Friends. Fun. Weekends. All things that matter to me, and possibly you. I care that people are hungry all over the world. I care that there are millions of people that do not have what I have, and I would love to help, but how am I going to do that? Drop everything I do? Yes sure, to parent that’s so easy. “You don’t have to hang out with your friends all of the time” Yea, your right. I don’t. I don’t have to hang out every weekend. I don’t have to be on my phone all the time. I don’t have to. But I want too. I want to text my friends back. And snap-chat and go on Instagram, and go to the mall to get new clothes and watch pointless TV shows and talk about boys with my friends. Because that’s what you do as a teenager. You make mistakes, and you learn from them. What I don’t want to do is homework. I don’t want to spend 3 hours on homework every night just to get sub-par grades. I don’t want to hang out with my parents. I don’t want to take my dog on a walk no matter how much I love her. I don’t want pimples. I don’t want to clean the kitchen. I don’t want to learn to knit. I don’t want to do these things because I’m a teenager. I don’t want these things because I’m 14. It seems so crazy to parents because they didn’t grow up the way we did. They didn’t grow up with snap-chat, or Instagram. They didn’t grow up with I phones. They didn’t grow up with the things we have. It’s all different for us then it was for them. I don’t care that it is different. I know the world doesn’t resolve around me, and the things I care about wont matter in 10 years, but they matter now.
Being a single mom is hard, for many reasons. For me, the biggest challenge has been financial, as I, like most single moms, am the only breadwinner. Although financial hardship tends to be the main challenge for most single parents it seems to me that the real challenge comes once our kids grow into teens and their sense of self-reliance grows from that of a helpless child to that of a mini adult. I have read quite a few articles as of late that lend emotional support to single moms by telling us that it’s ok if our children hate us once they venture into the ever talked about “teenage years”. Authors of these articles remind us that our teenagers have no idea the sacrifice we make so they can eat and have clothes on their back. Many articles also point out the temporary impedance of teenager psychology and remind us that this too, shall pass. Furthermore, the authors of these articles also suggest we simply grin and bear it; our kids will be ok. According to American society it is natural to have teenagers who are so self absorbed that the only thing they understand or care about is their desire to be liked at school, to wear what everyone else is wearing and to simply, fit in. We are assured; this uncomfortable stage is merely a part of life. We are told once our children turn 13, we better watch out, as their desire to leave our cuddles and our constant kisses comes with the territory. We are told it is natural for our teens to desire to be separate from the one person that loves them the most and an open and honest relationship with their parents is not as important as their need to spread their wings and assimilate who they believe they are or better yet, whom they are imagining themselves to be. However, and with this said, the testimony of my personal experience says, our perception of teenagers is not all together accurate. Truthfully, I think we might be lying to ourselves because from where I sit, teenagers have it more together than adults give them credit for.
Bug is my daughter and she is 14. She is outgoing, strong willed, beautiful and chalk full of authentic and genuine love. Since moving to Oregon last April she has found the most amazing group of kids to call friends and her attitude about life is better than most adults I know. Many might find it hard to believe but she does not lie and she tells me everything, even if it’s hard for me to hear. Just last week she laid it out straight about teens and curse words. “We all use curse words mom. It’s all the rage. I curse when you are not around.” I then proceeded to tell her that curse words are disrespectful to adults and that using those words could potentially cause repercussions and then she said “um we know that, that’s why we don’t curse around adults. We know what to say to whom, mom. But don’t worry, it’s a phase” Ha! Fair enough. Subsequently she has also told me about kissing a boy for the first time and then after that boy kissed another girl she told me she is not ready for boys and that she feels its best if she waits a few years to try her hand again. I have told her the truth about boys from my perspective and she knows the best sex there is, is with someone you love. She gets it, 100% and she knows she is not even close to ready. Because of her openness and unwavering desire to tell me her truth, I feel very confident with the fact that she has two very good guy friends and I am 100% ok with them being kids together, regardless of their gender. The truth is, the only reason I wouldn’t trust her, is because I don’t trust myself. So with that, I trust her; subsequently she is also very aware of what happens when someone breaks trust. These are the things we talk about; I have never lied to her and I never will.
I have been a single mom since Bug was a month old. I chose to divorce her father while she was a newborn because in my gut I knew our relationship was doomed and to be honest, I didn’t want her growing up thinking he and I demonstrated a loving relationship. As my life has proven we become what our environment dictates and it takes many years of very painful and tumultuous work to undo the lies we believe about ourselves when we grow up in unstable environments. At the time of our divorce her father and I both struggled to love ourselves independent of one another, much less truly love each other. I understood that if I didn’t leave him before her brain developed and she gained memory she would most likely mirror our struggle and it could take years for her to truly recognize her own self worth; so I left him, so I could save her. With a one-month-old baby and two suitcases I moved back to my parents house and I started again. I had no idea what I was doing; I just knew I needed to trust in God. So I did, and I jumped. It was really scary. The moment I struck out on my own I set the intention that even if it was the last thing I did, Bug would never question if she was good enough or if she was loveable. She never went to day care, and I have taken her to school and have been home when she gets home from school, every single day of her life. I made it my souls mission to raise her up, with her full understanding that she is loved and that she has the capacity to love, unconditionally without ever having to experience the alternate. Financially we have struggled but at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade one red cent for the uninterrupted time I had with my one and only baby.
Fast forward and here we are in a new city where we once knew no one. Green pastures and unlimited opportunity, or so I thought. Moving across the country without an immediate support system proved harder than I thought it would be. Truth be told, I went through a pretty dark time the last 6 months. People are not as open and trusting as we are and the truth of that hit me pretty hard. Thankfully Bugs friends are still kids at heart and they are way more open than adults. That said, I shared with Bug what I was going through; I didn’t keep it from her. All to often I feel that as parents we desire so much to keep our kids away from pain for as long as we can. This I feel, might be a mistake. For me I have always believed that Bug can handle whatever I put in front of her and as long as I am there with her she can handle anything. Since she was a baby I have always talked to her as if she understood what I was saying. When she acts up I tell her how I feel about her actions I explain my perception and 10 times out of 10 she changes her behavior. I never make her do anything; I always give her the choice. In the end she always chooses correctly. What raising her up with this type of independence has done, is give her the confidence to know everything she does is important and that it means something, even if only to me. Seeing who she has become and who she is still becoming lends me correct in this confidence.
So here we are; Me, Bug and our most precious pup, Bernice. Over the last year everything has changed, all but us, that is. Welcome to our new adventure… Mebugandbernice… moving forward fearlessly in the direction of our dreams.
“The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life […] the stronger the daughter.”~ Anita Diamant, The Red Tent