I’m sick and tired of being pushed around. Told what to do, where to go, and where to be. In all fairness, I brought most of this on myself in my overzealousness to give my children every opportunity I missed when I was young. But lately I feel as though I’m being pressured and, in turn, pressuring my kids with unnecessary demands.
Something’s got to give.
As is becoming more frequently the case, whenever I send an email saying that I can’t get to an event or activity with or for one of my kids, I’m met with an alternative. And sometimes I simply want – need – to be left alone. We all do.
So, I ask the question: Why can’t anyone take “NO” for an answer?
I mean, really, is it such a big deal to say that my kids or I can’t be somewhere? Not necessarily because we can’t either, but more so because we don’t want to?
I think not. In fact, this is a new policy I’m enforcing in my life and, I must say, I’m enjoying it immensely. Not only in my response to others that we’re unavailable for participation but in my nonchalance if someone else needs to cancel on me or reschedule as well. I get it. I’m sure that person has his or her reasons, and it’s not for me to judge what they are.
I’ve adopted an attitude of full understanding. And, because of it, I’m a much happier and more relaxed person. So are my children.
I have two teenagers and one elementary school-age child that I’m raising almost entirely by myself. I have both monetary and time constraints as a result of my recent divorce and the parenting schedule that has been imposed on me because of it. I’ve learned not only to deal with my circumstances but accept them as well. I strive each day to make the best of our situation.
Better yet, I’ve come to accept that I am, even on those so-called bad days.
But I’m unable to be everything to everyone or everywhere at once. And even if I can, I don’t want to.
It’s not often that we have a day during which we don’t have to be anywhere. Our weekends are rarely relaxing, filled with activities, sports, birthday parties and play dates. I’ve come to dread weekends and eagerly look forward to Monday mornings when my kids return to school and I have a moment’s peace, even if it means beginning my own work for the day.
I cringe as I write this. But, unfortunately, my status as a single parent, one with full physical custody, has made that statement a reality.
I am, by all accounts, not the fun parent as is my ex-husband. My kids tell me so. But they also tell me that I’m the parent on whom they can rely. Which, of course, is a compliment in its own right, and a high one at that.
But, I wonder, where will that leave me in their memories as they look back on their childhoods when they are full-grown? What will be the lasting effect of my being the parent in residence – the stick in the mud, the nag, the one who makes them do their homework, eat their vegetables, and go to sleep?
Such a prospect frightens me. I don’t want to be remembered as a warden but, rather, as a fun parent, too. With limited funds and, even more relevant, limited time, I have started making my own fun moments with my kids, even if my ability to be extravagant pales in comparison to what my ex-husband can offer in the way of lavish vacations, professional sporting events, theater tickets, and gifts. I indulge in those luxuries as well, but on a much more infrequent basis.
To accommodate and integrate my own memorable moments, ones that are, in an objective sense, altogether unmemorable, I now say “NO.” I take a step back. I occasionally let things slide. And when those who place demands on me and on my children voice their disapproval, I tune them out. I ignore them, silently letting them know that what I say goes. This is MY family and I’m in charge. And sometimes it’s important to spend an afternoon doing something not so special like baking, going to the movies, wandering around a museum, or doing nothing at all, rather than racing to one more piano lesson, practice, or extracurricular activity.
I’m a “tiger mom” by most accounts. I’m so proud of my children for all they’ve accomplished and are accomplishing each day. I’m proud of myself for facilitating all the opportunities of which they take full advantage. But if I’m fried and frying them in the process, what good does that do for anyone?
Tomorrow is a school holiday. And I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing yet. But I can tell you what we’re not doing, and that’s spending two hours at piano lessons in the middle of the afternoon. Why? Because I’m putting my foot down, declaring a timeout not only from school but from all obligations as well. One week without a lesson won’t make any difference. But a day alone with my children, without pressure, is the stuff childhood and motherhood is made of and what matters in the long run.
So when the backlash I was expecting from the piano teacher inevitably came, along with accompanying pressure for me to reschedule, I deleted the email, as well as the ones that came after, sticking with my initial decree. I chuckled to myself and thought, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” (Pharaoh Ramses II, The Ten Commandments, 1956)
Or not done.
How has single parenting changed your perspective?