The addict I used to love, my ex husband, is no longer in our lives. And yet he’s alive. In fact, this week he is gleefully taking me to court from behind bars to reduce his child support even though I haven’t been paid a dime in 15 months. He affects my world daily; popping up unexpectedly and at inopportune times. His spiral reaches not only my world, but my sons and many people around us. Addiction is so tricky to navigate because oftentimes the addict has no control over their actions and the ripple effect can be devastating. Addiction lead me directly to being a solo parent.
I hold it together for myself and my son as best I can. Day by day we make it work as a team. Mama pulling the reigns and carrying 16 bags like the bag lady and Zyan reluctantly putting on his winter boots and carrying one water bottle. We pull it off smashingly and even have plenty of time left at the end of every day to snuggle and play.
Most days I am joy filled. I am raising a little boy during a heightened political time where there is all kinds of dissonance around us. I have the incredible responsibility of raising him to be a strong, capable young man who can advocate for others and understand that every action has a consequence. It isn’t easy. There are days when I’m crying alone in the bathroom because I have to be the loving and patient parent wrapped inside the one who punishes.
My parents had a system: mom was the lover and dad was the hammer. She made the day to day decisions. She would handle all our punishments and the behavioral aspect of our day to day lives. She would take us to the doctors office, run errands, make dinner and create a safe space for us to play and be loved. My dad played, parented & worked hard. He wasn’t always physically present because of his job, but when he was home he was fully present. He didn’t once say he was too tried to play even if he had worked 72 hours in a row. He was there fully.
At the end of the day, however, we both knew if we heard “I’m telling your father,” there was a weight carried. He wouldn’t punish any differently, just the idea that he knew was often scary enough. He was the hammer. The weight.
In my solo parenting home, there is just me. I am the lover and the punisher all wrapped into one. Sometimes I feel a bit bipolar; wanting to run and hug him moments after a time out. I stay strong and do everything I need to in order to raise a strong man by myself, but there are days when the pain of doing it alone really hammers into me.
Just this week, my little man and his best friend didn’t receive any stickers and had a trying day at school. We had told them that they could have a playground and pizza date if they got stickers for being good young men and they didn’t follow through on their end. The play date was revoked.
My pre-schooler cried for a full hour on the way home. He cried in Trader Joe’s. He cried in the car. He cried when he remembered at home. He cried in the tub. He cried before bed.
He kept saying, “I’m sorry mama, I’ll try harder. Can we get the pizza now?”
Oh my heart. Alone for hours hearing how sorry he was for not doing a good enough job.
The lesson needed to be taught: actions have consequences.
Consequences are one the most difficult things to learn and be taught. But I’ll be damned if my little man believes he can walk on water and ignore his teachers, elders and people who aid him in the community.
He learned a hard lesson this week. I strengthened my backbone and didn’t back down once. Yet I also strengthened my heart and stretched it to be as big as I could manage in order to help him navigate his feelings and remind him that he is so deeply loved.
Parenting isn’t easy. Solo parenting just plain sucks at times (in fact : does anyone want to help me open a stuck humidifier or help fold the laundry this weekend while I play trucks and Spider-Man with Ziggy?). It’s not meant to be easy. Parenting is full of lessons and love. I pray I’m doing it right every single day.
To all you mamas and papas, doing this solo or with a partner or a tribe : I see you. You’ve got this. We all do. Let us continue to raise incredible young men and women who can lead this world with love, kindness and a touch of joy.