Three Kids and the Wife in a Hotel Room with a Lone Wolf…

I’m at Cape Cod now, and have been for the last 2 days enjoying a hastily planned 3-night “beach” vacation with my wife and 3 youngest children. The trip came about after repeated protesting from the youngins’ about why we never take them with us when we go to Provincetown. So, here we are, (in S. Yarmouth, not P-Town), all camped out in a hotel room with raindrops and temps in the 70’s. It hasn’t been bad, nor chilly the whole time, but we thought we’d have a last day to spend at the beach today since we elected to hang at the hotel pool yesterday on our first full day. That was not a reality after all, so instead we proceeded to spend a fortune on mini-golf, batting cages, go-carts, and ice cream!

One thing that I have learned about myself since early in this relationship that I began more than 17 years ago, is that I need my alone time. I need time that no one is calling my name, asking anything of me, and needing me to do something for them. I need time to read things that interest me, write emails, catch up on news, exercise, write down my thoughts as they come to me, return phone calls, and be able to think about things without interruption.  The fact that I’m writing this now is an almost impossibility, and as I write, I’m listening to the news of the Denver theater massacre while my kids are huddled in the adjacent bed watching “The Suite Life on Deck,” on a laptop, and my wife is reading next to me. An air mattress for the boy is on the floor at the end of the girls’ bed narrowing that passageway, and clothes are everywhere in various drawers and bags surrounded by ice chests and beach towels.

It’s a slim half-hour break time between the pool swim and dinner. I’m lucky I even get this time, and I’m grateful for any scraps I can get. Can I survive more than three nights in a single room with four other people? I don’t know, but I’d rather not find out. Would I rather not go on vacation than do this again? No, but I desperately hope that next year, if we consider such a plan, that I finally have a job and we can afford two rooms so that all of us are more comfortable!

One of the perks of vacation is getting some reading time in. My read on this trip has been Jodi Picoults new book “Lone Wolf”. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first since it is predominantly filled with the life of wolves interspersed with a personal family drama. I’ve learned quite a bit about the pecking order of wolves and their pack system, which in many ways has similarities among members of large families without all of the growling and non-verbal communications. Wolves have an amazing sense of smell that can detect the minutest changes in their surroundings and is vital for their survival. As I got deeper into the novel, I felt like I could identify with the different roles that wolves play in their system, yet as a parent, I think that I have to juggle these roles daily depending on the situation.

Today, I feel like a lone wolf. I’m at the end of my tolerance for doing things “together” and I need some space. I don’t mean to harp on the age thing, since it’s a running theme in my posts, but I need to just say that the parallels of getting older and being more set in my ways is a reality that I’ve come to accept. The only problem with that, is that my wife is the opposite- she likes constant company, and my company is often not pleasant if I don’t get my alone time!

I guess that I had hoped that my kids would enjoy playing with each other more like I did with my sisters when I was a kid. I don’t remember begging my parents as constantly as they beg me to play with them. Maybe my parents gave me the message early on in my childhood that we needed to find things to do with each other and we accepted that more readily than my kids do. I remember playing outside all day long on weekends and in the summer, building forts, climbing trees, playing softball, riding on our space trolley, playing in our tree house, and when it was bad weather, acting out theater productions, dances, playing cards, building card houses, playing instruments, recording tracks on our reel-to-reel tape player, and playing records on our record player until being called for dinner. I never remember feeling bored, and if I ever did hang around looking for something to do, all my mother ever had to do was find me a new ball. I don’t know if she kept a supply of them or what, but I always had to have a ball or a pair of drumsticks handy!

I know I’m not a spring chicken for a parent. I’m aware that when my youngest kids graduate from high school, I’ll be 59 years old. I don’t think, though, that that’s the issue. I’m still pretty agile and energetic, and I am always willing to get out and ride my bike with them, throw a ball around, or shoot hoops if they want, but I also want them to be able to entertain themselves. I won’t always be there to motivate them. I want them to be self-motivated like I was as a kid. My mother encouraged me to play an instrument, which I did for many years, but she didn’t have to hound me to practice it. I wanted to be good at it so I was motivated to follow-through on my lessons. No one watched the Celtics games with me when I was a kid, cheering on Larry Bird and John Havlecek to win 2 NBA championships when I was in high school. I taught myself how to play basketball by watching their moves, and practiced in my driveway every day I could, honing my shots. I guess it’s a passion that my kids seem to be missing, and I don’t know what to do about it. I believe that we can only hold our kids hands for so long before they need to either learn to fly or learn to fall gracefully.

We’re all home now, having survived the 6 hour drive, 3 hours in bumper to bumper traffic trying to get off the Cape on a  Saturday. We do know better than to leave when everyone else is leaving, but we were eager to get home.

The summer has flown by so fast, and while there’s a good number of days left of it, I find myself vacillating between wanting school to start NOW, and wanting more days to create special memories with my kids. On the one hand, their being home is driving me crazy. They have little desire to be outside when it’s sweltering heat, they get on each other’s nerves and fight a lot, and getting them to want to do anything besides watch TV and play computer games is exhausting! I don’t remember it being so hot when I was a kid, and if it was, we had a pool to cool off in. I dream of having a pool again and hope that I can make that a reality for my kids so that they will go outside again.

Soon, we’re leaving for New Hampshire, where we rent a week at a lake that was my wife’s family vacation spot as a child. We have gone there since 1999 and enjoyed many wonderful times. What was once our family vacation plus special friends, with occasional visits from her relatives, has turned into their family vacation with 3 surrounding rental houses converging on a shared beach. It’s fun, but also overwhelming for me. Luckily, I have “lone wolf” rights now that I’ve got to share my space with so many others, and my absence is tolerated when I need a break, and also it’s less than an hour from home so I can elect to spend a night recuperating with clean water showers as well if I want!

I’ll leave you with this slice of lightness from my Cape visit:

Watermelon. It’s my new favorite food. It’s sweet, and juicy, and when eaten at the perfect time of day, when you’re hot, and thirsty, and craving something sweet, it’s the most wonderful burst of nectar and juiciness that it’s heaven on earth- the most delicious experience that your taste buds could ever imagine! I just had to throw that in because I toted a whole giant watermelon all the way to the Cape with us and I’m enjoying it fully right now!

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“Finding Hope”

It’s just a four-letter word – a noun, a verb and can even be a name, yet it’s so hard to find and so easy to lose.

President Obama campaigned and won on “Hope.” There are currently two TV shows with the word “Hope” in the title and at least five that have been on in my lifetime. It’s what religious leaders preach about constantly, and yet, it often seems so elusive.

Benjamin Franklin once said “He who lives upon hope will die fasting.” while Emily Dickinson wrote in a poem:

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,”

I don’t think it’s a new concept that people in the U.S. are losing Hope in the powers that be who make final decisions about our laws, control our economy, and the systems that control that power. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then you’ve been in a coma for the last 4-8 years. Jobs are scarce, people are paying more for necessities, yet making less money, working more hours, and yet they still can’t keep up. The standard of living that our parents and grandparents afforded is out of reach for most families, and the reality of that is widespread depression, alcoholism, domestic violence, divorce, crime, suicide, murder, and everything in between. What makes it especially hard is that those who are suffering the most seem to be the children. In 2009, one baby was born every hour addicted to prescription drugs. Three years later, and who knows the increase in that statistic. In 2010, the highest number of citizens with food insecurity was recorded in the U.S. When you think of the starving children, they sadly, are likely found in your own community.

It isn’t hard to figure out why people lose Hope after losing their jobs, their homes, their dreams and their futures. Those who can hold onto it and resist the temptation to drown their sorrows and despair in alcohol and drugs are usually the ones who have a lot of faith, but what exactly determines where that line falls between faith and despair?

My wife’s niece died on the 4th of July at the young age of 35 years, presumably from the effects of many years of active drug abuse and depression. Her death was likely accidental, this time, but her life was governed by addiction, and although surprising, her death was not unexpected. Many people had tried multiple times to help her, but the allure of the “high” was ever-present. Another casualty. Another child is left without a mother. Another wasted life.

I worry that my children will be the last generation to know Hope. They’ve been raised as by-products of parents born in the 60’s, when Hope was still alive and the ability to enact change was still a possibility that seemed within reach of the average citizen.

How are we able to counteract the results of the Republican stranglehold on the Congress and the ability to change the system that favors the wealthy and leaves the rest of the 99% to fend for themselves?

When I ran out of thoughts a moment ago and switched back to a Words with Friends game, the word my opponent had just played was “Hope.” I don’t really believe in coincidences, so I will take that as my cue to keep writing, or ranting, as my blog implies!

What does Hope mean to me? It’s a desire for people and things to be better, for love to win out over hate, for peace to persuade war that we can all live happily without fighting. It’s the desire to move through my life with enough, for myself and my kids, my friends and my neighbors, my town, my community, my State, and my Country, and the entire World! It’s about the “haves” helping the “have-nots” and not taking away from those who have suffered enough.

As I am writing, we are leaving soon to pick up our littlest girl after a week of sleepover camp. I’m guessing that after a week apart from all of us, she will be happy to see us. I know her moms will be overjoyed to see her! Getting the other two young ones to happily get up early and make the hour plus drive is the hard part, but after hammering home the concept of  “family” and “support” and “love for your sibling,” they have reluctantly agreed to remove the sourpuss attitudes. What I’d like to somehow infuse in their psyches is that all of what we “make” them do as children will hopefully be appreciated when they’re adults. I see that “sense of family” reflected in at least one of my older girls and know that it is there, but reflects more soberly in the other. I have gratitude that all of my ducklings will be safely nestled in known locations soon, and I desperately Hope that they will all cherish the security that we provide for them until they are able to swim (or fly) on their own!

My Hopes for our children are that through their own lives and experiences, they will always know that they are loved, and that they will do their part as healthy, happy human beings to extend multitudes of Hope and love to many other people so that the flame of Hope will not be extinguished!

* Author’s note- I know that Hope isn’t capitalized, but I Hope that you don’t mind that I did it anyway!

Letting Go…

It’s almost comical how little I actually produce of value these days. It used to be, that when I was working, really working for a salary and running a business, that I got more done in a day than most people do in 3. As a parent, I remind myself daily how valuable my presence is to my children but I too-often find myself searching for value in my life around my work, as I continue to search for meaningful employment.

We all move in cycles. Once, in my 20’s, I had the world at my feet! I knew that I was in love, that I wanted to be with this person for the rest of my life, have kids together, make a home…everything was a rainbow of colors everyday. We had the house, the dogs, the two kids, were starting a business together, and then “poof,” it disappeared…

Years later, My life is great, and luckily I never did collapse from that fall, but I did change. I had to re-group, re-define, and try to understand who I was as a person when not with this other person. And, I needed to learn how to be a mom without the same family unit- the other parent who wished this child/children, into this world.

With many LGBT couples, the idea of having a child, whether biologically or not, adopting, fostering, whatever the case, it is a conscious choice. For me and my then partner, it was one that we planned for 6 years. It had much fore-thought, and it was very quickly successful both in the getting pregnant and birthing process once we fully committed. Almost 7 years into being a mom, which then included a 3 and a 6 year-old, I was not planning to be a single parent.  I had also not planned to see my kids only half of their lives! That idea, once it sunk in, broke my heart. 18 years later, and having lived through that time, I am a changed mother.

There are many events that I’ve missed and  don’t even know about, that my kids did with their other mom and her friends and family. There are boo-boos, fears, crushes,  friends, clothes, outings, and special meals I’ve missed. There are relatives I’ve never met, and artwork they’ve made that I’ve never known, pictures and videos that I’ve seen but not been there for… It makes up half of their beings.

Almost all of the friends I knew in my 30’s as young lesbian couples, either with young kids or trying to have kids, are now divorced. They see their kids 3 or 4 days a week, split weekends and holidays, and have either a harmonious relationship with their ex. or a completely rancorous one, and sometimes even the known is unpredictable. The toll that it takes on the kids is unknowable, but it can sometimes come out in behaviors towards parents or siblings, or trouble at school, poor eating habits or obsessiveness with technology, TV, or anything! As a parent, it’s crazy-making because you can never have consistency. It’s a new norm, this consistent lack of consistency, and it doesn’t lend itself to consistent parenting. For those of you who either are going through this now or have gone through this with an ex, you know what I mean.

It’s becoming the norm in our society to ask our friends, “do you have your kids this weekend?” When did that become commonplace?

Yes, well we have our kids EVERY weekend. We can’t always plan ahead, and our lives are ruled by game schedules every day, not just monday thru wed.

No, we do not have any privacy. Our now 13 year-old stays up past our bedtime. She’s entered the Twilight zone and will be there a good 8-10 more years, staying up into the wee hours and then sleeping as late as possible. One good thing that’s happened this year, is that we can now leave the 2 littles with her at home and go out for a short time at night without worrying too much. They fight but it hasn’t come to punches yet!

This week I’m feeling like a mother duck whose ducklings have all wandered off. I’m searching in my mind to pinpoint all of their locations, reassuring myself that they are fine, wherever they are. My oldest is off in a mid-western state and calls me once a week. My next, college student daughter is working at a camp in the Berkshires this summer. My middle child, is at a soccer tournament with her team minus either parent and away from home for the first time on a multi-night trip. She’s making grown-up choices and experiencing new worlds.

I thought I’d be home with my both of my 10 year-olds tonight, but after attending my nephew’s graduation and birthday party, my son jumped for joy at a chance for a few days of individual attention with her Aunty and family. Meanwhile my wife is representing us at her nephew’s wedding and staying over with a relative. Tomorrow, we leave early to take our “little, little girl,” to her first week at sleep-away camp!

So what’s this all about anyway?

It’s about reminding myself to enjoy my life while it’s happening. Back when my “first” family fell apart, I was mourning the loss of my everyday connection to my children. I eventually reconciled with it, but I was acutely aware everyday what the impact was on them as children. It shaped their lives, and it’s shaping all of my friends’ kids lives now. Early on in my present relationship, my wife and I grew to relish in our alone time when the kids were not there. It gave us an appreciation of how much a relationship needed to be nurtured and how as individuals, we needed our alone time as well. Guilt-free time, I suppose, when one knows that the kids are getting enough attention from someone else.

Now that we have three more, we see how important that time is still, and have always tried to build “date night” into our weeks, but we can also see that the time will soon be upon us when they are all grown and have moved on, only to arrive home on holidays.

Enjoy your kids. Before you know it they’ll be all grown and working it all out in therapy!

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