Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm Going To Tell You A Story

I'm going to tell you a story. A story that does not make me proud...yet. It's a story about a little girl with her head in the clouds.

There once was a little girl who didn't know exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She took people's practical recommendations. Sometimes she said she wanted to be a teacher. Sometimes she would proclaim that she wanted to be a nurse. Sometimes she wanted nothing more than to be a mommy. All of these got smiles from all of the grown ups. These were the things, after all, that little girls were expected to want to be when they grew up.

On the inside, though, she didn't really think she wanted to be any of those things. She certainly didn't want to be a firefighter or anything that a boy was supposed to want to be, though. She didn't realize that the things that she secretly wanted to be were really possible. You see, the little girl grew up in the heart of the working class. She grew up in a city where people were barely encouraged to want to read or go to plays. When she realized that she really wanted to be a writer or an actress, or someone that did something amazing like travel the world she told nobody. She would have been laughed at.

She stuffed it all inside and she read. She read everything she could get her hands on. From a young age she devoured novels in one day. She took a dance class, but that wasn't practical, and she knew that nobody needed to see how much she truly loved dressing up and being on that stage for her recitals. Nobody needed to know that if she could, she would spend her life there entertaining people. If she could, she would write the stories that had people glued to their seats from start to finish.

Right around middle school she finally let it slip that she wanted to act. Oh what a mistake that was. She was told that it was a nice little dream, but she needed to learn to do something practical because there was just no way it would work out. She should learn to be a teacher or a nurse or how to work in a store for when those dreams all came crashing down on her. Eventually she shut up about her dream. It was easier to play along and pretend she had grown out of that phase.

Soon after that she was given the opportunity to learn a foreign language. She chose French. She fell in love with France. She had never been there, but she wanted to go so desperately to a place where culture was embraced that she would have given her arm to get there somehow. She threw herself into learning French. Learning the language. Learning the culture. She was in love with the idea of someday escaping to France...of course, she didn't tell anyone. For all they knew, she just really loved French. Shortly before graduation when people were all deciding what they wanted to do, she panicked. She had not been allowed to go on the school trip to France. Partially due to cost and partially because one of her parents had a stifling fear of flying and wouldn't have let her on that plane if her life depended on it. Her dream of escaping to France was slipping out of her reach. Then someone suggested she be a French teacher.

Oh. There it was again. Teacher. By this point in her life she had grown so sick of the suggestion that she become a teacher that it made her want to throw up. Of course, she said, she wanted to do just that and would continue learning about France and French in soon as she found a way to pay for college.

She went to college. She majored in French. Then she majored in French Translation. Now there was a way out of the teacher role! She worked her ass off. She worked full time, she went to school full time, and a year later, she was completely burnt out. She also realized there was a way to turn her desire to write more than just diary entries into a career. Journalism. Nobody could say she was being silly and frivolous if she wanted to be a reporter, right? Wrong.

You see the place where she grew up only had a few newspapers. There were no magazines around here. The idea that she may want to leave this area? Ridiculous. She didn't really bother to talk to many people about it after she got the, "oh, that's nice" response. That response was always coupled with the telltale double eyebrow raise that meant that her head was floating around in the clouds.

She gave up. She wasn't going to be a writer. She wasn't going to be an actress. She wasn't going to escape to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, London, or any of the other cities where she may be taken seriously. She gave up on her dreams. She fell into conformity here in rational suburban America. She now had no education, no way to afford it, and no way she worked at a store. She worked at a store where her head remained in the clouds, only privately. She wrote page after page in journals. She wrote down thousands upon thousands of ideas for stories. She continued to read with a passion.

When she was 24 she lost her job at the store. It was a place with a high turn over rate, to say the very least, and she was lucky to have been there for four and a half years, really. She was miserable. She started to consider leaving. She would go to live near her grandmother in Colorado, perhaps. Start a new completely rational career there. Then came the news that she was pregnant.

The little girl, now all grown up, was excited for the baby, but part of her mourned the official loss of her dreams. What mother could travel the world? What mother could stop everything and write a novel? What mother could suddenly do whatever she wanted to do? So, the girl conformed more. She became a nurse's aide. When people asked when she was going to start nursing school she politely responded, "Oh, sometime soon I'm sure."

This was not what she wanted. She loved the residents at the nursing home, sure. She didn't mind the physical labor. She was miserable, however. She was a single mother, and now she was bound to this place she had forever resented living in. Her child's family was here. There was no way out. She was supposed to be happy. She had her son. She loved him dearly. He was perfect. What was wrong with her? How could she explain to someone now, after all these years, that she was miserable here and had been plotting her escape for her entire life, but she just kept getting stuck. The possibility was gone now. She stopped wanting to interact with people. She started to panic. She was STUCK HERE.

She didn't tell anyone though. She kept her mouth shut. She found ways to pay the bills. She ate. She ate to feel full. She ate to fill the void that single motherhood had created in her life. She ate to ease the pain. She ate to keep everything inside of her that had been locked up for so long and was now threatening to jump out.

One day she woke up to realize that eating was no way to solve the problem. She was killing herself, not living a life here. Other people had lives here. Other people fell in love and were happy here. She could try, too, right?

I can't tell you the end of the little girl's story. I don't know it yet. All I know is that she is now nearing 29. She still feels trapped, but she loves her son. She loves living her life because of him. She's trying to claw her way back to happiness. She has no idea what will happen...but she's writing. Right now at this moment she is typing these words. Someone is going to read them. Maybe they will have been drawn into the story, even if they don't like it. Even if they don't like that the end isn't here yet. Maybe someone can relate to her story. Maybe someone else is trapped, too. Maybe it just feels good to write. Really write. From her heart.

Maybe her head is still in the clouds somewhere. Maybe she will get everything she's ever wanted. Maybe she won't. Maybe she wouldn't like it if she did. She doesn't know. Only time will tell. She is, however, very glad she finally got that off of her chest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So What Is Parenting?

The other day I said I was going to have guest posts from many of you answering this question. Since the sickness from hell has taken over my house, I'm going to start today. This first post was written by a single male friend of mine (in real life....yeah I have some real life friends, too).

So, I present you with Paul's thoughts on parenting!

Who's Your Daddy?
by Paul Weston

Parenting is one of those things that is difficult to describe. We all have our own opinions on what makes a good parent, or a bad parent. We have different views based on our cultures, norms, and upbringings, as well as personal situations. There is no test to take to become a biological parent, no license to acquire, nor any formal training. So many of us have said when we were younger that we will never end up like our parents, yet that is the only training most of us have. We mix that with our maternal and paternal instincts, find what we liked, what we didn't, what was effective, and what was not, mix them all together, and hope to God that we don't screw up our child(ren)'s life forever.
Me? No, I don't have any children. Well, they already grew up and left the nest. Even that doesn't make sense. I'm not old enough to have children all grown up. I suppose my case is unique. I don't want to delve too much into my personal life, but I do feel that it is important to share. I helped a single mother raise two great children. I was not dating the woman––she and I worked together, and what started out as watching her two children for a couple hours while she was at work, turned into such an amazing relationship with these young people. Taking the teenager roller skating on a Friday night, and going to the little girl's D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Graduation in fifth grade. It was a great deal; I got to skip all the diaper changing and crying. These kids were already 8 and 12 when I met them. She is now 21 and I was the best man in his wedding.
We don't really talk too much anymore–just on rare occasions. They grew up and have their own lives and families now. I was a parent to them, but no longer.
I have two nephews, and they are simply amazing. Both under the age of four, I remember all of their lives. With one recently out of diapers and one who cannot yet talk, I get to experience their lives every week. They have two loving parents, and I only see them once a week. They are not like my own children; I am in no way responsible for them, yet I love them all the same.

I am a "young" professional. I work in an office, Monday through Friday from 9-5. I am social, and I love my friends and life. I am single. Different days, I feel differently about this. I have a five-year plan. In that five-year plan, I want to buy a house, I want to get married, and yes, I want children of my own. I want to name my children, and I want them to know me as Papa. (Said with a childlike French accent.) I am not looking forward to the sleepless nights, the potential colic, and the nearly inevitable fact that my child(ren) will be allergic to everything under the sun like I was. I do not want to deal with the "terrible two's" or the rebellious teenage years, or the fact that, even if they don't really mean it, my child may someday utter the words "I hate you!" if I tell him/her that s/he cannot have something. I don't want to accept the fact that if I have a daughter, she will someday meet a man (hopefully) who will become number one in her life, and I would no longer be that man. I am not looking forward to my son being able to beat me in sports, or run faster than I can, and him finally realising that I am not Superman.
Well, yeah, put it that way, then why would I want to bring another life into this crazy world? Love. Plain and simple. When you look into the eyes of someone you love, your entire world stops for a moment. No matter what happens around you, the only thing that exists is the two of you. It's the circle of life. Maybe it is a little egotistic, but children tend to emulate their parents, and that is such a great flattery, is it not? Children are awesome; they ask what other people have been taught not to say. They openly stare, they say inappropriate things, and discuss their bathroom habits at the dinner table. They smile, but the parents get embarrassed. They have an innocence that at some point in life, we lose. They have faith, and don't understand racism, bigotry, hatred, or even politics. They are the future.
For all intents and purposes, I cannot truly talk first-hand about parenting since I do not have any biological children, but then again, it's like adoption, right? I never went through legal proceedings, but those children were no less "mine" for the time that I "had" them than for an adoptive/foster parent. Children do not have to be biologically yours to be yours. There is no magic book with all the secrets of parenting. We will all make mistakes, and wonder if we're good parents. We will do something that we think no other parent has done and that it makes us horrible people, but, I'm sure you are not the first person to walk out to your car and leave your child in the carseat inside the restaurant. Sure, you'll see the scornful glances, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal. I think parenting comes down to being able to realise that you will make mistakes, and that there will be times when you are the centre of your child's universe, and the day will arrive when you are no longer your child's number one. Those are emotions that will be the most difficult for me. It hurts to lose, and to lose rank. It's an emotional demotion. We will forever be remembered by our children, and clearly not forgotten, but the time will come when someone else takes over our previous job titles. That is the part that scares me, and I don't yet even have a child.
In lieu of all that, there is something to be said about being able to hold a child in your arms, or when they start talking on their own. (Even though we may wish they would actually STOP talking once in a while) Seeing that smile on their face and know that you helped create, that is such an awesome feeling. I can only imagine what it would be like. I want to raise a child with my own beliefs. They may change later in life–kids will make their own decisions–but I want to give that foundation. The ability to watch your child grow up, albeit too fast, to when they attend school on their own, go on their first date, graduate, get married themselves, all that. I want to do that. I want to play soccer in the backyard. I want to build a blanket fort, build a campfire and make s'mores. I want to be the "cool" dad who lets his kid invite a friend to join us for dinner at the "nice" restaurant. (When really, it's moderately priced, and the kids don't eat as much, anyway.) I want my kids to have sleepovers, and I want to get angry that they stay up until 3AM playing video games or watching TV.
Honestly, I cannot see any reason why people would not want children. They keep us sane, and drive us crazy all at the same time. There may not be a book that gives new parents all the answers for all the situations that life will throw at us, but the adventure is half the fun of it.
I could be completely wrong. I do not know. Like I said, I don't have children of my own, and even when I "raised" other kids, it's not like I was there 24/7 with them. Sure, during the summer, there would be times when I would be around for three or four days in a row, but who am I kidding? I never even spent a week straight with a child. Any time they cry, I give them back to their parent. Will I be ready for that on my own? Will I be ready to change a diaper? I'll never know unless I give it a shot. (And no, I'm not offering to change any diapers out there.) The journey of parenting is on-going, this I understand, and there will be many, many peaks and valleys, but I want to take that voyage. I want to test myself just to see if I can do it. I want to assist in the forming of a mind–the making of another individual who will contribute to society.
I am single. I am a guy. I have no children. I am happy in my life. I am willing to turn it all upside-down to change some of those. I want to say: I am married. I am a guy. I have two children. I am happy in my life. For some reason, I feel that I will say all of those things.

For the record, Paul, I have known you for 15 years now. I have seen you grow and change, and when the time is right I have every confidence that yes, you will be ready to change a diaper. You will be an excellent father someday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Parenting Is Different For Everyone

Everyone looks at the world differently. What's right for you isn't necessarily right for me or my son. I am always interested in how parenting means different things to different people. So today I decided to see if I could unite some of our different opinions. I took to Twitter and just started asking people to write a guest post for me about what parenting means to them. I found a great group of people and I'm excited about it, but I'm open to hearing and sharing more opinions! If you want to write a guest post for me about this, please email me or leave me a comment here and I'll get back to you!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Promise

I got the email this Monday as I always do from Mama Kat with the writing prompts for this week. I haven't participated lately. I don't always. I saw the topic, "A promise." This one sort of stuck out for me. There are many directions I could take this, but instead, I'm just going to write what comes to mind about the topic.

You see, I'm a little jaded about promises. Between my own absent father's constant promises to be there, to call, to write, and to just generally show that he cared about me and every relationship I have had up to this point in my life, I have come to the conclusion that the words, "I promise" generally precede a statement that will never ever be fulfilled.

My real dad will never be the father I always wanted him to be.

My exes really won't be there no matter what.

My mom won't protect me from bad things.

Nobody will be there when I really need people except...well, me.

Previously I promised myself that I would never make promises to my son. In typical promise fashion, I have already broken it. There are things that I promise my son.

I promise that he will not live the same childhood that I did even if I have to call, hound, and yell at his father to be there daily. Luckily things are improving on that front.

I promise him that I will always give him all of me.

I promise him that I won't give up on myself. If I don't believe in me, how can I teach him to believe in himself?

I PROMISE him that he will learn how to be respectful. I promise him that he will know how to treat a significant other someday better than his father and I combined.

I promise him that I will keep leading my life. That I will not give in to the temptation to put all of my hopes and dreams on his shoulders.

I promise him that we will make it. That no matter what I have to do I will succeed for him.

I promise him that I will love him more than anything or anyone until the day that I die.

I promise that I will be the nagging mother that's always in his business. That I will know where he's going, who he's going with, and what they are going to do. I promise this because I firmly believe that that is the difference between a well behaved teenager and a wild one.

I promise to be here and to listen to him without judgment to anything he has to tell me.

I promise that I will value his opinion.

I promise that, even if I think he is making the wrong decision, I will stand by him. It's his life, after all, not mine.

...but mostly I promise him that I will do everything in my power to keep him safe, happy, and healthy for as long as I possibly can...and when I can't anymore, I promise to let go of the reins and let him walk on his own. Even if he stumbles.

These promises are too important to break.

I also linked up at Thirsty for Comments Thursdays this week!

Acting Balanced

This post was originally written as part of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who's To Say

I could be making all of the wrong decisions for my son.

I COULD be messing everything up. I'm sure some people think that all single parents are messing their kids up completely.

I could be doing everything right though. For all I know, I could be raising the next Gandhi. A future president. A priest (although that's highly unlikely since we are not Catholic...but you never know).

So, to those that think it's their place to tell single parents how bad it is to be raised by a single parent...we know. We think about it. It keeps us up at night. The only consolation, really, is that sometimes people raised in completely normal homes end up all screwed up, too. I think it's better for my son to see that women will not put up with situations that are not good for them...or their children.

Who's to say what's wrong and what's right when it comes to raising children? Who are you to tell me that I'm not doing the right thing? Do I tell you that your child is a maniac and you should probably learn how to discipline them? No. I may want to, but since you are parenting your child your own way, I stay out of it. I tell my son quietly not to behave that way while you are screaming your head off at your child who is laughing in your face. My son and I go home to a relaxed, calm house while you and your husband scream at one another. How do you even have a voice left? How is THAT the right way, as opposed to the way I'm doing it?

Raising kids is hard work. It takes dedication no matter what your family situation. Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone thinks differently about these things. Who's to say who is right? I would say let's stop judging one another, but come on, we're all human beings. It is almost human nature to judge the way others do things. Let's just stop insulting one another by sharing our opinions....because, should you (invisible person I'm talking to) read this, I know that wouldn't feel good....just the way your comments about children needing two parent homes doesn't feel good to me.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Things That Make Me Giggle

I have these all saved on my computer from various projects. I just looked through and laughed. Hope you guys enjoy them, too!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Set Fire To The Rain

Not to purposely turn this into a blog about songs that seem relevant on any given day...but...yeah..