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Because sometimes you just need to commiserate: I’m not a Single parent—I’m a Lone parent & it’s F*cking hard.
And because there are days when it’s tough. Really tough: To the Broken Mom who finds Strength for her Kids.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship, and it’s time I said some things to you.
My daughters are young adults now, and are off having adventures of their own. Sure, they still need me, and of course, I still need them, but it’s different now. We all live in different cities, doing the things we’ve dreamed of.
This makes me happy, but also sad. Sometimes, I want to bring my girls back and make donuts with them and be silly with them for the rest of our long lives.
Funny how, when I think back fondly to the garden we made in the backyard, you try instead to steer me toward thoughts of all the snow forts we didn’t build. In remembering that house that was really too small for us, you remind me about my never-fulfilled dream of building an addition instead of the books that filled our space, and the love of words, learning, and great discussions they fostered in our home.
And in our kitchen, Regret, you want me to remember the smallness, the inefficiencies, and the countertop that wasn’t the granite of my daughters’ friends’ kitchens, rather than remembering the wonderful meals we made together, and how both my daughters have developed a gift for making and enjoying the brilliant flavors and colors of excellent food—and their love of sharing it with others.
Dear Regret, you like it when I focus on the frustration I felt over never having enough money for my girls to do and have everything they wanted. You’d like me to forget that always, always, somehow by magic, blessings, and love, it turned out that we had what we needed.
When the girls were little, you wanted me to wish for a state-of-the-art, double-wide stroller to push along with the other stroller moms, and that I had the time to help out in the school office or lead the parent-teacher organization.
But you know what?
I never really knew what any of that had to do with developing healthy, loving relationships with my kids anyway.
You’ll forgive me, Regret, for smiling when my younger daughter remembers the conversations we used to have, entirely in rhythmic rhyme, and the running story we made up about the adventures of a certain plucky fish who lived in the seafood shop at the North Market where we went for lunch on Saturdays.
Things like that are what developed our relationships with each other, and that kind of depth and creativity doesn’t come from making sure their time was filled with structured activities.
Though my daughters would argue this, I was not an overprotective parent. In fact, the other moms thought I didn’t do nearly enough sheltering, and there’s no doubt you, Regret, would agree with them. Of course, I wanted to know where my daughters were and when they were coming home. But my girls also learned to be wise and confident, to be fearless, yet sensible. Both of them have become competent world travelers, people in whom I would have more faith than many adults my age.
You may have been at your best, Regret, when you reminded me about not owning a complicated video camera to capture their every move for posterity (there weren’t cell phones with video in those days). And you love trying to make me sorry, don’t you, for not having been able to take them to see Mickey every year?
To be fair, you made some good points over the years—like when I needed to apologize for causing someone pain, and when I made certain choices that could have been better ones.
Regret, I know that, more than anything, you’d love for me to find and obsess over all of the ways I’ve failed my daughters as a single parent.
But I’m so thrilled and proud of who and what they have become, and of the way they follow their dreams…and I know that if one thing had been different, they wouldn’t be exactly the fine people they are now.
And even though some things may be left undone, and unbought, and unrepaired, and, though looking back, I see the many mistakes I wish I hadn’t made, we three—my daughters and I—have not left things between us unfelt, unsaid, or unrepaired when necessary.
Whether or not you realize it, Regret, you’ve taught me to go forward with an eye to giving my best to the things I can control—like how I treat people, what I do to express kindness and love, and how I respect and encourage another’s fragile dreams.
And as I continue to watch my daughters thrive, I’ll remind myself that all of the things I did and didn’t do—all of the things I wish I’d done better, or done more of, and some I’m glad I did exactly right—those things have all made my girls who they are, and made me who I am.
What I’m trying to say, Regret, is that we’ve grown apart. It’s not you, it’s me. We just want different things. And I think I should tell you, Regret, I’m getting back together with Joyfulness.