I Think I’ll Eat Some Worms
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When your kid has more dates than you do
You adore your children and are thrilled they are growing up and giving you a little more freedom to be yourself. As a Solo Mom, you’ve got to love that me time. And yet there is this odd sensation when they clearly start having lives of their own, especially in the romance department. While the cute valentines from third grade (mostly collected and signed at the teacher’s urging) were fun, finding out our kids are dating sometimes feels like we accidently stuck our finger in a socket. Ouch! How can this be happening? There are so many feelings:
Just five minutes ago they were trying on their first set of dressy clothes. You distinctly remember him buttoning the buttons wrong and her putting on her tights backward. Sure, you’ve noticed that they prefer to be left alone with the door closed in the bathroom, but dating?
Deal with it
Whether you are a Solo Mom or not, whether your child has gone to the sex-ed classes in elementary school or not, you have to address your offspring’s biological changes. And that includes deodorant, tampons, or most importantly, vaccinations and that talk. Try not to freak out; this transition is as strange to them as it is to you.
What about me?
It’s a shocker to discover that as charming and full of life as you are, someone you parent (and their friends) considers you old. So any charming and witty comments you have on dating are basically ignored. So frustrating! Does experience count for anything? In the mind of a teen in a romance, probably not.
Why am I doing this alone?
Of course this is not the first time you have tormented yourself with this notion. (Shouldn’t there be an expiration date on that thought?) If you have a boy or girl who is starting to date, you find yourself on a tightrope of appropriate commentary. And as everyone who has a teen knows, one wrong word tossed out at the wrong moment, in the wrong direction, or even with the wrong inflection, makes you feel like you’re at the beginning of a nuclear meltdown. “Why are you making fun of me? I can’t tell you anything!”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, at a moment like this, to have a partner who made tactless and teen-enraging statements so you could be the soothing and supportive voice of reason? How can that happen without another emotional presence to balance yours, right? But if you’re the unreasonable one, how can you suddenly switch back?
If you try to play one of these roles without playing the other, you won’t be able to send a consistent message. If you play both, you get hit by the “hypocrite” response. And we all know how much you hate those eye-rolls.
It takes a village—or anyone else
In some cases, this may be the moment to enlist some third-party help, like a grandparent or best friend, who will explain that you deserve some smooshy valentine feelings too. Send your kid off for a chat, retire to your room, and have a good cry. You try so hard, and nobody seems to like you any more.
On the other hand, since this may turn into a weekly nightmare, and you only have a limited number of friends to impose upon, you either snap out of it or never get out of bed again.
You’ve gotten this far as a Solo Mom. Sure it’s been hard. But think of it this way: parenting teens takes guts and endurance. You’ve already proven you’ve got those and resilience too. Make sure you embrace yourself, or at least remember to give yourself a warm pat on the back. If parenting is a marathon, you’re heading into Heartbreak Hill. But you can do it. Send yourself some virtual candy hearts. You deserve it.
How to set a good example
Sure it’s hard to keep a line of communication open when you can’t play good cop to a partner’s bad cop. You may get it wrong, but you have to keep trying. You show your kids how to pick themselves up when things go wrong. Respect yourself and they will learn to honor that respect. At least you hope so. And you have an advantage over all those perfect nuclear parents: you’re not one of them, so you can think a bit outside the box, and that’s OK. There are, of course, some basic parameters, a kind of teen childproofing:
It’s part of your job to hold your children accountable for behavior that will affect the rest of their lives . . . without you. You hope that the rules you set for yourself will also apply to your kids. You also hope that the mistakes you’ve made are ones they can bypass themselves. If you can acknowledge those past choices in conversation, you, too, can move on. The point is to find times to talk about it. I’d like to tell you that happens when everyone is calm and quiet, but at least in my house, those meaningful moments often come after nine rounds of arguing. I set a rule that no one goes to bed angry. It’s resulted in some painfully late nights. Which leads back to an often-exhausted you. How are you going to deal with suddenly being the wise-advice person who no one actually heeds or the mean parent who has no clue and probably had no life or teenage drama of her own?
Take care of yourself
Chocolate. It’s good for you! So when those valentines start to pile up for your offspring, don’t hesitate to send yourself the very best. With a love note. Then sit back, put on your best fluffy slippers, and give yourself a hug.
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
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