Learning How to Love Being a Single Parent
I got divorced about five years ago, when my son was two. The parenting agreement ensured that my son lives with me 50% of the time. It’s a kind of weird setup where he’s with me two days one week and five days the next. There’s also a list of holidays that alternate from one year to the next, like Thanksgiving on even numbered years and Christmas on odd. Different holidays have different durations, like Christmas is ten days and Thanksgiving is two. Other holidays are just the day.
The divorce itself is a miserable process where you really can’t trust anything until it is written down and signed. That doesn’t mean the other party will abide by it, but at least you can protect yourself. It is also an incredibly slow process so if you find yourself in a stressful job, packed with back-stabbing scum, then the process is all the worse. Thankfully, I didn’t work for Amazon. (I know, cheap shot).
There is a certain amount of panic once the divorce settles and you and your little one are flying solo for the first time. You find that you are dealing with not only your innocent mistakes as a parent, but you are also dealing with the innocent mistakes of your ex-spouse. Like my most horrible experience was that my two year old was given a pint of blue-berries the day before. Blueberries have tiny seeds with tiny burrs that are really good at clinging to soft tissue. The inevitable cleanup is agonizing to the little one and you are trying to be as gentle as possible and realize that you are going to have an easier time dealing with the aftermath than the immediate pain.
What, you’ll make mistakes? Oh God yeah, trying to make the correct decision in every situation is an odyssey of errors. And your ex’s mistakes will infuriate you because the person just put you, and your little one, through a world of misery so you are upset for multiple reasons.
Yet these annoyances soon give way to the realization that you no longer have to ask for permission for anything except the most major decisions and getting the OK to travel somewhere with the little one. That’s when parenting shifts from a bit of a burden to a joy. My little guy is seven now and he is hilarious, sweet, a comic, a terror, an athlete, a video game and tv junkie and very affectionate. He makes a darn good alarm clock too because he’s an early riser and I’m an early riser if you count anything before noon as early.
Getting over the hump of early divorce is pretty rough. Everything seems to get easier as the little one gets older. Actually the parenting challenges shift from making sure the kid isn’t running around naked to dealing with interpersonal issues, like your son and his best friend enjoy throwing large rocks at each other. The teachers really don’t like that, but I remember lawn darts or Jarts being tossed over houses as a childhood “fun” activity. Rocks are so much safer by comparison.
Still, can’t make the teacher too mad and you definitely cannot undermine the teacher or your kid will stop listening to the teacher and you find yourself wandering around with a guy named Virgil who’s giving you a tour of hell. The teacher can be the biggest pain in your side or your biggest ally in teaching you kid how to be good in social situations. It’s a good idea to become a friend of the teacher.
The main point to walk away from this is that being a single parent starts out a bit rough, but it does get easier. It is always an adventure and there is always a lot of love.
I’ll write about a bunch of single-parenting subjects over the next few months:
- Balancing your career with your child
- What to do when your kid gets sick
- Negotiating with your ex over shared decisions
- School, playgrounds, play dates and Birthday parties
- Private school could be worth it.
- If someone else can mow your lawn, clean your house and anything else then it is probably worth the money.
- Restaurant school for kids OR how to behave in a restaurant
- TV and video games are not the enemy
- Learning to endure early childhood TV shows that are mind-boggling annoying for adults.
- Buying toys with your kid.
- Keeping up with the Jones’s: when all of his friends have iPads and you are resistant.
That’s the short list.
Above all else, remember this one thing: Time does not fly by, it rockets by. It seems like they are learning to talk one day and the next you are explaining the different between words like peculiar and strange. You go from stacking blocks, to building lego for your kid, your kid building lego alone, to advanced lego creativity camp in just four years. Your are on a rocket ship and you realize that seven years have passed by and that in 11, your little one won’t be little at all and moving out. Don’t miss out on the time you have.