According to the research, I am supposed to be miserable. I am supposed to die years before everyone else. And my kids, well, they are going to be failures. No, wait, let me check, they are already failures.
Being a single parent is difficult at times, yes. And then, it isn't. It is what you come to make it. It is what you know. It isn't always the same.
I try not to pay attention to the miserable and dying part. I try not to pay attention to any part of it, actually, anymore. Marital status doesn't define a person, or me, anyway. The person defines the person. But, if it does surface, I think of the benefits. Fewer dishes in the sink. No weird stuff in the medicine cabinet. Peace.
There is something, though, that I wish were different. I've realized it lately. When I was growing up, if my brother and I didn't respond to our mom in a way that we should have, my dad jumped in. "Listen to your mother," he'd say. It didn't really matter what she was saying, or asking. If she were saying or asking it, and we weren't embracing it, we got the directive. She got the support. We listened.
The other day, I heard myself utter the words, "Listen to your mother." It isn't as compelling when you have to say it yourself. It is better when somebody else says it. My kids already know that I want them to do what I say I want them to do. And there they were, defying me, with abandon.
I should say that I can't remember what it was they weren't doing. They are really quite wonderful little people. Little teenage people. But at the time, it was a very critical thing. Vocabulary words, that's what it was. When to study them. How to study them. Why to study them. No one was drinking vodka, I know. But still, they were being contrary.
It would have been helpful to have had a teammate, having been so clearly outnumbered. Prince Charlie, the Schnauzer/terrier/human mix, though empathetic, couldn't make the point definitively. Calling my own mom on the phone would have taken too much of a preface. "Listen to your mother" is a statement that relies on alacrity. Alacrity is a good vocab word. It is a statement that needs immediacy. And strength. There is not supposed to be a reply.
So, I did what I usually do when faced with tasks better served by two people. I reminded my contrary teenagers that I cannot drive the car in opposite directions at the same time, or split my body in half without requiring extensive surgery afterward. Or rely on another adult to bolster my position. Or congratulate a fine job. Or compliment a dress. I asked them if they ever heard, from anyone other than me, anywhere, that they should listen to their mother. They nodded no. And they got the message, pretty fast.
I do not toot any horns. It is not my style. But I realized that I need to, now and then, when it's truly important. Or when it isn't. I still remember my father saying, "Isn't your mother beautiful?" and taking a second look. That is a wonderful thing, in so many ways.
I will settle for the listening part. Maybe a banner in the living room.