“James, use your fork. You can’t just eat by shoving your face into your plate, that’s rude.” It was said calmly, almost in passing because I knew he knew it wasn’t okay, and was positive he’d giggle and just stop. His actual reaction caught me off guard.
“FINE!” He yelled, throwing his fork down with force, tossing the food that was still stuck to it across the table. He then kicked the table leg, and sat back just as forcefully, crossing his arms in anger. For a moment my mouth hung agape. What had just happened?
“Woah! What was that? You know you can’t eat like an animal, are you seriously going to throw a fit when I ask you to stop?” I was incredulous but still calm.
“I said fine!” He said, this time with a tone of absolute venom. He spat the words at me. I was in awe. He had been perfectly normal since I’d picked him up at daycare an hour before.
He was sent to the corner to consider how he should and should not speak to his mother, especially after she made a reasonable request such as “Don’t eat like a barnyard animal” and while there he proceeded to hit and kick the walls around him. When I told him to stop he yelled at me because “This is stupid!”
How did my evening disintegrate so quickly? I fought almost 3 hours worth of traffic today, worked an 8 ½ hour day in which I barely took time to eat lunch, came home and put away the dishes while helping with homework and making dinner. I didn’t sleep enough last night, and I’m struggling with a lot of my own stresses (such as custody and child support problems with Rich, fights with friends brought on by senseless gossip, and suddenly my mouth has decided to fall apart and I’m in a bunch of stupid pain because of it). I need a break. I need to sit and read, cuddle with my kiddos, maybe zone out on some television for the first time in I don’t know how many months. Instead I’m fighting a battle I can’t even understand against a young man who couldn’t wrap his head around what I’m dealing with even if I told him about it – which I wouldn’t. I’m exhausted. I don’t have the emotional or mental resources necessary to cope with him… and yet I have no choice.
As many dinners as I go to, or movies as I attend, no matter how comfortable I get with being on my own, there will never come a day that I won’t feel lonely while dealing with this. An evening like this is the very poster child for why single moms are desperate, co-dependent settlers. Eager to grasp onto anyone that will take them, no matter how ill fitting they might be for them, or for the task at hand. Nights like tonight are why my mom stayed with my step-dad long after the alcoholism took him over and he began to treat her daughter like a punching bag. I can separate myself from that desperation. I can feel a line within myself that I couldn’t feel before. I know the line is there because Ben came to me and asked me back, dripping promises of how well he’d treat my babies off his lips like so much honey, and I didn’t fall prey. I knew better. The line within me had been drawn and I knew I could do better. On one side is a life of mediocrity, settling for “at least I’m not scrambling anymore”. On the other side is striving, even if struggling, for a life of genuine happiness by holding out for something real for me AND my kids.
Knowing where the line is makes me feel stronger. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying here. The Project has caused me to go through massive shifts in my understanding of who I am and what I want. I feel like I’ve built a pretty strong foundation for myself in the last few months. I have a heavier grip on what I’m capable of.
Still… raising babies on my own? This will never be a Step. I cannot imagine going through a night like tonight and not feeling Lonely. I’m weary. I need a hug, and my hair petted. I need someone to do the dinner dishes while I sit with James and talk to him about why I wasn’t going to be able to allow that behavior in my house. I need to be tucked into bed early. Nights like tonight, I don’t feel like I’m doing justice to my role as Mom. I wonder if I’m doing right by these kids at all. Say what you will about it being my circumstances, about me doing the best in a shitty situation, about kids being resilient. Parenthood isn’t supposed to be a solitary pursuit.
For as far as I’ve come, tonight I’m Lonely.