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.
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.
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.”