Too many thoughts, too little time.

Archive for March, 2012

Plants and Life

Forgive me if this sounds too New Age-y, but I’ve been thinking about it all morning.

Positive and negative energy.

I’m sure you’ve heard people joke around about talking to plants. It seems amusing, even I can admit that. It’s been a running joke at our house I can keep cut flowers alive and pretty far longer than I can potted plants. I’ve killed so many plants I may very well be on some sort of EPA watch list. That certainly hasn’t been my goal.

I remember when I first got married, my grandpa gave me a couple Aloe Vera plants. admittedly, those are not hard to grow, but they were alive, even through lack of attention for a few years. Eventually, things went down hill quickly and drastically in my marriage, and the plants both died within weeks. Completely unable to be revived. I remember crying as I threw them away. Our fish died about the same time too. I felt, apparently, I couldn’t keep anything alive, not my marriage, not my fish, not my plants. It was incredibly depressing.

Not one to give up, I’d try again and again. I’d bring plants into this house full of anger and poison, and they would die. Is it any wonder, when I look back I felt parts of me were dying too? DA finally left, I was so heart-broken and angry. I’d keep bringing home plants, just to watch them die, no matter how much attention they were given. I left that house, but kept my attitude…2 yrs of watching daisies and ferns and various other plants turn brown, shrivel up, and die.

I was eventually able to get my own apartment, and because I am stubborn, I bought a little bamboo plant. I watered it and took care of it, and it thrived. I was doing well, and finally getting a handle on things. Winter came, and our heat wasn’t working, and the landlord wouldn’t answer his phone. I had space heaters, but they tended to trip the fuse overnight, so, we’d wake up to a 40 degree house. The kids and I began sleeping in the same bed, with an electric blanket, and 10 other blankets. We considered it a win when we woke up and the house was all of 55 degrees. I began to panic, and wonder if maybe I wasn’t a good mom, maybe the kids should be with their dad. I couldn’t even keep them warm in the winter.  Now, the little bamboo plant started to die. I started staying up at Brad’s more often, because he had heat. Even if he wasn’t home, the kids would be warm. And I left my plant behind. But, I was happy, the kids were happy. When I went home, I’d try to remember to water it, I’d look for the warmest place to put it. I always kind of figured THIS was the day I’d go home, and the plant would be completely dead. But, it kept surprising me.

We finally decided to actually live together. The almost completely brown bamboo plant came with us. And, it found a home in the kitchen, where it somehow slowly turned green again. Deciding to try my luck, I bought an orange and a lemon tree, and put them in the kitchen window. I hoped I’d have them a month. 9 months later they seem to almost double in size every week. I bought 2 more bamboo plants. Bamboo is supposed to be lucky, right? I figured it couldn’t hurt. Again, months later, they are fine. Several weeks ago, the littlest Monster asked for an aloe vera plant. I only found them for about $15 and I didn’t quite trust that my black thumbs had turned green yet.  2 days later I found a small, dying, plant on clearance at the store, for maybe $1, it was the plant he wanted, I also found another plant that looked like it should be beautiful, but it was barely hanging on. I bought them both, brought them home, and replanted them. They are thriving.

I am not surprised. I honestly think my old house was filled with poison. The yelling, the screaming, the lies, the abuse. I think if I hadn’t gotten out when I did, the kids and I would have followed the plants, and little by little we’d die until there was nothing left of us to save. The useful part of me would just dry up, like the gel in the plants leaves, while the rest of me just tried to survive.

I hate myself sometimes for allowing the kids to live like that as long as I did.  Especially the day I had to tell them daddy wasn’t coming back, and they were relieved.  But now, things have changed. Our new home isn’t full of the hatred the old one was. It’s full of love and it’s happy and comfortable. The boys have cousins with much bigger houses, and huge yards, who want to come here and play because they “love it here”. My mom comes here to relax. And, it always surprises me, because, I’m proud of our little house, but, it’s no show place. When we have a party, you practically have to stack the people. But people like to be here. We like to be here. There isn’t any more yelling and screaming and fighting. Even the bad days are handed respectfully.

And the kids, the plants and myself, are thriving.

That first little bamboo plant sits in the kitchen, if you look closely, it is actually 3 plants, one is beautiful, one is doing great, but still carries some scars from the bad times the base of the plant is poor, but it has new growth coming from it, and the third twists around one, completely gone and beyond repair. Brown and dry. I suppose I could trim it back, or completely cut it off, but, I don’t. I keep it as a reminder. Maybe I’m reading too much into my plants, but, this little plant is my reminder for how to live. That you can go through a lot of bad, but, you can pull through and still be beautiful in spite of your scars. And, the perfect one, if how we can aspire to be. And that dead one is a reminder of how neglect and hate can destroy a life. How bad energy can suck the good right out. How, just showing up once in awhile and doing the bare minimum isn’t enough. You actually have to put some effort in, some love in. Here is my little bamboo plant I’ve had for about a year and a half now. Pretty good for someone who has never been able to keep a plant alive longer than a couple weeks!

Image

And, now, wish me luck, because today I planted a small window sill herb garden and am really hoping I do , in fact, have a green thumb.

Speaking of parenting…

I know I’ve mentioned the Monsters. Their father and I are no longer together. I’m not yet remarried, though we’re working on it. The man I plan to marry travels a lot for work. He’s gone far more time than he is home. The 4 of us have found a comfortable routine, and it works for us.

Today though, I want to write about the term “single parent”. I suppose, technically, I am one. I know I was for a few years, where I wasn’t seeing anyone seriously.

But, I really dislike this term applied to me now. I also really dislike women married to men who travel or who are in the military saying things like “Oh, now I know how you single moms feel!”

No, you really don’t. You don’t know what it is like to have the parent of your children just leave.

Those women, and myself, aren’t crying at night wondering why they weren’t good enough for the dad to stick around. You may have to spend a lot of time raising the kids alone, but, you can be pretty certain that there will be money in the bank to buy groceries at the end of the week. You aren’t the only adult in the kids lives and don’t have to be everything all the time. You aren’t trying to explain to the 4 yr old that daddy isn’t coming home tonight, actually, he isn’t coming home ever. Your meager income, if you have to work, doesn’t have to cover the babysitter, and school for you, and groceries and gas in the car, and the dr appointment, and the rent, and the car insurance, and…and…and. I wish all these faux single moms would think about it, when their husbands are gone, they aren’t “single moms”. For them to be single moms, all the expenses need to stay the same, while the income drops by 3/4ths. You have to fit all the same things in your day, except also add in a couple court dates because the dad wants to claim he can’t pay child support. You don’t have someone to complain to at the end of the day, and every other Sunday the kids are absolute terrors while they readjust to being home. Very rarely does anyone jump in and say “wow, you have a lot on your hands, why don’t I watch the kids while you go out for lunch?”, but I see this happen ALL the time with the military wives. I have a divorced friend right now, with a chronic condition that makes it almost a necessity to go to the ER when she has a flare up, but, with kids at home and nobody willing to help, she can’t. It’s making the situation worse. (Yes, I know, “Why aren’t you helping?” Because, in an emergency, me 4-5 hrs away doesn’t do anyone much good.) Also, generally, the parents who spend a lot of time parenting alone are almost regarded as heroes, as long as they are in a relationship. Once that relationship doesn’t work out, and you are alone, well…you should have made better choices. Yes, because I’m sure all single parents threw caution to the wind and had a baby with the first person around who had working parts. The “I know how you single moms feel now” crowd isn’t getting judged. It’s “unpatriotic” to say “You knew he was in the military when you met him, now suck it up.”

I’m not saying anyone SHOULD say that (though, I have thought it a time or two); especially when the people complaining are doing so when their spouse has never left the US, never been in any danger, and they complain nonstop for those 6 weeks he’s gone for training. Again though, I’m not saying “suck it up” is the right attitude to have, but it isn’t the right attitude to have towards almost anyone. Not just people you feel are noble enough.

In my opinion, every time someone says to me “Oh, he’s gone that much? So, you’re a single mom then?” It’s discounting how hard it really is. Things are probably 150 times easier now, with this version of single motherhood than they were when I actually was one. There was a point for awhile I was working 3 jobs. And, going to school. Plus, trying to take care of my kids and the house and do my homework. Nights where I’d sit at my desk in the dark, reading the homework assignment, with a sleeping 4 yr old on my lap because that was the only time I go to spend with him. There were lots of days where I was trying to read a textbook at work and praying nobody noticed, because I promised the kids we’d play uno that night when I got home. There was the time my youngest almost cut off part of his ear, and while I cleaned up his blood, and headed out to go to the emergency room, his brother puked. Or the time all three of us had a complete break down in the Dollar Store because I couldn’t afford to buy them a toy. Now? Yes, I may still end up with the ear/puke issue, and I still keep myself pretty busy. But, there is some balance. Maybe I do skip homework to play Uno for the 13th time today, but this weekend, I’ll tell Aussie, and he’ll run a couple errands with the kids, and give me some time to catch up on Civil Litigation. And, yes, sometimes I still have to tell them I can’t buy a toy, it costs to much. But, I never have to say it about $1 toy anymore. Working 20 hrs a week at the school bookstore isn’t near as hard when I don’t have to think about the fact my pay barely covers gas and the babysitter. Homeschooling the kids is so much easier when I can hand Aussie the multiplication flash cards to have him practice with the 8 yr old Monster who refuses to sit still for 1/8th of a second. Parenting isn’t as discouraging after hearing nonstop reports about how children without a positive male influence are going to be sociopath, when there IS a positive male role model.

Yes, I have my bad days. I have Wednesdays where I have to call Aussie crying and say “I need you home! And please, just tell them to do their homework! Just for 20 minutes, that’s all!” But, I have that option, that option wasn’t there 3 years ago.

Please also, I don’t need people jumping all over this saying “Well, I am a military wife and it is hard, you never have to worry about your boyfriend going to war.” No, I don’t. And, I never said it isn’t hard. But, that doesn’t make you a single mom. And, yes, your husband is going away to defend our country, my boyfriend is going away to put in the equipment that will save your husband’s life if he gets hurt. But that doesn’t make you or me a “single parent”. It has put us in possibly a more challenging position, by CHOICE, but, it is not the same as going about it on your own.

I won’t pretend I know how hard it is when your spouse leaves for work, but please don’t pretend you finally understand how hard it is to not have that spouse.

Dads are People Too

This is one of the sweetest sights ever.

There was recently a “Family Fair and Expo” here. The commercial for it drove me absolutely up the wall. It was a radio commercial, but, you could figure out the characters pretty easily.

Mom-“let’s go to the family fair and expo this weekend!”

Little boy-“is there anything for me?”

Mom-“yes! Face painting, and balloon animals, a bounce house, and games!”

Little boy-“yay! Is there anything for sissy?”

Mom-“there is a baby crawl race!”

Little boy-“what about dad?”

Mom-laughing “oh of course, there is a special area just for the dads where they can sit and watch sports, while we walk around.”

This commercial ticks me off. It was a FAMILY expo. Everything else the mom said was to do together, her and the two kids. But not dad, apparently dad 1. Doesn’t care 2. Doesn’t matter 3. Is too selfish to be involved or 4. Is too childish and needs his own area, much the same as the kids do at the mall with a little playground. Because apparently, what? Daddy is also going to throw a fit when he doesn’t get the clown to make a balloon rabbit?

I see this attitude ALL the time. All these women who laugh about how inept their husband is, how she can’t trust him to do what she wants. He says he’ll stay home with the baby while mom gets her nails done, and forever after that, mom sets out Little Susie’s clothes because that one time, dad dressed her in jeans with pink flowers and a purple onsie when any idiot can see the purple onsie goes with the paisley skirt. And, how can she leave him with the baby when he gave her squash for lunch when she clearly should have had green beans. Then this same woman will complain later because he never helps her with a anything.

When you act like someone is incapable or incompetent, why is anyone surprised when they live up to your expectations? We have all these fathers acting more like another child, and I firmly believe that is because that is how they get treated. NO, dad doesn’t need a special play area at the family activity. And he isn’t incompetent because he laid the newborn in a laundry basket with towel padding on the kitchen floor so he could fry up a burger. (yes, I did come home to this once.) Is it what I would do? Maybe not, but, because I did most the child care, he didn’t know where the playpen was or how to open it. Different doesn’t mean wrong.

Why should any man think he needs to man up and act like an adult, when he knows there is a woman close by to fix everything? Even things that don’t need fixing? Somedays, I know Aussie has no idea what to do with the Monsters, and he looks at me trying to figure out what to do. My standard reply has become “you have exactly as much experience raising an 8 yr old as I do.” I don’t know much, if anything more than he does. I want him to be an active participant, not another child who needs to be walked through this step-by-step. And you know what? He has managed. He has done great actually, and no infantilizing him was necessary. I don’t need to talk down to him for the kids to be raised right.

And you know, babies are pretty resilient. I can almost promise you that the baby will bounce back from being out in the wrong outfit, and fed something different for lunch.

I guess my point is, when we expect no participation,and constant screw ups from dad, why are we surprised when that is what we get? Dad may actually have some good ideas mom hasn’t thought of.

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