One of my family’s favorite things to do is have neighbors and friends over for dinner. In fact, my kids have come to expect it and even ask if we can invite the neighbors over for dinner. Lucky for us, we have an incredible loving relationship with out neighbors. So much so, that on days that we are too tired, too stressed out or just don’t want to cook, we check in with our neighbor and ask what she and her family are doing for dinner. Most of the time, we bring over our left overs, she takes out hers, makes a vegetable tray, and dinner is served. Not only is dinner made quickly, clean up is a collective effort. Ah…we often joke that we should just live in a commune, it sounds grand, minus the creepy cult association.
Yes, it is difficult to imagine your angelic children without their parents for a weekend. There may be tears and “Please don’t go,” as they attach themselves to your pant leg, but keep going. You can have your own breakdown en route to a sweet little cabin in the woods. If you have children, you deserve a get away; it is only fair to them and to you.
Some parents have a very strong reaction to the idea of leaving their children in the care of others; I am not sure if it is an insult to their parental obligations or an injustice to the role of mother or father. Please, lighten up. Don’t be afraid of judgment anyone that does is simply envious. Go with gusto.
We have a handful of friends that we trust implicitly with our children. In fact, our children love them and have a great relationship with them. Any other dynamic would be disastrous. So, lets clarify they must be safe and responsible adults.
Be sure that that you provide a schedule*, extra spending money, food, a safety plan and permission to have some fun. We have a schedule template that we use for our caregivers, we change the dates and details as needed, we have a safety pouch we leave visible, that contains a current photo of each child, medical information and a copy of their insurance cards. We also have a consent form** that allows that specific caregiver to give consent for medical treatment in our absence.
No one ever asked me how I felt about not having a father. I just didn’t have one. I understood it, as if a father was an incidental like a car, a pet, a sibling or a bike. You either have one or you don’t. Did I miss him? Did I want him? I had absolutely no idea who he was, where he was, or that I was “supposed” to have one. It did not hit me that I wanted a father until I was a teenager. I knew I looked different than my brothers, I knew that my glow-in-the-dark white skin and freckled face was different. It mostly came from my rage with my mother and the trauma I endured that I momentarily wanted a father. I imagined that he would have protected me, provided stability, and loved me. The moment was fleeting, though. I imagine at the time I did not have the internal strength to grieve what I did not have.
At about the same time, 14 years old, I learned that not all fathers stay and parent their children, this is true for mothers as well. I was convinced that if my father had seen me, held me for just a moment that the bond would have made it impossible for him to leave me. If only, I thought.
It wasn’t true. I soon witnessed my friends have children with the hope and the promise of creating a family. Yes, they were young teenage mothers, but nonetheless they craved a family of their own. The absence of my father seemed less distressing to me as I witnessed the longing and the promises un-kept by the fathers of these children. To me, this was a more painful reality.
One particular boy carried the greatest burden. His father came and went with less predictability than winning a raffle. The phone calls came months apart, but he was always ready. He wanted to look like his dad, so he dressed his 5-year-old body with a white t-shirt, jeans and boots. He waited patiently on the couch afraid to move and miss his father. Seeing his distress, I tried to coax him away from the “waiting” and play a game with him—but he was too focused and eager to move. The anticipated time came and went. Still he did not move. His young body, giving in to the suspense, nodded off into a light sleep, as he waited to hear the roar of his father’s car. When he came, he made an entrance, his chest puffed out, his arms contracted as if to show his biceps as he shook his hair and preened. He showed no remorse, no accountability for the disappointment and false promises. He was here now, and we should all be grateful and admire his effort.
This boy’s face grew bitter and hard. It was as if he knew more than he should at 6 and 7. And he did. The same scenario repeated time and time again; only this time the months grew into years and the infrequency of contact took its toll. He felt unloved, unwanted and abandoned. No attempt from anyone else to lift his spirits and fill that gaping hole would suffice. Any effort to reconnect over the years of adolescence was marred by his father returning him home to his grandparents. The father would not tolerate any questions about his absence; any challenge to his choices was met with fury. There was no room for the boy to understand. His questions squelched by insecurity, his curiosity doused with spit from the anger of his father. Where was he to go with his questions, his need to understand why he was abandoned? Where else could he become vulnerable, if not with his parent? There was no compassion for this child.
He was left to fend for himself, to make sense of his life, to patch together what he knew to become a man. He pieced together and stitched a semblance of his life, but the seam continually ripped and repair often went neglected. There were tears and holes visible to the attentive person. The wounds festered under the guise of a young man, the hurt covered with sarcasm. Finally, his defenselessness yielded to violence.
When does it end? I say we must challenge those who have failed us, interrogate the parent, shift the guilt and shame to where it belongs and let them carry what is theirs.
It is day 4 of my walking routine. I am trying to just not think about it and get dressed, get the dog and walk. The time I spend planning and setting up my workout regiment outweighs my time spent actually working out. I have scanned through Pinterest for inspiration, invested in shoes and even bought a fanny pack type thing to carry my phone and make me hands free. That was months ago and I still only have 4 days under my belt.
What is it that keeps me from venturing out into the great outdoors to see the ocean, green grass and smiling faces of my neighbors, discomfort. I feel awkward in my body. I have become the middle-aged lady with the apple body on two skinny legs. I don’t want to be critical of my body, so I won’t. But, I am simply uncomfortable, it is this discomfort that keeps me from doing what I need to do to make a change. This is definitely a catch 22.
When I was young, I did not need motivation to get moving, I played basketball, football, volleyball and had a hard time sitting still. Today, I would rather sit and complain. I trying to change that, stay tuned.
So, the outfit leaves something to be desired, I cannot and will not invest in the yoga/fitness/size zero wear. I am going old school, estilo Rocky Balboa, a t-shirt and sweatpants.
I recruited my 10-year-old neighbor for motivation. I decided if she doesn’t complain, I couldn’t.
Have you tried to casually draw information from your elementary-age child about school?“ How was you day at school? What did you do?” The answer from kindergartens to high school students in every family, in every state, regardless of gender or age is probably, “Nothing.”
You may try every angle, be humorous, awkwardly weird, “ relate” to them (a big mistake), and even brave provocative topics,“ Was you teacher nice today or does she yell a lot?” “ No.”
“How is that good looking science teacher of yours? Is he married?”
“I dunno,” followed by a grunt.
Just stop. Don’t harass your child anymore. It’s time to accept that those age-old interrogation techniques no longer work.