Single parenthood post #1

I am sitting here alone at nearly 11pm.  I keep erasing what I’ve written because…I need to write it, but it’s very personal.

Tonight, after epically failing at being a single parent, my mind is flooded with moments from my life that I want to hold on to forever but which rush away as soon as they happen:  Laila running after her brother as fast as her short legs can take her.  Sufyan and I running out into an Austin summer rain to play before it’s over and becomes steam and hot sidewalks again.  Newborn Sufyan, floating peacefully in a bath with me in the early morning of his birth.   Laila’s small face and blinking black eyes, just minutes after her birth.  Her hands had such delicate fingers.  My skin aches to feel my newborn Laila’s body again, so small and…unwritten.  She and I had no idea what was coming for us.  The pain she would be in for that first year, what medicines would interfere with our bonding, what misplaced guilt I would wield like a baseball bat against my desire to love both my children equally at every moment, what decisions would bring down the crush of reality on the plan I had for us falling sweetly in love as mother and daughter.  What I don’t know is whether it would have been this difficult regardless of the medicines and the GERD.  I will never know.  Now, 2+ years later I feel like I will probably always ache to see my newborn babies again. But the ache with Laila is a wish to do something differently, to somehow help us avoid where we are now, which is in constant struggle.  But maybe it would have been like this no matter what.
Of course, this is only day 5 of single parenthood.  But it’s also DAY 5 OF SINGLE PARENTHOOD.  I suck at this.  It’s not just that I am alone and trying to get the hang of it all.  It’s also that all the crap we’ve just been through is so totally on the surface.  I’m personally struggling a lot.

The other night a friend invited us to her house.  Her daughter is Sufyan’s age.  It was fantastic to see my kids playing and having fun, not to mention that we actually ate pretty well (my friend is a fantastic cook).

I felt a little lost at sea being in a well tended family home.  It was the pictures on the walls of their little girl from birth onward that made me begin to doubt myself.  Where are my children’s photographs?  Mostly on hard drives, some in photo albums in a storage unit a few thousand miles from here where they’ve been for over a year.  Sufyan’s art projects and Laila’s first drawings are also storage, perhaps craving a magnet and fridge to hang from.  A few of Laila’s drawings are folded into journal pages that came with me from Palestine, but I can’t find them right now.
My friend’s home felt so secure, so right.  I know that choices are by their nature black and white.  You can’t go through one door while also going through the other door.  So I know that we gained things we have yet to feel the full goodness of because we chose to be in Palestine.  But I also feel we have lost ground for certain other things.   A family home with roots and a community, for one thing.  I am afraid the path we are on doesn’t get us to a home or roots or security as fast as I would like.

Chit-Chat

To the parents I have spoken to in passing at the park, I probably seem a little off.  I hear myself trying to make small talk and I sound like I have never spoken to an adult before.  My social skills are a bit rusty right now.

I try to sound light, but all it takes is “So where did you move from?” and I stumble around like I am trying to make up an answer.  Where did we move from?  Austin?  Palestine?

“What were you doing in Palestine?”  Um…asking myself that very same question?  Kidding.  Mostly.  We were doing A LOT in Palestine.

“What were you doing in Austin?”  Do you want to hear about the pneumonia first or the do-over surgery?

“So, your husband…” Should I start with him moving back to Palestine without us or the reason we went to Palestine in the first place or the fact that I can’t stand being without him or the hardship this has been on my kids or…

I feel for the other parents because how do you respond to any of our story?  Maybe it’s a blessing when trying to make new friends.  People uncomfortable with our story need not apply.  But back in reality, I am a single parent who needs community and whose children need play dates.

My Terrible English

Then there was the day 2 days ago that I met a SAHD with his son at the park.  Super nice person, unflinching about our move from Palestine, super cute little boy and literally the only other 2 year old Laila has seen in over a year.  As they were leaving I just barely seized the opportunity to blurt out our need for playmates for Laila, offered my email address awkwardly (and awkwardly made sure to mention his wife because it’s been 10 years since I gave a guy my contact info and the last time I did it I ended up happily married to him) and then awkwardly began to stumble on my words so that I ended up saying, “Sorry to be so forward.  We are just looking for French.”  French.  French?  WTH?  I was trying to say “friendships” but in my shyness my mouth stopped working.

Ugh.

I am failing at parenting alone so far.  I know that no one wants to hear that.  I know I need to keep the faith.  I do have faith.  But tonight, as I sit here with a knot in my stomach and knots in the muscles around my neck from the incredibly difficult days we’ve had, I feel very sure I am f***ing this up.  I can’t shake my sadness.  I am frustrated with the sheer workload.  I wish I could just play and not do dishes or laundry or herd them into their clothes or to their toothbrushes or the potty or the sink to wash hands.  Laila is chaffing against any hint of restriction on her goal to be naked all the time.  “DON’T CONTROL ME!”  she has taken to screaming.  Her brother, bless his heart, stands beside her and nods serenely.  “Yes, Mama.  You should be listening to her.”

Sigh.

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25 thoughts on “Single parenthood post #1

  1. Keep the faith, everything in life happens for a reason. And I just read the book the Female Brain by an MD who has studied with the differences between the development of the female and male brain. At around two is when girls have their first mini flood of hormones which is why they almost act like girls in their teens. It is definitely a good read, I actually bought it here at the American Colony Bookstore. Good Luck and trust me your kids will have some awesome stories to tell their friends about where they grew up 🙂

  2. does that mean Laila is going to want to be naked all the time when she is a teenager? that could get tricky!

    we are here for you as always dear lady. i hope Faris is well.

  3. Oh I so feel where you must be at. I’ve done it the opposite way around. I’ve been a single parent for almost 2 years and now we’re about to be together again. I know the relentless job of parenting you must be feeling right now and the weight on your shoulders. I find it is SO important to conserve your energy all you can. Power nap in the day and early nights. Try and find small acts of nurturing towards yourself, this is so vital when on your own (self love). Building a support network wherever you are is essential to preserve ones sanity!

    I believe nothing is an accident and our path is our path. I have looked on my time alone as a spiritual quest almost and many things have happened on the path of healing/growth that may not have otherwise. Every day I give gratitude for what we have and try and surrender to the fact that there is a plan and….all will be well. Inshallah your separation will be short lived. In the meantime more self love is required here! Every day give yourself a pat on the back for the wonderful parenting job you are doing. You are the rock…..loving, stable and parenting consciously which few can claim. It will just take a few weeks to get into your rhythm as three.

    Lastly don’t worry for sec about the naked thing. Rosa is similar age and loves being naked as do most of my friends little ones of a similar age. I just restrict to the house and know that she’ll grow out of it soon and we’ll be on to the next thing!!

    Sending love and strength
    Victoria

    • Thank you for this. I am with you on the path is the path is the path thing. I took your advice and conserved energy today…I took a bath and while I was soaking I read my son a book. As for the naked thing, I must have written what I wrote too quickly. I am not worried at all about her nakedness, it’s just that it’s winter here (or it was until today) and I’ve been afraid she’d be cold. BUT I still took your advice not to worry and just let her tell me if she was cold today and yesterday. To that end, she’s had plenty of naked snack times and nudist art times. Not once has she admitted or seemed to be cold. So this Mama is trying to relax that worry.

  4. But the thing is Ravyn, whether we are (temporarily or permanently) single mums or not, we all so often feel that we are failing. Every day. At least once. And yet that very fact means we want to do more and better for our children because they are so precious that they are worth even more than everything we can give even more than our very very best. This inherently means we are NOT failing! I fail because I am impatient, I fail because I am a control freak, I fail because I am a perfectionist. I am failing because I am tired, have PMT, feel lonely, am scared, am cross. BUT the simple fact of the matter is that you, I and each one of us is actually succeeding because we love our children enough to think about how well we are doing. And because our children are wonderful, beautiful beings. In 2 / 3 / 4 years, the beautiful memories you hold on to won’t necessarily be the newborn memories – they will be the toddler memories, the Ramallah memories, the single Mum memories. In this moment, you are perfect.

    • beautifully said. Thanks for saying it here. I know when we are consciously parenting, and trying to be better and recognizing our mistakes and faults, we are already doing pretty well. I need to give myself more credit…most moms do, I think. Thanks.

    • Thank you, C. Beautiful words and sentiment. I am so grateful you commented here. I especially took to heart the idea that the memories we are making now are our memories of childhood and family. I took your point to be that I should enjoy now and not wait until things are perfect. I love that. When I began to look at these days through that lens, things shifted a bit. So thank you.

  5. We don’t fail at being parents, we fail at being our own best friend. Go gently on yourself – you’re doing the best you can, and take your son’s advice – don’t only listen to your daughter, listen to yourself and what you need. You’ve all been through an incredible transition and are doing an amazing job trying to meet your chldren’s needs and your own!

    • It has been a lot of transition. Transition after transition it seems. Thanks for the kind words and the reminder to be good to myself in the midst of this upheaval and resettling.

  6. You are NOT failing. You have hit a rough patch but you will get through it. You are strong. So very strong. You’ve done so much more than most people have, give yourself a pat on the back, you’re an amazing woman.

    Not having been through what you have I can’t say I totally understand, but I have been a single parent and know all the emotions that go with it.

    Do the best you can, in the end that is all that any of us can do.

  7. Oh how I would love to have you over for a cup of coffee and a chat while we let our children be children and just play. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. You and your family have been through a lot and it is ok to feel out of depth and ungrounded, in fact it sounds like a perfectly normal way to feel considering.
    Childhood pictures and artwork are nice but you have memories and experiences that are much to expansive for any old frame to contain or magnet to hold up.
    I wish I could offer you more than my words for, while I don’t know you, I hate that you are feeling the way that you are.

    • Thanks so much. wouldn’t it be great to be able to actually have a real conversation? That would do wonders for me right about now. I love the sentiment about artwork being all well and good but memories and experience being worth even more. You’re right, of course. I never thought of it like that. Great reminder. Hugs to you and your family. I hope you are feeling more lightness and love than anything else.

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