Single Parent Stories: Tech Savvy Butterfly

Stephanie Van Pelt is a single mom I met through Google+ (Seriously why aren’t you there yet? Connect with me!) who writes the blog Tech Savvy Butterfly. There she writes about technology, parenting, and how technology affects families for better or for worse. She also discusses these things on Google+ so if you’re new to the platform and interested in these topics, circling her is a must. This is her single parent story.

My journey to single parenthood was so exciting I decided to do it twice. I’m twice divorced with 2 sons, one from each marriage. The journey itself is full of bad decisions – my own and those of my exes. Low self esteem coming off of marriage #1 resulted in an even more disastrous second marriage. Let’s just say that no one was truly innocent in either of these matrimonies other than the children and move on.

This results in two very different single parent scenarios. My older son spends one week with me and then one week with his father. While we still bicker from time to time, we managed to keep our relationship cordial and later even friendly. I’m actually pretty happy about the fact that we’ve demonstrated to our son that even though we couldn’t live together as a couple, we have still been able to work together to raise our son.

My younger son hasn’t seen his father in more than three and a half years. At first this made me very, very angry. Now I’m grateful and to be honest, this is my preference. In his current state, ex #2 is not fit to be around children. He may never be. This leaves me as my second son’s sole parent, both more challenging and simpler in the same moment.

Who am I now? What is single parenting like for me today? It’s frustrating when my first ex doesn’t meet my expectations. But then again, that’s hard enough for married couples. While divorcing I think that’s the hardest thing to understand. Co-parenting is difficult in even the very best of relationships. We always have differences of opinions and those early angry days certainly compounded those differences. I have to remind myself that he also loves our son and is just doing things the best way he knows how….as am I.

By contrast, I don’t have to consult anyone when making decisions about my younger son. I also don’t have anyone else to help with the responsibility of raising him. That fact alone can be very wearying. Knowing that there’s no one else to tap out to – no one to call and say “Your son did XYZ!” I fear my younger son will not have appropriate role models or take on the absences of his father as his fault.

Through it all I’ve learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of achieving and I’ve grown into a better person. The key things I’ve learned:

  • Develop a strong support system. It’s pretty much impossible to parent well completely solo. Develop a team of people to help you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Meaningful relationships with your family, your ex’s family, other single parents and other whole families matter. When you have a sick child, there’s someone to lend a hand. When you have a win, there’s someone to celebrate it with. You don’t need a spouse/partner but you do need that village. And it provides you with a little welcome relief and sanity.
  • You will be amazed at how strong you really are. I had no idea I was such a strong woman until I became a single mom. At the end of the day, the responsibility of my boys rests solely on my shoulders. You know what? I got through it – I even managed to do it a bit gracefully. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when push comes to shove and it’s your children at stake.
  • I have three main responsibilities in life and only time to do two of them well. Family, work and home. The house can wait. I’d rather read bed-time stories to my kids. Work gives me something of my own, outside of my identity as Mom and provides me with the income to support my boys. The boys are the light of my life. I can have a clean house when they’re not there anymore. We have too much fun being messy right now.

If you enjoyed this story as much as I did, I hope you’ll read past contributions to this series. Single parents can, and do, create loving and healthy environments to raise wonderful, happy, and loved children in. Here’s more proof:


Single Parent Stories: The Brainy Babe

Meg Winkler is a freelance writer who keeps the blog Brainy Babe where she talks about books, writing, and of course the single mom life. She has been through two marriages and maintains a good relationship with the father of her daughter. This is her single parent story.

I didn’t set out to become a single parent; although, how many of us have? I was married and happy and we were surprised with a precious little girl who—I kid you not—from the womb has always been the biggest sweetheart I could ever have been blessed with. And then the marriage fell apart.

The reasons behind the collapse of our marriage are more involved than I care to go into, but we were married for almost seven years, separated for the last three. Even with that separation, it was hard—one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. To make matters even more difficult, my first husband was (and is) in the Army. He’s deployed fairly often and at the best of times he’s still at least a few hours away. At the time of our divorce, he was literally on the other side of the world. And I had this three-year-old for whom I was suddenly primarily responsible. Her dad’s always done everything he can to help out, but living close by has just never been a reality and I was granted sole custody because of our mutual living situations.

I sold our house—I had to according to the divorce agreement. I ran the gamut of all the legal stuff and honestly for a while I felt completely ashamed over getting divorced. On top of all the embarrassment, I had so many decisions to make. I had to decide what to do with my business. Should I continue pursuing my master’s degree? How was I going to get along? I was scared.

At around the same time, an old friend popped back up in my life after several years of silence and we fell into a very quick romance. I wasn’t a single parent for long and I married the second husband much sooner than I should have. That marriage ended after just about a year together. That’s when it got hard; that’s when it got interesting.

I was a single parent for quite a while. I lived with my parents for a bit, and without their help I think the little one and I would have learned what it’s like to live out of a car. I didn’t date anyone; I focused on finishing school, finding a good job, and getting my feet back underneath me. I had to find what made me happy. After going through two “failed” marriages, I had to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

I’d married the first husband when I was just 20. I was just a kid. In many ways we’d grown up together, but that also meant that I had to stop and look at things from the point of view of what I wanted out of life as a grown up. I asked myself what made me happy. I changed religions, and therefore a large social set. I got a new job and finished my degree. I started really writing, I mean really pursuing it. And finally I started dating again.

Being a single parent has been difficult, but it’s also been an enriching experience. And I’ve learned a few things:

  1. You can’t do it all: I never absolutely bought into the “it takes a village” philosophy until I became a single parent. When there’s just one of you, suddenly this support structure means so much more. You rely on extended family, teachers, and friends in ways that you didn’t before. You also become hyper-aware of how this village influences your kid.
  2.  All the hard work is worth it: Sure, there are times when you want to throw in the towel. There are days when you seriously just want to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a chick flick (or a beer and a football game). This is okay. This is normal. And this doesn’t make you a bad person, which leads to my last point:
  3.  You have to put yourself first: Of course your kid is a top priority, but not your only priority. Take advantage of grandparents who want the little one to spend the night–go out with your friends. Take time to paint your toenails. Don’t beat yourself up when you really just want to hit the drive thru at McDonald’s because the work day was rough. If you remember to put yourself first, you’ll feel better and be a better parent. It’s easy to get dragged down by single parenthood. Take some time for yourself; your kids will see this and be happier for it.

Today my life is different. I met the love of my life a year and a half after the second divorce. When I met him, I’d already figured out what I want out of life. I’d learned what makes me happy. I discovered a few things about myself and finally returned to the person I feel like I was before I was married the first time. My relationship with my daughter was solid and I’d buried all the hatchets with her dad. I’d gone through those struggles of having to deny my little one a toy or ice cream in lieu of a new pair of shoes or actual, healthy (read: boring) food that she needed. I’d learned how to prioritize things and I’d learned what’s most important.

And the reality is that I’m no longer a single parent. Sure I take on all of the big responsibilities of parenthood for my daughter, but I live with my boyfriend and a roommate (his nephew) and we form a kind of non-traditional family. I’ve always believed family is who you choose, not who you’re born with. I learned a while ago that we have to do things our own way, not dependent upon what society, friends, family, or the media tell us. For some, single parenthood is the way to do it. Being a parent is hard—I don’t care who you are and who you’re with. But it’s worth it. In the end, it’s worth more than you know.

If you enjoyed this story, I hope you’ll read the other contributions to this series. If you’re interested in sharing your Single Parent Story, please email me.

Single Parent Stories: Getting Us There

Sass writes the blog Getting Us There. She has been a single mother for 15 years and her daughter is now in college. On her blog, she mostly discusses the financial challenges of single parenthood. Sorry guys, kids don’t get cheaper as they get older! Here is her story.

It is always interesting to me to think back to how I got here. I don’t like to think about it often because all of the old wounds are healed over. This wasn’t what I planned almost 20 years ago when I said “I do”. I met The Ex back during my freshman year of college. He was a couple years older and a member of the “bad boy” fraternity. The hard partyers. The guys that everyone warns you about, but secretly can’t resist. After we met, that was it for me. We dated all through college. His partying never really bothered me because “everyone was doing it”. He graduated before I did and started life in the real world. His job had him on the road a lot so I thought he had grown up and become responsible, and I was growing up too. We got married a few months after I graduated and began our lives together. There was one problem though…  I was slowly starting to realize that the party hardy ways had not been left behind in college. By the time I really clued in, I was pregnant. Not the best of timing. He lost his job (and our insurance) due to his partying when I was about 6 months along. And after the Princess was born, we were on a series of him being hired and fired, hired and fired, arguments, fights, broken promises…. Well, you know the drill. Around the time the Princess turned three, I realized this wasn’t going to change. So, I started making plans…

I quit my job as a teacher in private school (no benefits) and went to work as a receptionist — better pay PLUS benefits. A few months after that, I hit the breaking point. I scooped up the Princess and moved home with my parents. Three months after that, I was “officially” a single parent. The Princess and I lived with my parents for about a year to get on our feet. I’m well aware that not everyone has that kind of safety net and I’m very grateful that I had it.

So, fast forward to today…. Yeah, I’m leaving out a LOT, but almost 15 years of being a single parent has had its share of ups and downs and this would be a novel instead of a blog entry if I tried to tell it all. But where we are now is what is important anyway. I currently live in a cute, little (and old) house I rent from my Dad in the town where I grew up. I love my job, it provides fabulous benefits and it is close to home. The Princess is in her first year of college. The Ex grew up and gave up the partying and has a wife and two sons now. I have a friendly relationship with both the Ex and his wife, child support gets paid on time and we can openly and rationally discuss the things that affect the life of the Princess. Finances are a huge struggle as I constantly scramble to pay off credit card debt, pay tuition and lead some semblance of a normal life. All of these have come with their fair share of blood, sweat and tears.

So I’ve learned a few things over the way-too-many-years that I’ve been a single parent:

  1. You can find humor in most any situation: It can be SO easy to get bogged down in the more month than money, the loneliness, the frustration, the nameyournegativefeelinghere. However, finding a way to laugh at least a little at the current situation really helps avoid the bogginess!
  2. The dust will still be there tomorrow: The house will still need cleaning tomorrow. But that soccer game or tea party is strictly a one shot deal. Don’t miss out on them.
  3. Creativity is your BFF: Think outside the box. Whether it is sneaking veggies into a picky eater’s diet, how to stretch that $100 budget into Christmas morning magic or how to survive when both you and your own Princess (or Prince) are down with the flu. Look for the less than obvious solutions. They are often the best.

At the very end of the day, realize that although it sometimes seems like it, you are NOT alone. There are a lot of people out there who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt and made a movie of it. If they can get through it, you can too. Heck, if I can get through it anyone can!

Like this? Here are previous posts in the Single Parent Stories Series. Email me if you’re interested in contributing.

Single Parent Stories: Mom and Her Drill

Katy is a mechanical engineer who likes building and renovating houses in her free time. She’s also a single mom of three little ones. You can read all about her, her family, and her building adventures at Mom and Her Drill. This is her single parent story.

I got married when I was 23, right out of college, and had our first child. I was a stay-at-home mom for those first 6 years, and I had 3 kids pretty close together.

My husband left us when the kids were 2, 4, and 6. He told me he was moving out, I had better get the house sold (or else), and he gave me 2 months to prepare. I was blocking his path to happiness, and he had waited long enough. He moved in with his new girlfriend (now wife). My kids only have to visit them on holidays a few times a year.

In the beginning I was bewildered. How would I survive? How could I work with three babies? And pay for all that daycare? How would I even find a job after so many years out of college and in a terrible economy? I stopped eating and sleeping and lived on raw nerves and caffeine. I managed to sell the house and move cross-country to my family. I drove from San Antonio to South Carolina in my old minivan with 3 toddlers, packed with our clothes and car seats, praying that I wouldn’t get a flat tire.

That first year was about survival. Finding a place to live. Trying to pay bills with nothing but child support. Getting my older children in a school. Potty training my baby. Job hunting. Constantly talking with and trying to help my children deal with our new reality. Praying, praying, and more praying. Grieving. (I can’t describe the grief other than occasionally having to lock myself in the bathroom, lie on the floor, and sob for a little while.)

It has now been almost 4 years since I became a single mom. My kids are turning 6, 8, and 10. Wow!

Here are three things that I have discovered about this new life that I never would have guessed:

  1. Your courage might surprise you. If your children are threatened you will find out quickly that no man is a match for you. (Unless he’s got an assault rifle and really good aim, but even then I wouldn’t make any bets.) Once you find that part of yourself, trivial little things like insurance and rent and “Daddy’s new girlfriend” aren’t even worth breaking a sweat over.
  2. Single life brings incredible freedom. I couldn’t see it in the beginning because I was so hysterical over how I would pay for things. Once I got back on my feet and looked around, I discovered that I had something priceless: the ability to make my own choices and follow my own dreams without needing anyone’s permission.
  3. You are precious. Popular wisdom today says that “single moms” are most likely on food stamps and our children will end up in prison. While it’s true that this may be the hardest road you’ve ever traveled, and some days you might need to lie down on the road and cry, that doesn’t mean your destiny is to be less than everyone else. You have value, and you can bring that value to other people and be a blessing to your children and community.

At this point in time, I am saving money to build a tiny beach house which I hope to start in a few
months. My carpentry skills are getting better and I’m able to build things for other moms when the
need arises. I’m also including my kids in all of my dreaming and planning. They keep asking me when
the beach house will be done, because they know we’re going to build a mini farm next!

So my advice is to change that diaper, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down with a notebook and start
dreaming big. Because anything is possible with God, sister.

Family Portrait
©Katy L. September 2012 @

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Before anything else,

Thank you from the bottom of my mutant heart

Thank you so much for your words of support and sympathy and encouragement and confidence. I can’t explain how, but please know they are so so so helpful and I read each and every one more than once and I want to hug each and every one of you, I really do.

I’ve talked before about rhyming events– little things that pop up everywhere that shouldn’t be connected but they are. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of things about inner monologues, the way we treat ourselves, the lies we tell ourselves.

In January, I decided to take on a lie I’ve been telling myself since middle school– I’m not a math person. As I have grown older and more comfortable in my own skin and with my own brain, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I’m kind of a math person. Or at the very least, maybe I’m not really that bad at math. So I did the only logical thing I could think of and enrolled in Pre-Calculus I. Sure, it had been 13 years since I’d sat in a math class but whatever– if I was going to do this, I was going to freaking do this and all I had to do was pass.

Next Thursday is the last day of class and my final is on May 4. I’ve had three tests so far and my lowest grade was a 90 while my highest grade was a 100. I do the homework (most of it) and have done every single extra credit assignment. In other words, it looks like I have an A average. In Pre-Calculus. Not a math person? Um… about that…

This experience is rattling me– in good ways and in anxious ways. Because as exciting as it is to understand that there is this whole new world slowly opening itself up to me, it’s sort of frustrating to know I’m the one that slammed the damn thing shut in the first place.

And then, I can’t help but wonder– What else am I lying to myself about and why?

I hate crying. Do I really? I cry for so many things and I get mad when I do but why? Maybe I don’t hate crying. Crying can feel really good. Quite honestly, there are many times where I am craving a good wracking sob. So maybe what I hate is that I love to cry. But why? I get mad at my kids when they cry too and I honestly can’t explain it. Why? What’s the harm in crying? If I can’t explain it for myself, why am I projecting this onto the kids too? Why does it get me so angry?

I’m tough as nails. Not really. I’m actually pretty thin-skinned. I hate criticism. I hate feeling as if I’ve hurt anyone or let anyone done. I am freaking mushy you guys. I love hugs and kisses and silly signs of affection. I adore love songs– the good old ones that are full of this innocent sentimentality that just doesn’t exist in modern culture. Apparently I somehow equated being tough as nails with resiliency. Am I resilient? Oh heck yes. Tough? Um, no.

I’m not good at being a mom. Why does this even come into my brain? I’m not Perfect Mommy because that doesn’t exist. The fact is, I am constantly thinking about my children. I am constantly considering what is good for them and what can be better. I try and be in the moment as much as possible, keeping my expectations in line with what is reasonable for each child. I do things to put small smiles on their faces. I hurt when they hurt. I discipline them when they’ve done something wrong. I am a good mom because that’s what good moms do.

“I can’t take care of myself and my three kids.”

Sound familiar? This one’s fresh in my brain and the fact is– it’s just not true. Yes I can and yes I will. Do I have a plan in place? Not yet, not really. But the bottom line is that I don’t have any choice in the matter. We have to get through. We have to survive and we have to thrive and we have to do it together. We are the family unit when push comes to shove. More proof contrary to my popular belief that I’m not a good mom. Yes I am, because the fact is I have been the one who has done the majority of the providing and supporting of my children for years now. And the fact is I will continue to do so for many, many years until my death if I need to.

Confronting our inner lies is a weird experience. It’s especially confusing when we understand we are in fact dealing with something that is not true and yet we continue to cling to it, seeking supportive evidence. Some lies are easier to break than others. For me, the math one was surprisingly easy to break– at least temporarily. I still have moments of frustration when I don’t get a mathematical concept right away. I immediately begin to doubt myself but then again, I have something concrete to look at that shuts me up– my grades. Not all of life’s lies are that tangible.

I honestly don’t know that we can erase all inner lies from our inner lives. If we could, I would expect we would be Perfect and that doesn’t exist. But I do believe it’s important to wrestle with as many of them as possible because they really are problematic. And if we can’t eliminate, can we at least slow down the flow?

Honestly, think about it. How many times in an hour do we proclaim ourselves “stupid” or “an idiot” or just plain “dumb”? How many times do we “Duh” ourselves? And why? What the heck does it do for us? Does it make the mistake we made go away? Does it teach us a lesson? Does it help us move on?

No. It’s just an automatic response as ingrained in our social mannerisms as “How are you?”. And while it may seem harmless because it is automatic, that doesn’t fly and we know it. Some times, we are most dangerous on auto-pilot– to others and yes, to ourselves too.

I cannot tell you how many times I have completely berated myself about my looks. You probably have an idea considering my De-Frumpiness Project and as I move through the project, that is changing too and it’s also helping me confront that other lie– “I’m not pretty.” How many of us have some version of this? How many of us will concede something like, “Well I’m not hideous, I mean I’m kinda cute I think, but I’m not hot or anything.” I know I’m not alone on that one because I’ve heard the very thing out of the mouths of others– not just myself.

I think these are the lies that are the hardest, if not impossible to banish from our inner monologues– the subjective ones. Unfortunately most things in life are subjective. So why do I seem to default to the negative view on things regarding myself? How do we change that?

I don’t know, which is why I’m here. The only thing I can think of is raising awareness. If we are to become more aware of the thoughts that are swimming in our heads and begin to question their purpose, maybe we can make a dent in breaking them down. I like to think of them as cancer thoughts. They don’t really belong there but there they are and they can accumulate at remarkable speeds causing damage across several levels. And perhaps the self-examination process is the equivalent of a mental chemotherapy.

It is exhausting to self-examine isn’t it? It can even make you sick as you peel away at so many layers that have accumulated over time and that may even have thickened because we didn’t take care of ourselves very well emotionally.

It’s hard to step back and realize a lot of this damage is our own doing. The flip side, of course, is that just as we caused the majority of the damage, with a little assistance from others, we can repair the damage, with a little assistance from others. Or at least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Doubt is not something that is going to help me in any way during the next few months. As a matter of fact, doubt is not something that is going to help me at all in this lifetime.

But right now, I’m in a Critical state and I need to get myself in line with a positive attitude. I need to get rid of things that obscure my vision because I need to see as many options as possible. I need to summon up skills I have readily relied on my entire life and nourish new ones (or newly discovered ones).

The bottom line is, I really want that which is best for me, all of me. And I am really ready to work at that– to cut through all of my own tangled webs and get to the core of things, strengthen it, and move along.

In other words, I am ready to


Life’s a beach

Welcome back from the weekend everyone! Here’s hoping you had a nice one.

Saturday was a very strange day for me. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I know this is every day for most people, but this Saturday was something different. My cell phone fell and the battery came out so I didn’t have any calls coming in. My grandmother came knocking on my door because my dad had been trying to contact me and I could barely speak to her.

After she left, insulted I was so “serious,” I just went and climbed back to bed, broken cell phone be damned. I did take enough time to make sure the kids had food and entertainment. But mostly, I just lay in bed.

It wasn’t nice. Honestly, it was a very dark feeling. I cried more than once and was thinking some pretty crazy stuff. I remember thinking, “This is depression.” I don’t know why it attacked me like that, I really don’t. But it did.

At some point, Baby came to me and he was just having a rough morning too. He climbed into bed and slept for hours with me. A really nice thunderstorm was our lullaby. When I woke up, it was 5:30 in the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling awesome but I wasn’t feeling badly either. I was ok. I got out of bed and started getting around the house fixing things up, teasing the kids, and playing with Mutant Kitty.

I found my phone, pieced it back together, and found a slew of messages. Figures that when you’re feeling depressed and unloved and you turn from the world because you think no one would notice, you get slammed with people reaching out to you. One of them was my Dad who’s the best Dad in the whole wide world. How awesome is he?

On Friday, he watched my kids for me so that I could go to the Parent’s Orientation at the school. My mom is a teacher there so she had to be there as well. When I came home, my Dad emptied out the dishwasher, reloaded it and set it running, and cleaned the kids’ bathroom. All three kids were happy and fed. And then on Saturday, he came after I emerged from my coma and took all three kids to his house to enjoy the pool for a little while.

As completely shocked as I was by what happened on Saturday, I can’t help but wonder if in some way, I just needed it. I slept horribly the night before and Baby ran in and woke up the whole world at 8:30 AM. I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it. When I woke up, it was just a matter of time before I was quickly back to normal and Saturday was nothing but a strange memory that almost seemed like a too-vivid dream and not actual reality.

I did some straightening up and cleaning. I did some reading and finished the Poisonwood Bible. I listened to some music and danced while I worked around the house. I was me again. For the record, this was a No-Spend day but this is not the way I like getting them thank you very much.

The next day, I made the kids chocolate chip banana pancakes and made a double batch so I could freeze some for breakfast this week. My parents came and picked up Eldest to accompany them to Church. This will become pretty standard this year. Eldest has his First Communion this year and from this point on, attendance at Church takes on a role of relative significance at the school and also socially.

But, I’m not into it. My parents are. So we think it’ll be good if he goes with them. We explained to the little ones they can go when they get to Second Grade too. And we’ll manage it that way. Unless of course I find God or something and start going to church every Sunday…

I read the newspaper, especially this article on taking back your weekends at my mom’s urging. I picked 24 more avocados from my tree including one giant one that is just gorgeous. I did some more laundry and more straightening up. I made a friendship bracelet with Daughter. I put everyone down for a nap and even I settled for a cat nap. After, I woke everyone up and we went to the beach for a couple of hours. We were so excited until we got to the beach and found these everywhere.

BAD Jellies!!!

So we took advantage of the marine biology lesson, I taught the kids how to find them in the low tide and keep an eye out for them in the water, and we played in the shore when the high tide washed away almost all of them. They dug holes, chased seagulls, ran down the shore, and enjoyed the breaking waves.

At home, after they washed up, I put on the DVD of old Speed Racer episodes I’d gotten from the library and made dinner. They ate up and I got them in bed and did some crocheting while I waited for the silence of sleeping children to fall into place.

Thinking back on the weekend and what was essentially a tale of two days, I have to wonder at what’s going on here.

The article I read wasn’t exactly targeted at me, yet it spoke to me. Maybe I’m not doing a really great job of disconnecting and really relaxing and enjoying things. At first, I’d always talk myself out of things because they “cost too much money.” But then it got to them being “too much of a hassle”.

I went through this after having each of my babies. I just never wanted to leave my house and would tell myself how hard it was to go anywhere with a newborn and would just stay shuttered inside.

Not healthy.

And I’m doing it again. Nine times out of ten, I get irritated when my kids and I are invited to go somewhere, anywhere for absolutely no reason at all. When doing their birthday parties I was equal parts excited and anxious.

I always feel badly asking someone if they want to do something because I feel like I’m butting into their lives and if they wanted to do something, they’d just reach out to me. But that’s not true. And there’s no excuse for me being a shut-in on the weekends I don’t have the kids. I should at least get out and do something one of the days.

Needless to say, this will definitely be something I’ll be thinking about as August ends and it becomes time to think about September. One of my favorite tips on the article was about planning mid-week. This weekend, I saw evidence of that fact.

I’d mentioned to the kids that I’d wanted to take them to the beach days ago. Well, they remembered and kept at me. On Saturday, I was off the hook because of the thunderstorms but there was no excuse on Sunday and they knew it. Lots to think about the next few days, that’s for sure.

Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Last Friday, I got to see you all dolled up in your tutu for your too brief ballet performance at the school talent show. You looked so beautiful, comfortable, and confident. After your part in the show, we watched the rest of the talent show and you stood on my lap and danced as a middle school band played Coldplay.

The rest of the weekend unfolded the way most of them do—playing and fighting with your brothers, watching movies, protesting orders to eat, clean, bathe, and sleep. You saw your grandparents for a couple of hours and enjoyed the pool while I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned the house some more.

And then last night, when you hung up after talking to Daddy and his girlfriend, you started asking me all kinds of questions that I wasn’t ready for. I answered them as best as I could and I wonder if I answered them well.

You asked me how I “got Daddy” and I figured out you were asking how we met and I told you that we met in school and you understood that.

You asked me was it hard to get married? And I said yes it was. And you asked how we got you and your brothers. I told you we had you while we were together.

You asked how your grandmother got Daddy and I explained she was his Mommy and she had him as a baby like I had you and you asked if she found him or what?

And I laughed and explained no she carried him in her belly like I carried you and you thought that was hilarious—your eyes shot up huge and round and you giggled like mad. I asked wasn’t it funny thinking of Daddy as a baby? You asked what Daddy looked like as a baby and I told you I didn’t really know, that you should ask your grandmother to show you pictures.

You told me you wanted me and Daddy to live together and wanted to know why we didn’t and I explained Mommy and Daddy couldn’t be happy together.

You asked me how I could get mad at you and your brothers but still love you and I explained to you that you were my kids and I loved you no matter what you did. And I had to explain to you how the love between a parent and a child is very different from the love of two grown-ups.

But I swore to you that I loved you very much and that I always would and I kissed you and hugged you good night and went to tuck in your brothers.

I don’t think you liked my answers because later, I found Missy (the doll I crocheted you) flung in the hallway outside of your bedroom. I tossed her back into your bed thinking you were playing a game and later found her outside again. You never go to bed without Missy. You never go many places without Missy.

This morning, I mentioned I’d found Missy outside in the hallway and asked if you were mad at her. You said yes but wouldn’t tell me why. Then, you told me you weren’t mad at her anymore and when I asked what you were taking to show and tell, you answered Missy and didn’t put her down the rest of the morning.

You are an extremely smart little girl and I can tell you’re working through the whole concept of Daddy and me not being together. I can tell you get frustrated because you want to understand it fully so you can be ok with it but you can’t because a lot of it just doesn’t make sense to you.

I know you like Daddy’s girlfriend and I know you like my friend, but it’s just not the same.

You don’t understand how your Mommy and Daddy aren’t together because all the Mommies and Daddies you see and know are together.

You don’t understand when people are married, they can break up because Princesses never dump their Princes.

You don’t understand love in a gray way and I think you’re scared that if Mommy and Daddy left each other, maybe we’d leave you.

I’m not going to leave you.

I adore you so much. I admire you too, you know.

You’re smart as hell and completely confident. You know what you can do and what you can’t and yet manage to not let that stop you. You know what feels right and what doesn’t. You have no problem asking questions and no problem showing your emotions. I get the feeling you don’t beat yourself up too much.

Sometimes, you scare me. Like last night when I assured you I’d always love you no matter what you do, part of me was thinking “please don’t test that too much.”

Later, when I saw Missy in the hallway, I felt like I’d totally let you down. I hate that feeling, but I know there’s more to come as you get older.

And yet I hope there’s more room for understanding too.

Dear Daughter, you blow me away. You motivate me. You fill me with pride. You give me the drive to do better, to do more and more than I possibly thought I could do before.

There’s a lot of crap in this world especially where us girls are concerned. In many ways, your brothers have it loads easier than you do.

But, you’ve got a secret weapon—me.

I believe in glass ceilings as little as I believe the homemaker way of life is a woman’s natural inclination. I don’t believe we’re the weaker sex. I don’t even believe math comes easier to boys!

I think we’re very savvy creatures and quite complex too. I also think we’re incredibly strong despite the fact we’re not much for in your face antics.

I’ve screwed up over and over again in this lifetime, mostly because I refused to accept other people’s truths as my own. This is a good thing as much as it is a bad thing.

For you, I only wish you do what you need to do and know you can come to me no matter what trail you blaze. Have no fear, Daughter. I’ll always love you, always fight for you, always listen to you.

It doesn’t matter to me if you become a mega lawyer, a savvy scientist, a brilliant businesswoman, or tender and loving housewife. What does matter to me is that you’re pleased and happy and proud and content with what you do and if you need help feeling that, know we all do and I’ll help you the way my mom tries to help me.

I know your little heart is hurt because Daddy and I aren’t together and everything around you says we should be. I know I can’t say or do anything to help it make sense to you right now (or maybe, ever) and that frustrates the heck out of you.

But I also know you’re bigger than that. Something like that isn’t going to be what defines you, what breaks you, what holds you down.

I just wish you knew that too.

I love you, I love you, I love you—a million times more, I love you.