a Punch to the Gut

Holiday in California

I wish this post was full of tales from my great vacation last week to California with my partner and the kid. I wish it was some sort of heartwarming story about a family conflict that we resolved over snuggle time before bed. Life isn’t always like that, and truth can hurt without a soft landing or a happy ending.

A few weeks ago, my partner, the kid, and I were getting ready to leave the house. This can be a long process, sometimes ending in Yelling Parent who cannot possibly say “Put your shoes on” for the 6th time. I said something like ‘Is this kid ready to go?’, which the kid heard as ‘Is my kid ready to go?‘. To be clear: I do not refer to the kid as “my kid”. She is clearly not the child I ‘created’, and I think that referring to another person as your property sounds a little creepy. Probably exasperated with the nagging adults trying to get out of the house, she said “Anyways, it’s not like I’m even your kid.” Ouch, man. Yeah, you’re not. But yeah, you sort of are.

If the kid is in the house, I’m an active parent. I plan time with friends around the kid’s schedule, making sure I am contributing in some way to caring for her whether it is helping with dinner, bathtime, bedtime, or playtime. I grocery shop with her likes and dislikes in mind. I notice when fun things happen in town and see if she’d like to go. I listen to her fears, her nightmares, her weird thoughts and creepy imagination. I’m there for her sicknesses, her triumphs, her tears, and her fun projects.

No, I didn’t plan her birth. I’m not a primary parent. I don’t have a say in where she goes to school, what state she lives in, and changes in her routine. I don’t choose her doctors and I don’t choose her haircuts. I’m glad she has a concrete understanding about who her parents are, and that neither myself nor her other parent’s partner are clouding that at all. But dang, that was a real sting of a sentence. She wasn’t upset, and we weren’t fighting about anything; I don’t even think she said it with ill will. She was just correcting what she thought she heard me say.

It was a nice reminder of what her teenage years may be like. Sometimes I think it could go both ways; she could find me a refuge from her folks and seek me out as an ally or she could take the stand of “You’re not my parent” and create that distance that teenagers need from the adults in their lives. Time will tell.

Guest Post: We Start and End with Family

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“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” – Anthony Brandt

Five and a half years ago when my daughter came into the world, she was born into a family that loved her; she had a mama and an Ima who couldn’t wait to watch her grow up.

Fast forward five and a half years; a lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same.  E’s mama and I are no longer together, though we are wickedly awesome at this co-parenting thing (at least I think). E has grown up and is now a headstrong kindergartener with more energy than all the grown-ups I know combined. E’s mama and I have stayed close and we both have amazing partners. I’m proud of us all for the way we work together to give E what’s best and truly care for one another; our family has expanded in ways I never knew were possible.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy…

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, no parent can be there to witness and share in every moment of their child’s life.  A child grows up and goes off into the world with increasing independence; you expect to miss (and later hear about in great dramatic detail) a scraped knee or a bruised feeling that happened at school, this or that, here or there.  Any parent is (at least semi) prepared for that.

What you’re not prepared for is what happens when you read about your kid on someone else’s blog.  Or at least I wasn’t when I read about my daughter on this blog.  A simple recounting of 5-year old ridiculousness over some wet bed sheets by Ethan (Mama’s boyfriend).    My first thought was “oh yeah, I can totally see E doing that!” Followed quickly by, “As her Ima, I should have been the one to deal with that level of ridiculousness.”  Hello, Parental Guilt.

At times like this, as a parent, I feel bad. Am I missing out on parts of my daughter’s life? She has another whole part of her life that only includes me in the peripheral co-parenting sense and sometimes that’s a really strange feeling to have.  There’s this nagging sense of guilt that sneaks up every once in a while because I couldn’t give my daughter that poetic “normal” happy family; both parents happily together under one roof. And then I promptly remember that “normal” is overrated. Our new normal, it works for us.  E has a family that loves her; she has a mama and an Ethan, and an Ima and a Lisa (and a Nathan) who can’t wait to watch her grow up.

In the end, it’s a different life, and a different family for E than what we had intended when she was born, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful all the same.