July of 2010 is not going to go down as a stellar month in hands-on parenting for this mom. And for that...
I'm sorry, Ben.
We did have some Blackberry camera worthy moments:
But for the most part, I have been not quite the mom that I want to be.
Sometimes, it's good to share; to let it all out. So, here it is; my confession.
Time pulled on my heartstrings and I wrote "One Third" and it tore my heart up and healed it, all at once.
I started this crazy nutrition program. I went through the ups and the downs of extreme carbohydrate deprivation. I was crabby for several weeks.
Then, I got this idea that it was time to push the envelope on my writing. I researched opportunities; I talked to people "in the know," I started to devise a plan.
I pushed myself back into the social realm of life.
I took on Tahoe for the 4th. I came home too tired.
I scheduled more adult time, in the way of trips, happy hours, yoga classes, and other social events, than any other previous summer.
I have been killing myself at the gym.
Did you notice all the "I" statements above? Normally, I'm a big fun of the "I" statements; in this case, not so much.
Consequently, there's been more DS time and less nighttime reading in Ben's bed.
At playdates, Ben's drifted to his friends, without any interaction from me.
I can hear myself being dismissive and impatient.
I can feel myself being more passive; less engaged.
I don't like this.
I, I, I.
This weekend, my sister swam with Ben while I huddled under a blanket. Granted, I'm still battling some endocrine issues that make swimming in anything less than 80 degrees totally uncomfortable.
I had all afternoon to swim with Ben.
Instead, I enjoyed cocktails with the adults. I do believe that Ben had a great time with the other child in the pool but I also know that he would have keeled over in delight if I had climbed the ladder of my sister's 70s style rickety slide and let it rip. On my belly. Face first. Oh yeah. What 6-year-old wouldn't love to see his mother do that.
I must tell myself eighteen hundred times a day, every day: "You are not going to get this time back!" It's become my own personal mantra; my threat to myself, an ever-constant reminder of time pushing me out of its cruel way. But right now, I don't seem to be listening.
I know that it's a natural evolution for parents to start to drift, ever so slightly, into the background of a child's life. Kids make friends, they begin playing sports, they want autonomy. Some children make this transition sooner than others. Ben is not one of those children.
He's always leaned on me a bit more. He's sought me out for comfort, for input, for guidance. And in turn, my attention for him has mostly been unbridled and enthusiastic. I've always reasoned that I only get Ben half the time so I better damn well do my best for the short days that I have him. Besides, I may only do this once. I can't take one moment for granted.
So, why is this summer so different?
In all honestly, this has felt like the first time, since my divorce, that my adult life has really evolved. I have trips to look forward to and events to attend. I have a life outside of single parenting that is starting to emerge. That's exciting.
But I'm not a mom who has a sense of entitlement, as in: "I work so hard as a single mom that I deserve time away from my child." The thing is, I already have plenty of time away from my child, thanks to the State of California and a very modern parenting plan.
I have too much time away from my child. There are so many nights when it's dead quiet, when I wish he was chattering at me about all his six-year-old notions; so many mornings when I wait for him to call me from his bed, then realize he's not here.
Time with adult friends is fun, it's an escape. But I always come back missing Ben.
This is also the first time, since my divorce, that I'm really starting to take a hard look at my work and my passions. Bringing those two together, merging them into something that resembles a career, is going to be damn hard. It's going to take a lot of work. And time. I'm also going against my philosophy, ever so slightly, of not putting my career in front of my child.
To that end, Ben might have to stay in after school care next year so that I can start to get my arms around this project. I'm trying to get used to that possibility. It will be a first for both of us.
For now, there is an opportunity to salvage this month. To have some "we" instead of "I."
We're spending weekdays together after early pick-ups from camp. Saturday nights are chicken nuggets and Tom and Jerry and books. Sundays at the pool. And I am very much looking forward to the eight days in August that we have together - just me and Ben - to take on Lego Land and San Diego.
Yesterday, we had the pool slide. I know I went down at least a dozen times. My sister caught it all on my camera. I swallowed a lot of pool water from laughing. Ben's still talking about it.
Tomorrow, he goes to his dad's for six days. Gulp.
As a mother, I know all too well that there will always be guilt. There will never be enough time. I will forever second-guess myself. It will never be easy.
The tightrope I walk. The fine act of balance. Just as I feel like I'm about to tumble after a couple of weeks of autopilot parenting - and as the rope careens wildly - an afternoon of countless times down an old pool slide brings me right back to my center.
Pictures to come, I promise.