31 January 2005

Single...With Children: The Blank Canvas Of A Brand New Year - Here's To Brilliant Brushstrokes!

Single with Children: The mileage that comes from milestones

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 01/08/03

Whether we are ready for it or not, we're in the first few days of a brand spanking new year. As usual, I find myself shaking my head, wondering where in the world the time went.

It's always been an interesting notion to me that humans find the beginning of a calendar year the perfect time to make - not to be confused with "keep" - promises thinly disguised as resolutions. I suppose it made sense to someone that the beginning of a fresh, new calendar might provide the perfect blank canvas from which to make a fresh start. Oh, the pressure of it all.

As I write this column, I find myself in a suburb just outside Manchester in northern England. I'm staying at the home of a friend's mother, who lives in a terraced house that is not merely an eight-hour flight distant from my home, but truly worlds away from the environment in which I was raised and know best. We were instantly greeted at the door by my friend's Mum, enveloped in warm embraces and with a steaming pot of hot tea, English-style, naturally. This gentle, kind woman is just more proof that the world is populated with some really fine individuals. I could not have felt more welcomed.

My son and I left at the same time. He flying off to visit his father and I heading overseas to visit a part of the world I'd never seen before. My daughter stayed at home, having to work during the crazy post-Christmas chaos after finishing her first semester of college and her first six months of living independently. This has been a year filled with changes.

As with most people, I look back on 2002 and find a potpourri of emotions attached to the milestones, both small and large, that have colored our lives. Early in the year, my father gave us a bit of a scare when his heart decided to change the course of its beat temporarily. Fortunately, he has done well, but the episode was a keen reminder of how no one ever should be taken for granted.

My daughter graduated from high school, and my son celebrated his 16th birthday.

New friends were made, interesting adventures were had, and I had the dubious experience of facing my first root canal back in July. I mention this only because I had mistakenly thought childbirth to be the worst pain one could experience. To be fair, the pain leading up to the root canal was every bit as bad as the actual procedure, but it was anything but a walk in the park. Maybe the hardest part of that experience, after paying the bill, was that a root canal screamed "middle age" to me.

So now we look forward to a new year with a sense of anticipation, excitement, optimism and, maybe most important of all, the courage, strength and wisdom to field any challenges that will no doubt come into our lives.

I once read that people who are facing death have much to teach us about living. Though I believe myself to be a fairly upbeat, optimistic sort of person, I think there is so much truth in that concept. I'd like to try to remember every day of this year that, first and foremost, if my eyes open in the morning, even before one foot has hit the floor, I've already been given an exquisite gift: the opportunity to turn another day into something very special.

As Justin and I stood waiting in separate lines at the airport for planes to take us in decidedly opposite directions, I confess I was ready to forget my trip and wait with him at his gate until his flight took off, safe in the knowledge that he was on the right plane and we were not headed for a sequel of "Home Alone." I knew immediately that this wasn't rational thinking. He is - as he so often reminds me - 16 and more than capable of finding the right gate. But at the moment we exchanged hugs and kissed good-bye, my heart felt like someone had ripped it apart. Nothing at all felt right. I remember a time when I thought holding onto and entertaining a 2-year-old, while waiting for a flight, to be one of the most challenging things a parent could deal with. But I discovered that saying goodbye to a 16-year-old, even if only for a few days, demanded far more strength from me than anything a toddler could throw my way.

As I stood, watching him walk away, I remembered how a wise friend had reminded me that finding courage can be a very painful prospect. Let's face it, if something isn't hard, there's really no need for a little bravery, right? We both arrived safely at our destinations. Thank you, Justin, for reminding me that we could do this and that everything would be just fine. Thank you for teaching me yet another lesson in this amazing journey we share as we both continue to grow and expand our boundaries. Most of all, thank you for allowing these lessons to travel both ways.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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