Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Stars Shine Bright for You (Updated)

You know how sometimes you know someone going through something awful and you feel you can somehow relate, or maybe you just really like the person, and you find yourself thinking - randomly, and frequently - I wish I could take this pain and sadness away?

That's how I've been feeling about Susan Niebur. Susan is a brilliant astrophysicist, a loving wife, a wonderful mom to two boys. Susan is an amazing woman who's been battling cancer (started as breast cancer but there have been other kinds) for about five years now. Susan is currently in hospice care and facing her final days.

I wrote about Susan's ordeal early on. I was completely moved by her strength and grace and wanted to show my support, but I was also privately going through my own breast cancer scare and could relate on a very basic level. After that post, we very briefly communicated, and that has been the extent of my relationship with her. But I kept reading. I have been following along on her harrowing journey. I have felt like I'm right there with her. I have imagined myself in her shoes.

It's this last part that makes me ache the most. I would dare say all us moms who read her blog have imagined ourselves in her shoes many times over. What would we do? How could we bear it? And yet, she has had to bear it, and she's borne it with dignity and humor and honesty. Her boys are now four and six, and I know they are as brave and strong as she is. But they are four and six and will grow up without her: how can any of us bear this?

Susan has been open and honest in her struggles, inviting us to be a part of her journey, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable that journey's gotten at times. Whether silent or not, many of us have been with her. It hasn't mattered that we might not know her personally: she has shared so much of herself and many have beenLink there to encourage and support her all these years. And that, she's let us know, has provided comfort to her.

This is the part of blogging - of "mommy blogging" in this case, I suppose - that is golden. That one woman goes through the unthinkable and the virtual community reaches out to embrace her and express gratitude for knowing her.

I don't have any words that would mean or do anything in this situation. But I've been thinking a lot about Susan these last few days and am aching for her and her family. I wish her peace. I wish them comfort. I hope they feel the warmth of our collective embrace.


Update - 2/6/12: Susan passed away today.


Posted by Tere @ 1/25/2012   | | | links to this post

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Truths About Half-Parenting

Much about the last two weeks of the year were really great. Namely, with Max on a break from school and me on a break from work, plus, getting some extra days with him for Christmas, we spent a lot of time together, more than we usually do. For someone who lives half her life without her son, this is a gift to be treasured. And I have, very much so. We did fun things together, ran errands together, celebrated together and hung out at home together.

But here’s the down side of such a treasure: it offered too many opportunities to highlight everything about Max that is maddening, and everything about me that is poor, as far as parenting goes.

I've been thinking a lot lately about a truth about my life that is painful and shameful but very simply... true. I hate having my son just half the time. On some level, I am fine with it because this is his normal and he has lots of time with both parents and he is not inadequately missing out on one or the other and he is a happy, well-adjusted child, but my heart hates it. I feel cheated and, if it's one of those weeks where everything is going wrong, I curse everything (i.e., his father) for doing to this to my son and me.

But the truth of this situation, the thing that makes me feel awful when I say it to myself or to Jevo, is that this damned half-parenting is the only parenting I know how to do. It is just a fact - I started doing this months shy of my son's third birthday, and he is now six years-and-some-months-old. However much I hate half-parenting, it's been the bulk of my parenting life. I am at a point where, regardless of what I feel about my situation, I have become a product of it and am wholly limited by it.

And days like the holiday break really bring this reality home to me. Days like that push me to my limit, because toward the end, I'm simply done. I've lost all my patience, am irritated and exhausted and unable to be rational. I devolve into a version of myself that's everything I don't want to be.

With this there's personal disappointment and shame and frustration because the fact of my half-parenting is ultimately no excuse. I mean, come on, I can't hack more than xx amount of days? Seriously? I go past the usual time and my parenting abilities expire?? Surely, I can't just run out of gas when I get extra time with this boy of mine - that's so... lame. Weak. Dumb. This really can't be it, you know?

And yet an equal truth is that as much as I physically half-parent, I am nonetheless a full-time parent through and through. There are the daily talks with my son when he is not with me, where I counsel and comfort and advise and instruct. There is the co-parenting with his dad, which requires a lot of coordination and planning and careful thinking and, at times, near-psychic abilities. There's also the very real truth that, with him in my home or not, my son is firmly embedded in all that I am and all that I do, as embedded, I know, as I am in him.

So, I know that however limited my time with him feels, half-parenting is only a part of the situation. Still, it's a big enough part to affect my notions of parenting and what it is I think I'm capable of. I simply no longer know the every single day, no rest of parenting. I get a break. I get days to recharge, to have my own time to myself, to go on dates, to run errands and keep house with having to attend to a child. And while I think this has some benefits - I get breaks and days to recharge, to have my own time to myself, to go on dates, to run errands and keep house with having to attend to a child - it's still a problem I have to remedy somehow. It's too self-defeating and detrimental and crappy a thing to have to contend with.

There is only one part of this whole thing that I feel is a true blessing, and that's how much better a parent I think I am than I would otherwise be. If I had stayed with his dad, my son would know a very different (and worse) mom. I know this in my bones. And missing him so much makes me treasure him and our time together that much more. I am not (save for when I insist on weekends on having time in the morning to read the paper or use the computer while I enjoy my coffee) a distracted parent, nor do I take my time with him for granted. Believe me, you try living half your life without your child and just see how attentive and present and aware and persistently grateful a parent it makes you. I can't say that would be true if I had him all the time. Hell, when I did have him all the time, I was distracted and less grateful and overall so friggin' exhausted and almost permanently cranky. Those breaks that hurt so much nonetheless give me the opportunity to welcome him back home with new eyes, with better focus, with more energy, with an almost killing awareness of all that is good and sweet and happy about our life, which I then try to pass on to him.

I think about this part of my life and feel like I have no choice but to take it as it is and make the best of it. But it worries me beyond the stated reasons because I don't know what I'll do when Jevo and I have a child and I'm back to full-time physical parenting. It feels overwhelming to think of all the work - the exhausting, mind-numbing, repetitive, boring work - that would consume my life. Can I do it without the frustration, the crankiness, the feeling that it's all me doing all the real work? Or will it all be inherently different because this time around, I'll be doing this with someone with whom I have a healthy, loving, honest, fulfilling relationship?

I think about that, too, about how much my job as a full-time parent when I last did it was affected by my relationship with his father, and I wonder about that link. I can't help but think there's a connection (namely due to how different - better - I've been overall and as a parent these last few years, and because, you know, if there's strife in one big part of your life, it bleeds into everything else).

If there's truth to this theory, then I don't think I have much to worry about. Except for my own sense of self-doubt, of course.

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Posted by Tere @ 1/08/2012   | | | links to this post