“most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. acceptance is a small quiet room.” – cheryl strayed.
my girls don’t have their dad in their day to day lives. he’s not gone. he’s just not here. he made a decision years ago to live in another town in another province with his other family. at the time, you can imagine that was a pretty hard pill for me to swallow. not only was i dealing with the sting of my marriage ending, i was having to look ahead to a life of solo parenting. a life i did not imagine.
those first years were torture. my youngest didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2 and a half (surely a product of me not having any more fight or stamina left to try and sleep train) so i spent most of my time unhappy, exhausted and crawling to the finish line at the end of the day. looking back, i feel like that whole time was a blur. like i missed it all. i don’t know how much actual parenting i did. i think i simply survived.
there were times when the burden seemed far too great to bear. and then, as we do, i figured out how to bear it.
but every time i had to face something hard, i blamed their dad. it was the thing that made the most sense in my mind. surely a toddler crying from the itch of eczema was his fault. or an accident on the couch would have been prevented if he were here. and the temper tantrums (theirs, not mine. but sometimes mine) would never have happened, had i not been alone.
of course that’s not even close to being true but it was way easier to be angry at someone, than at the situation.
as my kids got older and the hardships of having little littles started to dissipate, i figured i was out of the woods. potty training and sleep training and all the small-children training was the hard part, right?
i’ve always been able to tow the ‘strong like a girl’ line and proudly place the weight of the world on my shoulders – so this should be no different. scrapes need kissing? on it. nightmares need shooing? done. tooth fairy, santa claus, easter bunny coming? of course they are. i’ve got this.
but there are days when i see that it has absolutely nothing to do with my ability, my strength or my enthusiasm. it has everything to do with the fact that it just doesn’t matter. they want their family to look like everyone else’s. (of course, we adults know full well that there is no ‘standard’ when it comes to families and how they look. but kids don’t always see that)
for years i took it personally. it also made me mad.
why do my babies have to feel these too grown-up feelings? will this mess them up when they’re older? can i possibly be enough?
i don’t know the answer to any of those questions. but i can say one thing with absolute certainty. my anger and my bitterness did not bring me any step closer to figuring it out. and any thought i may have had about vilifying another person, was never a reasonable response.
it has taken me years to accept this realization and with that, to accept the role he’ll play in their lives. so we open our hearts and make room for that.
my girls have so many beautiful male role models in their daily world. my wonderful friends who are as different and special as one could ever hope for. they bring culture and fun and treat my babies like people, all while wrapping them in a blanket of their love.
their nono and their uncles (by blood and by choice) are strong and honourable and just the right amount of silly.
and the dads of their friends where they playdate and lunch and sleepover. lovely citizens of the world who welcome them into their homes with open arms.
for a long time, the feminist in me didn’t want to acknowledge that having a man around was wanted. needed. maybe even a little necessary. but i see why it’s important and i have gratitude as big as the room for all of our loving examples.
and through all the blessings of one’s life, i suspect that spending focus on what we DO have, rather than on what we don’t, will always be a be a giant relief.
trust me, i still get upset from time to time but realizing that other people’s decisions have nothing to do with us has been a great comfort. separating myself from that and choosing to concentrate on our house and our life has quite honestly, saved me a bit. it has afforded me a relationship with their father that i may not have otherwise had. we chat and sometimes laugh and i tell him the truth about how they feel. we are both benefitting from acceptance.
when the questions come and even when they don’t, our household mantra is this: all families look different. ours is love.
and when you really think about that as an answer, it’s quite simple. because it’s true.