Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sayonara Mama

Being a single mom during the holidays sucks. Especially when you throw Fun Dad and Santa into the mix. They come along with their Elfin' energy and shiny new toys and boring Mama is up Shit's Creek without a paddle.  It isn't fun being the person that holds together a broken family. The pieces are heavy and never will fit back together like they were and yet you can't drop them because broken is so much better than shattered.

I worked like a madwoman this year trying to hold onto my house so the kids have a stable place to live and helping to start up a new school so they have a safe place to learn and thrive. And then the holidays came and pointed out every, single glaring fault of mine. The truth stared me in the face. You cannot have it all.

You can't be the person that stays and still be exciting. Fun Dad gets that role. He shows up to play a few hours a week and everyone loves him. He has no rules, if you don't want to take a bath don't. If you want popcorn for lunch, fine. Don't worry about cleaning your room because Fun Dad is picking you up and taking you out on exciting adventures. Leave your mess, your worries, your responsibilities, your nagging mother and let's have fun. Who can resist that??  I wouldn't be able to. In fact, I am jealous. I would love to leave me and my laundry piles and my nagging and go off to have fun for awhile.

In all fairness, it isn't entirely his fault. Divorce sets it up that way. It just does. The day to day has to be someone's responsibility. And it was mine when we were married. He was always Fun Dad.  Of course it won't change now. He backs up the rules and enforces them, but we all know who sets them.

Even harder than resisting is competing with it.  There is no competition. It was obvious this holiday season. When they came home on the last day of school before Christmas break, they had little handmade treasures to give as gifts. And they gave them all to their Dad. The gifts were not much, but they were all they had to give and each one had his name on them.

They went off with Fun Dad and I stayed home trying to collect myself. I had worked so much that I realized it was 3 days before Christmas Eve and I had not shopped, wrapped or sent out Christmas cards.

I tried to sop up my puddle of snot and tears long enough to pull myself together. But, to no avail. I spent more than a few hours that Saturday crying and mourning the loss of every dream I had ever had for a family and future. I pretty much gave in to every dark thought that had haunted me for the past 18 months that I had been shoving away to a remote part of my brain. But, that day it was obvious. I failed.

And to make matters lovelier Fun Dad moved into a shiny, new apartment during the holiday season. An apartment that is bigger than my house. And according to my kids it is way better than our house because it has 2 bathrooms, robotic blinds, and stairs.  I pointed out that our house has stairs too, but Luccio reminded me that "Daddy's stairs are better because they go up. Our stairs go down."

And so I had to hear about the luxury living that Fun Dad is doing and all about the new furniture getting set up, etc.  I put on my happy face and tried to listen with a loving heart. I know my babies just want to be part of his shiny, new life and it is very important that they are. I listened over and over as they told stories of the awesomeness to me and to everyone we know.

And then the final blow was dealt when Vincenzo told me that he still plans to be an engineer when he is older and buy me a big house to live in. But, he will live with Fun Dad and just visit me.  Luccio was very quick to remind us all that he is also going to live with Fun Dad like he has been saying for the past year.

Vincenzo also very generously offered that if I would like to live in Japan on the other side of the world that would be ok too, he would visit sometimes.  Thanks Buddy.  Japan?? Maybe Italy!

Thankfully, I have my beautiful baby girl. She said she would live with me. Girls with Mama and boys can go with Daddy.  Oh, Darling!! Thank you!!! The one person left on Earth that is still loyal to Mama! Those boys would leave me for a second bathroom and a set of stairs!

I had all these holiday plans and unrealistic images of us making wonderful memories of the glorious season. In the end, the kids ditched me to go sleepover Fun Dad's a couple days before and spent Christmas Eve with him. I thankfully had fun celebrating with my cousins. And I was able to have the kids home for Christmas morning to open gifts. Although that didn't go as planned either. Luccio's big gift from Santa didn't work, another failure for Mama. Our Christmas tree died and smelled like cat pee and we don't even have a cat, so it had to be moved outdoors. So our Christmas morning pics are of a pink, plastic tree Isabella set up for us. The kids were exhausted and cranky from their days of celebrating with Fun Dad. Isabella had a major meltdown and refused to wear her beautiful dress, opting instead for an orange t-shirt and blue leggings. I had a terrible sinus infection and was beyond exhausted, so let her. I even paid her a few bucks to let me brush her hair so she wouldn't look like the Crazy Cat Lady. I tried to put on a happy face, but ended up crying into my coffee.

One benefit of having Fun Dad around, is that he is fun.  And he loves those kids. So he was there on Christmas morning to make belgium waffles, which we all love! He put together all of the toys and helped everyone get set up for the day.  He kept the mood joyful. And the kids were over the moon to have us all in one place for a little while. It is good for them to know that not all traditions die with Divorce.

Later that day, it took every ounce of my being to get the kids to my parents' house. Thankfully, we went. It finally felt like the Christmas I was hoping for. My parents and brother and cousins made the day feel amazing. My parents' house is our stable place. Through the worst of times and in the best of times, my parents have been there to take care of us. The kids know it, I know it. So it feels like home. It also helped that there was a ton of food, gifts and a megaphone!

So all the cards did not get mailed, some gifts did not get bought or wrapped. My kids made new traditions without me.  But, the world didn't end. I survived it, with help from my family and a few glasses of wine.  And Isabella declared it was "the best Christmas ever!"   So I guess it wasn't a complete failure.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Twice Equal

Gender roles and equality seem to be topics of conversation amongst my little ones lately. I overheard Cenzo and Isabella playing.  Bella had just been given a new Barbie Jeep. And Cenzo wanted Ken to drive it. She told him no way was that happening. It's Barbie's car and Barbie drives it.  He said, "well when we opened the box Ken was driving."  She said, "It's my car and Barbie drives. If you want a ride, get in and put on your seatbelt." And he did.

Trying to raise 2 little men and 1 little woman is surely a challenge. I am constantly having to evaluate what I believe about life and men and women and society. To teach someone how to be be themselves is a daunting task. And they soak everything in.  Every action, every word is made note of.

I want my boys to care about taking out the trash, helping with indoor/outdoor chores, fixing all things related to cars, figuring out how to use power tools.  I also want them to know it is important to make time to be a nurturing, loving caretaker. I encourage them to read and learn as much as possible so that every door will be open to them. Education is the key to whatever future they want to have! I want them to believe in themselves and their creativity and pursue their dreams. I want them to believe that they can figure out how to make this world a better place than it is.

 I would like my daughter to know that taking care of herself is top priority. I want her to be independent and confident and know she is amazing and strong and smart and beautiful. I don't want this world to ever be able to knock her down. I want her to know that knowledge is power and she has within her all she needs to be successful. I want her to learn that being self-sufficient does not mean never needing anyone. I want to make sure she has the strength to reach her dreams. I want her to have hope and go after love without fear. But, I don't want her to change herself for anyone or to have the Earth pulled out from under her by a mere mortal.

Each gender definitely has it's own unique set of challenges and gifts. But, I don't want them to be caught up too much on what a man or woman should be. I just want to raise loving, happy people. I don't want them to feel that there is any boundary of any kind that can keep them from their fullest potential. At the end of each day I just pray that I haven't screwed them up too much. And I start all over again at the next dawn.

They take it all in and make their own assumptions and inferences about equality.

One afternoon, Luccio came running and said there was a problem in the playroom and I should get down there immediately to handle it. I reminded him that his father was sitting right there and that I was sure he could handle it just like I could. He said, "but you are twice equal Daddy and I think you need to get there right now." Out of the mouths of babes.

"Twice equal" has come up a few times.  There was another moment during the mad rush getting ready for school this week. It was toothbrushing time and Isabella was arguing that she was strong enough to get the toothpaste down from the cabinet herself. Cenzo dared to tangle with her and insisted he was stronger and taller. That tiny little lady refused to budge. She used the stool to climb up on the sink and reach the toothpaste and had quite the determined attitude as she put the toothpaste on all the brushes and handed them out with satisfaction.  Cenzo conceded that she was as strong as he was or maybe even stronger.

 I added my two cents that we are all equal. Men and women can each do things and we are equally as strong.  Cenzo said, "well that is not actually true. Women are twice equal because men can't have babies."  True my Little Man, so wise!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hope Floats

Once upon a time, I used to believe in happily ever after. And deep, down in my jaded soul I still do. I recently taught a Fairy Tale Unit to my First Graders. We spent four weeks discussing and writing about all of the typical elements including: royalty, evil characters, good vs evil, enchantment, and of course happily ever after.

I tried to get them to think outside of the box a bit. Must every princess be locked in a tower waiting? Maybe the Princess can have her own sword and slay a few dragons on her own? Maybe the Queen Mother comes to the rescue? Maybe the Prince is the one in peril? Maybe the Prince and Princess work together to conquer evil?

They agreed to be open minded and include a few storylines that were off the beaten path. However, one thing they clung to and refused to compromise on was True Love's Kiss.  Story after story ended with The Kiss. It didn't matter if the princess had been turned into a frog, a pig, a rabbit or a statue.  It didn't matter that the Prince was buried under 10 feet of ice. Even if the witch gave up on the spell or the stepmother ran away, or the King slashed everything in his sight with a laser beam - the end of each story ended with "and then they kissed and lived happily ever after."

I didn't have the heart to tell them they have a far greater chance of having a Wicked Stepmother than of finding True Love's Kiss. Because maybe they will.  I was raised on General Hospital and Cinderella. I believe good always wins.  I mean if Robin Scorpio Drake can come back from the dead after that lab explosion, then there is hope that Jason Morgan will find his way back to Port Charles one day. Jason cannot be dead. Romance cannot be dead.

As my students edited and read their stories to each other I realized just how much I influence them.  Many of the happily ever afters included "and then we read together and had Dunkin Donuts coffee." Is that happily ever after? It is damn close.

Hope floats!

It may have taken Edward 100 years to find Bella, but he did eventually find her. A hundred years isn't so long to wait for forever.

And so I encouraged them to believe in their dreams. Maybe as Hodge said, "all the stories are true!"  Maybe they will get their happily ever afters, maybe we all will.
 In the words of  President Snow, the only thing stronger than fear is hope.  
 "May the odds be ever in your favor."