I started my official journey as a single mom in 2003. Truth be told, I was a single parent the whole time since I was the only one putting their needs first, but that's another story. Sylvia's graduation from high school this June will mark the end of one era.
12 years ago, months before Sylvia's 6th and Riley's 3rd birthday, our world changed forever. We moved back to L.A., I had no job, no checking account, no car and we were living with my parents. It was hard. It was emotionally exhausting. But it was the start of a new life.
Being divorced is different than being a solo parent from the start; not necessarily better or worse, just different. And some divorced parents are great at co-parenting, but the key to co-parenting is both parents have to be willing. In our situation, that wasn't an option.
But that didn't mean I was alone. I had my parents, my sister and her family, and I ended up landing a job with the best department ever. Through the years, we've been lucky to attach ourselves to more great people.
Without dismissing all these cherished relationships, most of the time, it's just me and the girls. And most of the time, that's all we need.
In the beginning, I was questioning myself more often than not. And I made enough mistakes to have good reason to question myself! Not to say I don't question myself now, but I have a different outlook these days.
I tried plenty of other people's ideas along the way. Family meetings, chore charts, tying allowance to chores, docking allowance, trying to schedule one-on-one time, routines...and on and on. I read tons of parenting blogs and websites, trying to find the magic formula of parenting. Of course, there is no such thing, which I knew, but still felt like I had to try.
Eventually, I settled into just being myself. I still read, I still considered, I still tried different things, but somewhere along the way, I knew that I couldn't do something because it worked for someone else. I could only try it if I believed in it.
I am probably the most inconsistent parent ever, but the girls (and I) have learned to accept that about me. The way I look at it, it's worth trying, but there's also value in admitting I was wrong. I don't want to be the one doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results! Instead, I want to try something new. And when that doesn't work, bag it, and try something even newer!
The girls have no trouble making fun of me when I admit I blew it. They will tell me when they think I'm wrong. But they will also tell me when I was right. They're not as forthright about it, but they find their ways.
I have learned that one has to have the same (or substantially similar) conversation at least 3 times before the message starts to get through. I think they must dismiss the first without a thought, they hear but don't believe the 2nd, and by the third time, they start to see the validity of my words. Sometimes, there's a 4th time where they say it like they're the ones who thought so in the first place!
Which is why you have to keep your sense of humor. Not just a single parent, not just as a parent, but just to get through the day. But it also gives the girls freedom to laugh at themselves, too.
The truth is, I don't think I'll ever get over the guilt of not giving them a father worthy of them. But I so appreciate their forgiveness of that. They've long gotten over any anger towards me about that, and they have outright thanked me for leaving him and giving them a better life.
They have taught me so much about love and respect and forgiveness and self-efficacy and self-confidence and I am so very appreciative to be their single mother. Today and every day.