USE THE FORCE
There’s this thing I love to do to my kids. I love giving them cards for their birthdays and holidays with the silliest kinds of puns in them like, “It’s your birthday, go nuts!” and then I inscribe them with an explanation of the pun. “Get it? It’s got a drawing of a peanut on it because a peanut is a nut, but ‘going nuts’ is also a phrase we use to describe cutting loose and having a ton of fun! Happy Birthday, loveyoumoreiwin, Mom”.
They used to look at me like I’d lost it and groaningly admonish me not to be a Joke Killer. Now they laugh with me (or at me, whatever) at the meta-celebration of how lame my adultness has become. “God, Mom. No. Just….No”.
I became a solo single parent when 15 and Almost 17 were 10 and 12. You may know my sons, who I describe as being on the comedian/heckler spectrum, from the pieces I wrote about them after their father passed away and we were beginning our new lives together. As we moved through our grief, which like a smog surrounded us and made it hard to breathe deeply, I was compelled to tell the stories of our healing. By documenting the good that arrived despite the harshest of losses, our strength was rewarded with more strength. It felt like fresh air, at last.
Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I survived, and now consider myself to be the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. I wrote about that a bunch too, in my Boob Lounge series. And, yes. It forced me to call several meetings with God, The Universe, and Everything, as I struggled with the intensity of what was happening.
There were a few months in the beginning before I had surgery when I thought I might die. It took me a while to re-engage my intuition, which told me I wasn’t going to die from cancer. But coming so soon after my husband’s death, I had to reach deep until I knew for sure. It was a terrifying time, but it was also a sacred time. And it also confirmed some things I had suspected about myself and my contract here this time around.
Namely, that I came here to live my life on life’s terms, but in doing so I would discover its biggest gift: the privilege of experiencing the entire depth and breadth of love completely. Apparently, I had wanted to learn how to love really well, and experience being loved the same way, and in order to do that one is often aided in that pursuit by getting their heart broken. Repeatedly.
I get all this now, of course. As clear as my understanding became, there were also many moments during my second initiation into the Life Is Short Club (especially when I thought maybe I was orphaning said sons) when I was not graceful nor wise. I did not enjoy it or understand what the actual fuck the Universe was playing at.
I want to, but I can’t quite say our new chapter is The Happiest ever, obviously. It feels that way, but I won’t know for sure until the end of my life. I can say with conviction (and annoyingly, I do this regularly), that the last several years were at once the hardest and also the most productive in terms of what I learned. I purged so many blocks to joy from my thinking and consequently from my choices it was like 4:30 pm on the second day of a mental garage sale.
However, since 15 and Almost 17 are teenagers now, in a parallel, more domestic universe I feel stupider, shorter, and lamer than ever. My sons are gigantic and hilarious and brilliant and incredibly kind. And they also throw curve balls at me weekly. I’ve had to develop new parenting tools, and fast. I can’t just rely on humor or charm anymore…..or logic. Reasoning, either. Or on any assumption of executive functioning on their part.
God, I miss that one.
I also can’t wimp out. I’ve had to find my voice with them and use it. Those smartasses are moving through developmental phases so quickly that often I don’t even understand what’s happening, just that suddenly everyone is mad at each other. Each time they move into their next stage I feel like I’m closer to becoming that crazy lady in a down coat in July railing at people driving through the crosswalk I’m about to enter but can’t because no one notices me. I feel inconsequential, invisible.
Every time they move on, it also means they’re getting cooler and I’m just here, forevermore the mom who will always have sucked at whatever phase they just dusted.
I keep telling them I used to be SO good at this parenting gig. I kept them alive in their first months when I brought them home from the hospital and there was no call button connected to the nurse’s station, anywhere in my house.
And I have all sorts of stories about how connected we were when they were little, how they could pick thoughts out of my head and say them, how I knew the things about them all the time that needed to be known so I could be their champion. And I was.
Now they need privacy and space to become their best selves and I am outside their center of gravity. They do not need to hold my hand for steadying.
I’m orbiting around them, most of the time aware they are safe. And that is how my intuition is functioning in this new chapter with them. I know to stay here and stop trying to get in. Even if I have to use the Force to keep still.
Remember how the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon was so unreliable? Han Solo and whoever was with him would prepare for lightspeed in a crisis and nothing could get it to work. Each time, after a lot of banging, shouting and button pushing, the audience would be in a complete panic (or at least, I was), and at the very last second…WHOOSH! Miraculously the ship would be catapulted into lightspeed! Three times this happens in The Empire Strikes Back, and the running gag picks up again in The Force Awakens until Rey fixes it once and for all.
The point I’m trying to make here should be fairly obvious: I am a Star Wars nerd. But also, it is a completely perfect metaphor for what parenting feels like right now. Truly, I have never felt more like a Solo single parent.
Get it? “Solo” single parent! It’s a little about doing this on my own, and also about how I am never fully prepared for light speed. I will never be completely in control of the ship. I just have to trust we’re going to get where we’re going in one piece. And that everyone makes it through, even if the journey goes in fits and starts. Isn’t that cool?
Boys!! Isn’t that cool? Are you listening??Back to all posts