And the answer is…Nicki Massage!

As I was growing up, I took every lesson possible – ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, drawing, piano, clarinet, swimming…the list goes on. Looking back, my growth was always stunted by my lack of confidence and constant comparison of myself to others. Sometime in my late 20s, I broke free of this trap and another round of lessons happened – dramatic and improvisational acting, pottery, classical Indian dance, Hindi language, French conversation, tabla (drums), fiction writing, journalism and the study of world religions…”Learning is wasted on the youth!” became my mantra. I had never known how to learn, and would sit stewing in my own insecurities, fumbling, peeking out from behind my shaggy bangs at the people who seemed to have things figured out. The revelation that came in my 20s – learning for the sake of learning and not having to be the best – was liberating. Like so many things, I only wished I had learned THIS lesson sooner.

As my own kids enter the “activities ’til you drop” years, I wonder how to break them into the world of lessons, hobbies, talent development, and discovering their passions. Half of my daughter’s classmates in daycare are already tiny ballerinas and my son’s friends are all soccer and t-ball stars. I want to stay off of this hamster wheel, and as a single mom, my schedule and my wallet cannot afford to push my kids into this world any sooner than I have to.

Callie has already determined she is a dancer and so we hold dance parties at home and groove in the car so she can practice her moves (she must be stealing them from those little ballerinas in her class). Caleb has a knack for music and artists. He is the only 5-year old I know who can discern between Nicki Minaj (aka Nicki Massage) and Iggy Azalea songs and asks questions like “Momma, how do pears kiss? They are just fruits,” when he hears Tech N9ne’s “Hood Go Crazy” on the radio. Before you judge, he is also a fan of classical Indian music, loves AWOL Nation, and can tell you that Kurt Cobain is a music great who committed suicide.

So no, this is not a blog post about how talented my kids are, the fact that I am a great YouTube kid’s dance party DJ or that maybe I need to pop in those Noah’s Ark music CDs more often on the way to daycare instead of listening to Caleb rap out “College girls go crazy” from his booster seat. It is more of a pondering for me. What is the best way to help my kids explore their talents and passions? Is there any way I can help them avoid the traps I fell into and what are the words or discussions to have so that they can enjoy these experiences early on? Without thinking they have to be “the best” or they might as well not pursue whatever it may be. Now I haven’t even touched on the inadequacy I feel for not darting from daycare to ballet or soccer every other afternoon like some parents. That topic is for another post. Insert big smiley face here because I don’t know how to. I am still learning how to use WordPress. And I don’t have to be the best.

Spider-fluff and other musings

I have to travel quite a bit for work. Usually just within the state, so no big deal, just kind of a headache. A recent trip across the country forced me to hire a nanny for two nights. She came with good references via an old family friend so the situation wasn’t particularly worrisome according to normal standards. However, I’m not normal. I’m extremely neurotic. Since the three of us are pretty much together all the time excepting the 8-hour work/daycare day, being away from the kids for two nights pretty much freaked me out. The nanny, who the kids insisted on calling Sharon (which wasn’t even close to her real name), was extremely gracious. She texted me pictures before she dropped the kids off at school, when she picked them up, after she fed them dinner, during evening play, and face-timed me before bed and when they woke up. It was almost as if I wasn’t really gone. 

I loved coming home and hearing all of Caleb’s dramatic stories following Sharon’s stay with the kids. It always began with, “Momma, when Sharon was here, something went very very wrong” and ended with something like “there was too much soap in the tub when we took a bath” or “we opened containers in the refrigerator and found spider-fluff in everything” (spider-fluff is Caleb’s word for mold, not uncommon in my fridge). Just hours after I returned home, I was thrown back into my world, exhausted, and wishing for my hotel room again, where I could lay on my bed in my underwear and watch anything I wanted on TV for hours. 

Prior to having kids, I have to admit, I was really judgemental of my friends who became parents and insisted on taking the kids everywhere with them, not making any efforts to separate themselves from their kids and have a good time as adults. I remember visiting friends and secretly feeling annoyed as their children constantly interrupted our conversations. Less and less I would hang out with my friends who had kids and I began spending time with people 5 and 10 years younger than me simply because they had more freedom and more to talk about than cranky husbands, whiny kids and overbearing grandparents. 

Now I am THAT parent, amplified. Minus the cranky husband and overbearing grandparents. I spend almost every waking moment outside of work with my kids. Saturday mornings I take some down time for a few hours to run errands and clean my house while the kids hang out with a sitter. Sometimes I feel moved to make amends with my former parent friends and send them letters asking them for forgiveness for being so dense and jerky. My therapist has spent the past 3 years talking to me about “me” time and that if I spend some time “recharging”, I will be a better parents and my kids will be better kids. I am really curious to know how other people do it, particularly parents who are “outnumbered” by their kids, single or married. What does “me” time look like? Is there any kind of “me” time that is truly recharging, fulfilling, valuable time spent away from the kids? Do people revisit their “old” selves – pre-children – or find new hobbies and outlets? Or do we just wait until the kids grow up and move out?

Momma is…

My daughter carefully folded her clean shirt in half once, then folded it in half again. “Now I’m just like a momma” and proudly showed me the neatly folded shirt. Great. I have modeled for my daughter that the epitome of motherhood is the ability to fold laundry.

I stumble through my days like a never-ending wash cycle: wake up, make chocolate milk, get kids dressed, turn on cartoons, take a shower, put on make up, clothes, make my lunch and dig up something creative for breakfast for the kids, go to work, pick up kids, go home, turn on cartoons, make dinner, clean up, turn off TV, play a game, get ready for bed, read a book, brush teeth, say prayers and go to bed. Hearing Callie say, “Now I’m just like a momma” while folding a shirt makes me think about how their tiny developing minds perceive me in action every day. What is a momma?

Sometimes I see Callie cuddling with her stuffed animals and murmuring to them, telling them that she is their momma. One evening when a friend of Caleb’s was over and the boys were busily playing with legos, Caleb’s friend asked him if his daddy had built one of the structures in the lego set. “No, my momma built it. I don’t have a daddy. My momma hates daddies.” (Okay, so that last part is NOT true and I jumped in quickly to reassure Caleb’s friend, who has a super cool daddy, that I do not in fact hate daddies). Sometimes when drop-offs go awry at daycare and I’m forced into lecture mode between the parking lot and the door of his classroom, Caleb hears how momma has to work so that he can go to a good school, have clothes to wear and toys to play with and he better pull it together fast, or else…Momma is nurturing, Momma is handy with Legos, and Momma provides for her family.

I know sometimes I focus too much on obliterating gender role barriers and trying to shape my kids’ mentalities around the fact that there are many different kinds of families (I love Todd Parr books). Father’s Day is coming up and I had a heart-to-heart with each of my kids about what they were making at school and who they were making it for. I suggested several options, knowing that the school they attend might not be as inclusive as I would like them to be about “who is a father.” In the end, they had already made up their minds about who they were making their gifts for, on their own, even before I broached the subject with them.

So what is a momma? What does she do? What is she capable of? And am I putting too much pressure on myself to try and provide a clearcut answer for my kids around that question?

Diving In

Solo Mama Entendre…I chose to name my blog to play off the idea of a “double entendre”. Being a mom has more than a double meaning, however, and becoming a single mom by choice is even more complex. When I ask people how they like being a mother the most common answer is “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done…but it’s so rewarding…I love it so much…it’s so worth it.”

Come on now! Those utterances bring waves of guilt, inadequacy, and the feeling that I’m losing my grip on the increasingly smaller strand of silken thread that connects me to my sanity. When people ask me the same question, I reply “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Period. And when they learn that I do this mothering thing all on my own, the most common response I hear is “I don’t know how you do it.” Which was really nice to hear early on. I needed that. Now that I’m five years in, and have experienced the dating scene a bit while mothering and listened to tales of woe from my married mother friends about balancing child rearing with full time job with taking care of the home, being sex goddess extraordinaire, and how they don’t feel like their husbands appreciate them, I look back at them and think “no, really. I don’t know how YOU do it.” My respect for married mothers increased exponentially after a few years of doing this by myself.

So here starts the tales of single mothering by choice, primarily to keep track of our experiences as a family because I suck at journaling, to share some encouragement with other mothers who may be on the same journey, and to keep reminding myself that I CAN DO THIS without succumbing to my repeated day- and night-mare: two toddlers sitting naked in my overgrown front yard at 7 a.m. eating Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew for breakfast while I sit at the dining table, unemployed, in my bathrobe, smoking a pack of Marlboro Ultras and dousing my Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal in a Corona Light with lime.