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I wrote this post a few years ago on Facebook and it truly still stands, so I’m reposting it here, where I’m going to go back to owning my own words.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, mother figures and all those who hope to be a mother (because I believe your child is waiting for you).

I read a post from Ann Lamott on the fact that she doesn’t believe in Mother’s Day because it imbues mothers (parents) with some sort of special allotment of love and caring traits, when there are plenty of mothers who don’t measure up to that and plenty of non-mothers/childless-by-choice folks who have it in spades. It stuck with me and yes, there is truth to that. But whether or not you are a “good” mom or just a human one who wants to be your best self for/with your children, one who no doubt experiences plenty of fails there, it is a special thing to have the responsibility of caring for a tiny human from as early as whenever they enter your life, loving these wonderful beings fiercely in spite of themselves and their horridness sometimes, and then allowing/helping them to become functioning adults outside of you. (Yes, fathers do that too, and that’s why they have their own day.)

I woke up today to news that a friend’s wife passed away yesterday and his young daughter lost her mother. He is such a good man and I know he will be amazing to this sweet girl and with their extended family she will be lovingly embraced in the years to come. But my heart breaks for her and the ache she will have. I can’t explain that mother/child connection. It just is. Whether your mother has passed away or you have a contentious or broken relationship with her, there’s often an awareness of what’s missing that’s akin to phantom limb syndrome. (If you’re one of those who has beat that, share the secret.) Days like today, with everyone taking pics as they fete their awesome moms or as they’re treated by their darling kids, will only exacerbate that feeling. And for those going through that I have always prayed for peace and comfort. And as we get older we can better understand and forgive (or work toward forgiving) those “bad” mothers for their choices as we accept their humanity.

And while one day to celebrate mothers may seem trite or like a Hallmark/flowers/chocolate cartel holiday, and the appreciation should also stretch through the other 364 days of the year, can it be so wrong to single out this one unique relationship for a little attention? And then maybe extend that loving spirit to everyone around us?

–Feeling sappy

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Sometimes I wonder, what if I’d been older when I had my kids? If I’d worked through my hella long list of issues before I became their everything? Would I have handled a marriage ending and the dizzying onslaught of solo parenting better? Would they be better off? Or are we exactly where we need to be for the journeys we’re meant to take with the specific strengths we’ll need along the way? 

I wish I could say it’s easy to stop looking back and to have faith that you’re where you’re meant to be at the moment while acknowledging you’re not where you’ll end up. But it isn’t always easy. It takes work. Daily reminders that the now, your present circumstances, is not all there is. And even when the now sucks, there’s joy to be had, optimism to find, and the you you wish to be can shine through. 

For many if us that requires a combo of faith, prayer, and mindfulness. I’m wishing you success at it today and every day, even as I work at it myself. #faithwalk 

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I had never planned on being a single mother to two kids but I’ve been doing it for seven years, ever since my 16-year marriage went south and the man I wed at 20 was for all intents and purposes out of the picture. And in less than three months, my firstborn, the boy who still makes me smile at the mere thought of him, will graduate high school. And I’m a mess.

I’m a mess because it’s been a long ass road. Being a parent means sifting through all your baggage and issues to make the best decisions for your offspring, and creating a life with meaning, purpose and potential for them. And I have a lot of baggage. A sexually abused girl who married young, was disconnected from her mother and then had a husband with his own mental health issues which came to bore on one truly traumatic day. After which I had to be the sole breadwinner, cheerleader, disciplinarian, and guardian of all that was important for my two little loves. I did not do it perfectly. Some days I did it downright poorly. But I showed up for them every day and kept the lights on (okay there was that one time…), food on the table, conversations going, doctor visits happening, parent/teacher conversations in swing, homework checked and now he is graduating and going to college. I didn’t do this alone–my village is strong. But I did this. And while it’s not really the finish line, I’m ugly crying across the mile marker.

I’m a mess because the idea of him starting a new chapter, of semi adulthood settling in is both utterly thrilling and utterly terrifying. I know he is a good person, with good values and a good, mostly sensible, head on his shoulders (he chose a small SUNY college for accounting after weighing cost, grades and earning potential–who is this kid??). But he is a teenager, and they are all subject  to stupid decisions. I have had many a conversations (too many for his taste) about decisions about sex, drinking, and drugs. And associations and friendships. And personal responsibility and morality and society. And he is also a Black man, with all the prejudices and problematic situations that may mean for him. His beautiful thoughtful mind, affable nature and articulate speech are certainly wonderful gifts that can help him go far but they are not enough to shield him from someone else’s preconceived notion or a series of actions that can end up hurting him. And while I’ve come to terms with that while he’s navigating around our town, the thought of sending him into the wider world snatches a bit of my breath away sometimes.

But I’ve decided I’m going to own this entire emotional experience. Because at some point this moment will pass and become just a memory. Like when he first learned to walk. Or talk. Or started school. Or learned to drive. All those milestone moments that consumed my world but then got left in the rear-view as we sped on to the next thing. I will revel in all these emotions and be on the lookout for which of the moments in this experience I will get to snapshot in my mind. Which of these moments will come back to me when I’m holding his firstborn or when I’m aged and infirmed. Which will make the catalog of memories, joining the likes of the first day I sat in a ray of sunlight with him in the rocker in his room and snuggled his head tucked under my chin. Or how he used to mispronounce the word ¨flowers.¨ Or his many wild goofy boy moments. Or the way he now bends down to kiss my forehead and hug me. Sure, I will go through it with my daughter and her experience will have its own unique qualities, as the complicated mother daughter relationship would. I will revel in all that because it too will pass.

But give me this moment to be in full mom-ness. I’ve earned it.

Sitting here on the couch this Saturday morning, watching Melissa Harris-Perry and her guests discuss the crisis of the children crossing the Mexican border. My 13-year-old daughter is sitting in the other corner of the couch, iPad in hand, probably filling online shopping site carts with things she’ll later ask me to buy. And while that impending mini-battle already annoys me, I was feeling pretty good because in one of the first segments of the show, which was about the chokehold-by-police death of Eric Garner, she had been more actively paying attention and making conversation with me about it. And as I wrote that last line, she looked up and asked a great probing question about immigration, which I attempted to answer without getting too long-winded (my usual struggle).

I’m filled with hope and joy that I can add MHP to my weekend education toolbox. For the last few years, my CBS Sunday Morning habit has provided some interesting teachable and bonding moments between me and my kids. They’d always be doing something else in the living room or near there and something from the show would seep in and engage them. I took those brief spurts of conversation as glimpses of the erudite adults I hoped they’d become.

There is such a thing as too much information for kids. The world is terrifying for even adults right now. And seeing too much of what’s going on out there can make a child feel like they are not ever safe and cause them anxiety. But I think for teenagers in particular, who are inclined to deep deep self involvement and who can have an outsized sense of their needs and wants, understanding what’s going on in the larger world is very important. And even as I despair at the ratchet music or shows they are almost obligated to be attracted to as teens,  I hope that these toe-dips into my TV world complements the education they get in school during the week and continues to foster conversation between us here at home.

This morning I read a funny, poignant parenting piece  on the Huffington Post that pretty accurately conveyed the constant state of doing and being one feels as the parent of a young child. After smiling my way to the end, remembering being there last about 13 years ago, I wondered why there just aren’t that many similar parenting blogs/posts from parents of teenagers. I mean, the kids are still funny, complex, exasperating, all-consuming creatures. And there are whole worlds of new firsts to be experienced, joys to revel in, and lows to withstand. But I think those lows are why most teen parenting blogs are more in the vein of how-tos and self-helps.

We see our babies in these almost-adult bodies, still possessing every amazing quality you cherish, yet also poised to make some ridiculously bad choices. Or they’ve been replaced by your child’s doppelganger, who you really dislike them for long periods of time, and you live for those all-too-brief flashes of the person with whom you enjoy spending time. Or you find that you now live in a household filled with moody, easily offended people who you have to coax into letting you help them unravel the offense and let it go. Or you fight with them constantly because you haven’t figured out how to calmly do what you need to do to teach them and keep the peace. And all of that shit is scary. And we want to fix it. We desperately want to the magic bullets listed in an easy step-by-step. (And to you folks’ whose kids have unblemished teen years, mazeltov. And stop judging the rest of us.)

And yes, there’s also the fact that older kids have something to say about you sharing information about them but there are ways to do it while respecting their privacy.

It just feels clear to me that whereas over the last 10-15 years we’ve created an open forum for parents of young children to feel comfortable sharing their foibles and finding support in a community of other parents who can admit they’re learning as they go along, when you have teens somehow you are expected to be experts. On some level it feels like, well you’ve had this child for 15+ years, you should know exactly what to do. And if you don’t, go ahead and feel like a failure. But if you haven’t tried to rear a teenager before, it is still new. (They do say it’s just like having a toddler again but since you didn’t have to deal with possibility of your toddler having sex and any ensuing pregnancies, I’m going to go with no, it’s not exactly like that.)

Yes, you have layers of skills built up and you have a great understanding of your child but their changes and changing needs are all new and once again your parenting choices can feel like very much like well-educated guesses. And as terrifying as that is, that’s okay. Because more than likely they will be fine,  they will leave and they will be on their own. And then, a whole new set of worries and concerns will set in. Because it never ends. But how about we prop each other up in that realization and laugh our way through it all? Whenever I get to talk to another parent of a teen and hear that they are dealing with the same thing I am, there’s an insane measure of relief. Because I realize, especially as a single parent, I’m faking the funk half the time and hoping I’m getting it right, alternately patting myself on the back and doubting my strategy. So yes, finding another working parent who asked her teen to text her a pic of the clean room/empty garbage/finished project they claimed to have taken care of before they could leave the house can feel immensely gratifying. Let’s try to do that for each other more often, okay?

I did it. Two weeks ago I ran the half marathon I’d set as a goal just four months before. It was an amazing experience — running around Central Park, down Seventh Ave, through Times Square, and down the West Side Highway. I cried at mile 11, not because of any pain (though that is about when every lower joint I had began to complain to me). I cried because 10 months before I didn’t know how I would get through a day, much less run such a race.

Back then I was suddenly an overweight single mother with a certifiably crazy, vengeful ex and self esteem dipping to dangerous lows. I was unsure of my decision-making skills, having practiced them little on my own over the last 20 years. But on that March day, a 30-pounds lighter me who had negotiated one hell of a year was going to finish something for which I’d methodically prepared. I’d reinforced for myself that I can set a goal, make a plan, and accomplish said goal. Nothing could beat that feeling… though that shiny old-school subway token-like medal they gave out at the end was nothing to sneeze at.

Well, I rode that high for the rest of that day and most of the next. Out of nowhere I’d think, I did that! And it felt good. But it didn’t obliterate the rest of my life’s problems. But at 5 p.m. day after my triumph, which was a week after a trial for his mini idiotic crime spree last year, my husband of 16 years was convicted and immediately remanded into custody. I’d been tied up in knots about it all for weeks. I’d come to realize that didn’t need him to go to prison to feel like justice was served, so I’d agreed to having the DA’s office offer him multiple plea bargains that had no jail time. But his delusional thinking, bad choices, or just plain old craziness, kept him from taking the deals and off to trial we went. And now he’s facing a year in prison. And I had to tell our children.

On top of that I’d finally been served with foreclosure papers. Not totally unexpected but still… I couldn’t shake the feeling of failure. I know that my situation is unique, and no, I can’t afford to keep my house on just my salary. But I still felt like I could have handled his better. It reminds me of my inadequacy in dealing with my finances and just pushes all my self-criticism buttons.

So by the the night after the race I was firmly reminded that those 13 miles were essentially just one step in my rebuilding of myself. There are many finish lines to cross in achieving the life that I want. And I just have to put one foot in front of the other.

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