31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Here's To The Past, With An Eye To The Future!

Single with Children: Finding the personal bright spots

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 12/26/01

By now the presents have been opened and the space underneath the tree looks strikingly bare. It never ceases to amaze me how much time it can take to prepare for an event that takes what feels like mere minutes to finish off. Maybe it's a lot like all of the hours involved in preparing Thanksgiving dinner and watching all of that lovingly tended food disappear.

Here we are, staring a brand new year straight in the face. I always find the days between Christmas and New Year's fertile ground for reflection. I try and remember all of the highlights, the not to be missed moments that occurred in the previous 12 months. It's usually not too difficult to find many bright spots.

Of course, in any given year, there are a few things that happened that we otherwise would rather forget, but in my own experience, the highlights most always win out. I remind myself that if my family is enjoying good health and reasonable grades and I'm still familiar with the sound of laughter that echoes quite often throughout my home, I have absolutely no room to complain and many reasons to give thanks. Everything else is icing. We've had a lot of icing this year.

As a nation, the United States was reminded of its vulnerability following the events of Sept. 11. We, as Americans, were literally and figuratively stunned, but as I glance outside my window and see so many flags waving on homes, cars and bikes, I can't remember feeling more pride in this country that is my home. What a lesson in resilience this experience has taught each of us on so many levels. How amazingly unified we have become.

On a more personal level, my own small family has had much to celebrate. My daughter was accepted to the university she applied for and is happily looking forward to her first year of college. My son has maintained his zeal for skateboarding, reached new grade heights in math and made it through the year requiring only five stitches and a tetanus shot. My parents are still going strong and can outwit all of us, though I'm sad to report my mother is still not fond of our four cats. One must accept a few defeats, I suppose.

My own life has taken some interesting twists and unimaginable turns in the past few months. A few I have worked diligently to attain with the added caveat of being taught what it means to "do your homework," which I found no more interesting than my kids do. In spite of the rather stale subject matter, I emerged with a sense of having finished what I started. That felt both vaguely familiar and awfully good. It most definitely taught me to be more supportive and understanding when I see Katie and Justin wade into school work they would just as soon set aside.

On a personal note, I have met someone that has made the last three months of this year incredibly surprising and wonderful. It would seem that four years past a painful divorce, my heart is still capable of skipping a beat. Of course, it's a new experience and one that I am both enjoying and learning from. Now, even in the quirky experience that is my life, I never imagined I'd be dating when my kids were teen-agers. The funniest part is exchanging dating stories with my daughter as we compare notes on how our respective evenings went. It's an interesting perspective to be on both ends of the spectrum as the parent of a teen-age daughter who is clearly smitten with a young man AND finding my own path as an adult who has been single for four years. I don't feel so much that I am juggling, even though I probably am. Balance is a new concept I'm seeking to understand and achieve.

Like most situations, humor paves a lot of bumpy patches on this new road we three are traveling. I am, first and most happily, a mother who has enjoyed every second of this parental ride, and I constantly remind my kids that nothing will change their place in my life. It requires understanding on the part of everyone involved and this is something I was always a little wary of, thinking it all seemed too complicated and impossible to maintain. When someone asks me how the future looks, I'm generally pleased to reply that today is just fine and that's more than enough for me.

It's both fun and a little scary to look forward to what 2002 might hold in store for us, but as we say good-bye to 2001, I am thankful that we are well, we are happy and we are together. I've often found that examining the past too closely can make me afraid to move forward, while looking too far ahead can cause me to miss something happening right in front of my eyes. Since all we can really rely on is today, I'm grateful for the collection of "todays" that 2001 has afforded me.

As each of you look forward to the new year, please know that I wish all of you many more smiles than tears, loads of shining moments, challenges that stretch you but don't come close to breaking you. Whether you're dealing with an infant crying from emerging new teeth, a toddler that didn't get the memo that the "terrible 2s" should be over by age 4, or a preadolescent aspiring to be a teen-ager who believes himself to be a savvy twentysomething, even on those days that seem never to end you will turn around and find them preparing to head for college. Believe it or not, you will miss those times when you thought your patience was more than a little spent. For the longest time, I thought the adage "they grow up so fast" was written by someone who had never had kids, but I can honestly attest that it's astonishing at how fast it all flies. Maybe the best advice is to try not to blink too often, because if you do, you're bound to miss something, and believe me, parenting children, whether single or married, is the very best definition of the ultimate "don't miss."

Readers can e-mail Susie at Suzyp2660@aol.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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