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So Much Love in My Life, and Still I Want More

27 Dec


A colorful plastic star hangs on his crib and plays soft, soothing music, while pale pastel images are projected on the ceiling of his bedroom. He observes the images, wide eyed, with glee, and slowly, mesmerized, releases his grasp of awareness and sinks into a deep sleep. I sit beside him, my hand on his back, concentrating on his breaths, and on the soft movement of his back, like ripples in water, rising and descending. So small, I think to myself. How can I love something so small, so much.

Five years later, here I am, organizing the closet in the guest room, and wondering who gets the musical plastic star. I change the batteries and clean the toy with a wet cloth. PLAY. The soft ringing music is suddenly too much. Without warning, tears well up in my eyes. I’ll be 38 soon. He’s going on six. We have our cute little ground floor apartment facing an orchard filled with grapefruit trees, and our goofy dog runs around the yard, chasing away the cats (and mice) and getting into fights with a hedgehog every now and again. We have D and his girls, who spend time with us every week. And still, at the end of the day, it’s still just the two of us. At least it often feels this way.

There’s D. My man, the one who’s loved me for over three years now, who’s allowed me to truly get to know him, without censorship, who’s broken through the fortress that used to be my heart, who’s seen me cry, and made me laugh, who’s strong arms hold me on the nights we’re together, and when he’s inside me I sometimes can’t believe my luck, that I get to have my legs wrapped around him and experience such pleasure.

I love his two girls, although I don’t see enough of them, because we’ve decided not to live together. Or he’s decided and I’ve gone with it. Or I had to go with it, because it was non-negotiable. I’m not sure. And every time my period comes, I’m a little disappointed, because we’re not trying for a baby – that too is non-negotiable – but still I hope to somehow, accidentally get knocked up and ruin everything.

It sure would make things easier if I had another child. To begin with, I’d be so busy, there would be no time to think about my life and debate whether I’m content or if something is missing. Some things would definitely be missing: sleep, and alone time, and sex. But I would probably be too busy to notice. I also wouldn’t notice how my boy is all grown up, going on play-dates instead of listening to me read, and suddenly acting as if getting a hug from his mom after school is embarrassing.

But there is no baby, and probably won’t be another baby. Or – there can be another baby, maybe, but then I need to find a father. And I don’t want another father. I just want D.

I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my son before bedtime tonight. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Dumbledore told Harry, who was enchanted by the mirror of Erised.

I don’t want to forget to live. I don’t want to forget that even though he’s nearly six, he still crawls into bed with me on Saturday mornings. And that sometimes, when D is over with his girls, they crawl in too, and we all steal a few more minutes of sleep, all five of us together.

I don’t want to forget how even though we’ve been together for over three years, I still feel in love when I see him, and how he says things to me, like that I’m the second best thing that’s ever happened to him after his girls being born, and that he wants to love me for always and grow old with me by his side.

I don’t want to forget how lucky I am to be working in a place I find meaningful, to be affecting the lives of so many children every day, to truly like going to work in the morning and meeting my friends, who are my co-workers.

There is no baby. There may never be one. But I don’t want to stand there staring into my mirror of Erised and become addicted to the sight of a little bundle of happiness cradled in my arms, and forget that I can cradle my boy, or my man, or his girls, or my goofy, lovable dog.

He started reading now. My boy, not the dog. He’s outgrown all his clothes and shoes, and he no longer runs into my arms when I pick him up from kindergarten. But he does tell me about challenges and fears he’s overcome, and smiles at me with pride. He’s no longer obsessed with proving to me that he can do stuff on his own, and he’s not interested anymore in understanding how the world around him works. He now wants to understand abstract ideas, things that cannot be seen by means other than his own imagination. How did the universe begin, he asks. And what happens when you leave the atmosphere, and what is it like in space? And what will happen if I dig a very very very deep hole in the ground? I love how confident he is, not the way I was as a child, and so much more evolved than me – even as an adult. He knows his self worth, he loves himself. Looking at him I know I did a good job, and I know I could do it again.

I could.

But I won’t, I guess. And then when this saddens me.

And as I sit in the guest room, crying into a little plastic musical star, I think to myself that it’s unfair, that I have so much love in my life, and still – I want more.


Once a Fortress, Always a Fortress

3 May

Certainty and security are never a commodity in a single mother’s life. Love and fatigue are our main resources. We live for our ability to love our children and the people who love them (and us, if possible), we love them endlessly. We strive, thanks to daily schedules that bring us to the end of the day breathless, and with an empty mind and weary heart. It is easy to receive our kindness, for we are full of empathy and compassion for anyone who has endured hardship. It is even possible to win our love. We’re used to caring for others. But it is nearly impossible to love us, fully. And even more difficult to gain our trust.

This is why, the single mother, is forever single. This sounds tragic, and maybe it is in a sense. But I don’t necessarily mean for it to be. We aren’t alone. We are surrounded by friends, family, and lovers, who care for us, help us out, listen to us, pick our little ones up from school if we’re tied up, or make love to us quietly, in the dark, after bed time. We have each other – other moms like us, who share the impossible bond of lonely togetherness, that I think only we can truly comprehend. And still, we are single. Even with boyfriends, or live-in partners. Even if we marry again.

The single mother’s heart is a fortress. It’s been penetrated and broken before, and it shall never be broken again. We will never again allow heartbreak to take us by surprise. We are prepared for any scenario, and we anticipate the worst. (We know that He is going to leave us, and we leave Him first.)

So in order to love us, to stick by us, it takes more than romance, more than companionship, more than terrific sex, more than love, more than trust. It takes endurance. It takes stubbornness. It takes a man who can bear never being given the benefit of the doubt. It takes a man who can tolerate the constant measuring and sizing up, the fear, the doubts, the half-truths, the “I love you – but”s. It takes a man who loves our hearts, along with the brick walls that surround them, walls made strong by the powerful forces of abandonment and betrayal.

It takes a man who has the patience to take apart that wall, slowly, carefully, not tearing it down, but cautiously dismantling it, one brick at a time, knowing that there is a chance that it will grow back in, like like a lizard’s tail, but wanting enough to try, hoping enough to succeed.

I am lucky to have found such a man.

And though, from time to time, I make an honest attempt to push him away, he surprises me with his acceptance of me and my story, and his willingness to take part in it.




A Meaningful Narrative – The Challenges and Pleasures of Secular Parenting

3 Apr

My son is nearing four now, what an incredible age! When allowed to freely explore, ask questions, and wonder about life – this is an age of outstanding discoveries, of vital first impressions of the world, of discovering who is trustworthy, what is permitted, where one can go and where doors are shut.

I have two strong guidelines in my parenting, that have been guiding me from the day I brought my Boy back home from the hospital. Be authentic. Tell the truth. There is a lot more of course. I try to listen to him, I mean really listen, as much as I can. I try to set boundaries where they are necessary, I try to support his urges to be independent and guide him and be supportive, and not lose my patience and maintain composure, even if he throws a fit because his sunny-side-up is leaking and now he won’t eat it.

But I honestly believe, if I’m authentic, if Mom-Me, is not an entirely different person from Professional-Me, and Intellectual-Me, and Friend-Me, and Lover-Me, then I’m doing something right. So I tell my son about my day when I come back from school. He listens, and then he tells me about his day at preschool. I joke around with him, because I can be silly like that sometimes. I say I’m sorry when I make a mistake. And I tell him the truth, or a version of the truth that he can take in, when he asks me the big questions, when he wants to know how life begins and what happens when it ends.

Yes, he’s not even four yet. But my son has already asked if everyone dies, and if I’ll die one day. I couldn’t tell him some ridiculous story. A part of me wanted to go with the heaven-story. It’s a good one, really. It comforted me when I was younger. But I didn’t. I said we live forever in the hearts of those who love us. It’s a good narrative. It’s as close as I could get to where I really am vs the death thing. He accepted my narrative the way only four-year-olds can, absorbing it, inscribing it into his own narrative, into the truths that he will now grow up with.

Now he knows, because he asked and I answered, that the male and female bodies fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, that the sperm and the egg yearn to unite and form a baby. That they have to wait for love, because only when a man and a woman love one another, can they unite to form life. He knows that I think it’s a miracle. And so he finds if miraculous as well. And it is, isn’t it? He is too young to feel confused about it. Too young to be weirded out. The narrative I chose to deliver has now become one more truth that he will measure future stories about sex, love and child bearing against.

“How does the baby come out?” He asked.

“A woman body is amazing,” I said with wonder. “It widens for the baby to come out from between her legs. They in narrows again.”

“Really? It can do that?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Isn’t it amazing?”




Every Day is a Different Kind of I Miss You

24 Jul

I haven’t written in a while. Not really sure why, I just wasn’t in the mood and decided not to force it until the moment returned when I felt that I wanted to write.

A lot has happened. I’ve finished the school year, with the end of the year show and goodbyes to my 6th graders, who will start Junior High in September. I received a shitload of validation, and a few gifts. I got time off – summer vacation. It got fucking hot and my AC began working overtime.

I went to Barcelona with D and spent 4 intensive days together. I learned a lot about us and where I wanted us to go. I confronted D about wanting to take our relationship to the next level: Meeting the kids. I listened as he explained why he wasn’t ready. I adopted a dog and learned what it is to truly love your pet. I had a huge fight with BD about custody stuff. I helped E pick out curtains for her new place to which she is moving with her husband and son, two hours drive away, after having been neighbors for the last 18 months.

Finally, this morning, I cleared out The Drawer. The one where all my old jewelry and makeup and knickknacks are. I found my wedding band, and engagement ring, and all those earrings M had bought me at various fairs she’d happened to stop by throughout the 15 years in which we were friends.

A lot of stuff happened – and she was gone the whole time. She was gone when I made her cinnamon pancakes and they came out perfect and my son ate four. She was gone when I bought “happy pills” for our friends in Barcelona. She was gone when I ate the most delicious octopus salad in the world last night.

Every time something happens to me, she still gone. She is always gone, and she will be gone forever. I can’t tell her about BD being an idiot. I miss her getting angry at him and cursing. I can’t introduce her to Charlie, our dog. She would have loved him. She would have given him a silly nickname. She would have mentioned him and asked about him every time we’d speak, completely acknowledging that he is a part of our family now.

I can’t consult with her about D and what I should do. I bet she would have thought I should break up with him, and I’d discredit her opinion, maybe even get offended and refrain from telling her stuff about him, until a couple of months later when I’d tell her how I felt and then we’d be OK.

No more dirty chai lattes in funny mugs. No more arguments or offences. No more compassion and patient, silent listening. No more funny faces to cheer me up when I’m down. I could cry now because it’s unfair she died, but I feel like I’m done with the WHY???? Now it’s just a quiet kind of sadness. A sort of constant regret. I regret that she’s gone. I wish I had been closer to her. I wish I’d made more time to be with her, especially after she became sick. I wish I could tell her how fucking horribly absent she is from my life.



Home Away from Home

6 Jun

There was a place in my childhood and adolescence, where I felt truly safe and happy, where I could be myself and feel acceptance, where there were boundaries and I knew I was cared for, where I could let go and be a child, allowing myself to experience all those things that allow you to learn about yourself as you grow up and become the person you need to become. That place was summer camp.

Every now and again in my life I am reminded of those powerfully condensed summers, in which friendships were formed, secret crushes flourished, conversations about the meaning of life were conducted in the wee hours of the night, often under the stars, sometimes with a guitar playing in the background, where the cool girls would hang out, in their cut-collared T-shirts, exposing their bra straps, with that summer’s newly transitioned ex-geeky hottie, his arm muscles flexed as he strummed his guitar, was playing his Oasis and his hotel california as his entourage sang along. Was there an afterlife? Would there be peace in the middle east? Would I ever have my first kiss and would it be with A?

In the mornings, waking up early and rushing to get dressed and brush teeth and get to prayer on time, then breakfast in the dining hall and a meeting with our counselors, and then the things we needed to do, efforts made to change the world, truly believing in our power to better it. Hot afternoons in the swimming pool, set amongst the pine trees, harboring rowdy half-developed teens as well as frogs that croaked beside us as we swam.

Shabbat. Getting ready and dressing up, feeling elated, excited to end prayer by greeting everyone and, traditionally, kissing on the cheek. Would he come greet me? Would he kiss me on the cheek?  Shabbat dinner was always deliciously noisy and fun, with our counselors singing at the top of their lungs when the meal was over, and everyone excitedly participating, sometimes even standing on chairs or drumming on the tables. There was no curfew on Friday night, as long as you made it to prayer in the morning, and we’d lay down on the grass outside, looking at the stars, sharing secrets and talking about who and what we wanted to be.

Condensed. Three weeks a year where I wasn’t constantly being scorned by my father, where I wasn’t in charge of mothering my younger sisters, picking them up from daycare, making them lunch, and later on seeing that they did their homework, arguing and trying unsuccessfully to discipline them when they misbehaved. I loved my sisters to pieces. I would have died for them. But then, everything was so dramatic when I was a hormone stricken teenager, learning to constantly be critical of myself, to be ashamed, and eventually to truly hate myself.

I didn’t hate myself in camp, though. I liked myself. I felt smart and funny. I was able to let go of my worry about my appearance. I felt competent and brave. I sang solo one time in front of 300 people. I dared to befriend the boys I had a crush on. I learned then so much of what I know now and implement every single day into my work with children, into my parenting, and into my constant introspection.

I’m not religious anymore. I don’t even believe in god. But I believe in the good intentions of people. I believe in people’s ability to change things that seem unchangeable. I believe in my own personal ability to cope with anything that comes my way. I believe I’m awesome. I believe I deserve to be loved and shown affection and appreciated. And even though it took me years to implement these beliefs into my life, it all started when I was 13 at summer camp.

Tomato Paste Math

22 May

tomato paste

I love grocery shopping with my boy. This probably has to do with the fact that I love food and cooking, but also because almost a year ago, when he turned two, I realized I could actually get stuff done around the house, if I only stopped trying to keep him busy while I cleaned, cooked and set the table, and instead included him in all these activities. Since then, cooking together has become a ritual, and grocery shopping one of our favorite activities.

He sits in the shopping cart, and as we shop I tell him stories about where all food comes from. How the bread is made of wheat, and the strawberry yogurt he loves so much is made of milk that we get from cows and strawberries. That the pasta we buy is imported from Italy, but the tomatoes we use to make the sauce grow locally. I give him tasks: “Sweetie can you please pick out three beautiful zucchinis for me and put them in the bag?” And responsibility: “You are in charge of eggs. We can’t forget to buy eggs so when you see the eggs you have to remind me, OK?”

Yesterday, as we were shopping I noticed a sale on tomato paste. Six containers for a special price. They were small plastic containers, connected at the top in pairs and in fours. “OK honey, we need to get six of these. Let me see… Here, six!” I said and I handed him a pair.

He looked at them and laughed. “That’s not six! One, two.”

“Oh my, you’re right. Let me try again.” And I handed him four. “Six!” I said.

He seemed convinced this time, but he counted: “One, two, three… four! Mommy it’s four. It’s not six!”

“Oh no, what are we going to do?” I asked sadly, holding the pair in one hand and the four containers in the other. “We need six.” I brought my hands closer together. “And we only have four and two.”

He looked and the containers. Without saying anything else he began to count: “One, two, three, four, five, six! Mommy there are six!”

“Oh my, you’re right! Together there are six! Four and two are six!”

And that’s how my son got his first addition lesson ever at the supermarket.

“Those Ritalin Kids”

21 May

Yesterday afternoon there was a party at my son’s daycare. The theme was a farm, and it was super fun, from songs and old McDonald, to milking a cow, and petting a goat. The party ended with a huge inflatable castle that the children jumped on with joy. It was loud and exhausting and took place in the aftenoon, by which time I had only limited energy left. It also happened to take place on one of those workdays that just sucks all around, not to mention I was premenstrual as hell. But I kept it together, and I enjoyed seeing my child participate in the activities, raise his hand and wait his turn (and he’s not even three yet!) By the time the jumping began, I sat down on a little stool, staring into mid air, glad the day was almost over.

It was the end of the party, and most of the younger children had already gone home. The older boys were still going nuts on the inflatable castle, jumping, crashing and screaming with joy, when the teacher said it was time to get off. One of the mothers then said, jokingly: “You can fold up the castle with the kids in it. The ones that are still jumping are the ones whose parents wouldn’t care anyway.” Another mother heared this and laughed and added “Those ritalin kids.”

Now, I am a fairly cynical person, and I can take a joke. Really, I can even take a hollocaust joke every now and then, and I’m Jewish. But having a person who does not even know me, joke at the expense of my son was too much. I know I was overly sensitive, but I was so insulted I couldn’t let this sentence out of my mind for the entire evening, and here I am blogging about it.

First of all, it’s ignorant and stupid. Three year old boys on an inflatable castle are not supposed to behave any differently than how those children behaved. They are supposed to be happy, jump and scream, that is the whole point of the activity. Secondly, even if it were a group of hyperactive three year olds, who the hell are you to joke about how their mothers feel about them and how much they care. Thirdly, as a teacher, I have met children who really needed medication to overcome attention disorders, who were much happier as a result. It is rare. And those kids are ten, not three. Really, ritalin and other medications are SO overused, it makes me angry that people talk about it so lightly. Lastly, uhhhh I could just keep talking forever about how ignorant, stupid and disrespectful what that mother said was, but it’ll do me no good.

I should have told her off, I would have felt better. But since I didn’t, I’ll do the second best thing and write it down, so I can stop thinking about it. Oh, and thank god my boy has a mother who knows better.