I think my kids are trying to get rid of me. Really. I feel like stage mother, Rose, in the 1962 film version of the Broadway musical, “Gypsy.” They say it’s taking me way too long to find a husband. Ha! Clearly they haven’t spent much time dating online. And how long is too long, I wonder?
I’m frequently reminded their dad is already engaged, and I should be, too. It’s just that easy, they argue. I’m a good sport, though, and I never bring up the unfair advantage he had finding his betrothed, the head start he unanimously claimed while we were still married. But that’s another story. And I certainly don’t want to burst their bubble that I’m their mother, not their daughter, so they can’t actually give me away. As the Terminator said, “I’ll be back…”
I’m pretty sure nagging your mom to find a new spouse is not typical for children of single parents. I, for one, chased away more than a few of my mother’s suitors when I was a young teen. After all, who wanted some graying middle-aged guy hanging around? Oh, how things have changed… But, in all honesty, what my children are looking for is not a husband for me but, rather, a stepfather for them. I only wonder if they understand exactly what that means.
These requests usually come on the heels of a visit with their dad. There’s always a whirlwind of excitement during the days leading up to a trip, and an action-packed, fun-filled love fest when they are together. But there is no afterglow. No basking in the glory of divorce-directed visitation. Only a disappointing return to the house where their dad once lived, and to the familial void they now perceive exists in his absence.
After my father died suddenly when I was 13, I felt a similar vacancy. Although mine, left in the wake of a parent’s death, facially seemed even more cavernous in comparison and, at times nearly 30 years later still does because of death’s finality, I do have a definite sense of what they feel. I don’t imply that because their father is alive, hope exists he will return one day. There is no hope, and I don’t hope for such an outcome.
Yet, I still believe they think, particularly my nine year-old son, that there is someone out there who will be able to quickly and easily assume their father’s role. Nope, not happening. I know that from my own experience as a stepchild, and mine was a good one, most of the time. What they want is a magic potion, a quick fix to relieve them of the pain that ails them. I distinctly remember after my father’s death looking forward to moving to a new house and having a fresh start. I overheard my paternal grandmother tell my mother, knowing all too well, that I mistakenly believed a new setting would instantaneously make me feel better. She was right. That peacefulness came slowly, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day over the course of a lifetime. Hell, I’m still recovering.
I tell my children I am not looking for a new father for them. They already have one, and he loves them very much. I am looking for a life partner for me, and not necessarily a husband at that. Admittedly, I would like to get remarried one day. But that will be a decision made upon the conglomeration of many factors. What I am looking for is a friend with benefits. Not for me, for them. This person will be their friend first and foremost and, hopefully, bring to the equation those benefits lacking in their relationships with their own father, whether the result of long-distance parenting or otherwise.
These children are going to be grown before I blink an eye. They will go off to college, graduate school if they choose, pursue their careers and, with any luck, find that one unique person to love, and who loves them, and with whom they want to share their lives. They will hopefully live their lives as honest, hard-working, decent people with the values I try each day to instill. When these things happen, I will know I have done my part raising them well. Yes, I will always be their mom. I will always love them and be available to support them whenever they need, and to share in their joys as they meet them throughout their lives.
But when they leave my home, I don’t want to look around at my life gone by, reminiscing each day and longing for what once was. I don’t want to live in the shadows of my past. I want to turn to the person next to me and look forward to the bright, beautiful day that awaits us. Together, we will move into the future, “to begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.” (Ronald Reagan).
And, as we know, sunsets can be the most beautiful time of the day.