 6-year-old to “be thinking of what you like to do with your dad because I’ll call on you next. I always like to call on kids when their parents are visiting us.” His head dropped as she reached down to tie his shoe and I heard her speak more softly, “that’s okay. You can tell us something you like to do with your mom instead,” but she never did call on him.

It’s the end of the school year. Time to make Father’s Day cards. Heart sink. I cringe with regret that I have let my boy down. I’m not good enough. I have not “given” him what every boy wants – a Dad. My boys probably deal with this issue more than I imagine. Given an age in which non-traditional family structure is becoming more and more common, it still amazes me that certain settings continue to function as if there is only one model of family. Elementary schools still have pre-printed materials that ask children to fill in what they do with their dad or with their moms as if it applies to everyone. Parent forms usually do not include a way to indicate single parenting or non-traditional parenting.

And I realize that even though I have wrapped my mind around the fact that we’re currently a non-traditional family, I don’t often talk about it with the boys. Yes, when they bring it up, I answer their questions. When Super Tall Guy blurts out, “You’re never going to get married, Mom,” I answer, “You never know.”  But I realized a few days ago, that it might actually have been helpful to talk to Mr. Ornery about what happened in the classroom, to reflect with him, “I noticed your teacher kept asking about what you like to do with your dad. How did that make you feel?” I might be able to learn some from him and help him feel more aware and comfortable with our situation.

Instead, I process the experience for myself. How did it make me feel? What did I think? Well, I felt like I let him down. That I wasn’t providing enough for him. That I put him in an awkward situation just because I haven’t done the “typical” life cycle event of getting married. That somehow my poor kid is not living life to the fullest that he could be. Then I stop myself and remind myself that I am providing for these boys so much more than what the situation they were born into could have provided. We have a home filled with more toys than they need. They rarely experience hunger. They have an extended family who loves them and a wide social net around them. They play sports. They go to the pool. We take family vacations. I remind myself that I am doing my best for them and it’s pretty darn good, come to think of it. (Yes, they do need to be doing piano lessons….but I just haven’t gotten around to scheduling that yet, much to their delight!)

It’s hard to understand the world around you if no one explains it to you when you’re six. It’s hard to comprehend how families are different and how life is different for different people unless someone explores that with you. And as an introvert who is so used to internally processing what I see and hear and experience, I rarely think about making my thoughts “evident” to my sons. Huh. New parenting insight. “Think” more externally. Journey with them rather than apart from them.

Good thing I processed the situation! 🙂