It’s strange, you know – kids. Parenting is not one of those types of jobs where you can just wake up in the morning and say “You know what? I quit!”
Well, there are some parents (and I use that term loosely, in this reference) who have done just that sort of thing. But – it’s never occurred to me to just up and quit. It’s a life choice, you know? Even if having kids was not something you really planned on doing at the time – – when you make the choice to have them… you make a lifetime choice to parent them. At least, that’s the way it should be.
It’s a lifetime choice and commitment – so not really something you can just up and quit, even on those really hard days where nothing seems to be going right. And not all days are good days, quite honestly. I have never been one of those mothers who sugarcoats the whole child raising thing. It’s hard work, man. It’s hair raising. Nothing in the entire world is going to test your patience, your limits, your tolerance and just push the absolute envelope of your mental health more than raising children.
Don’t believe me? Wait until they are teenagers – then…oh THEN you’ll see what I mean. Oy!
I never planned on having kids. And I have two. Go figure.
When I got pregnant with my first (my son) – it was unplanned and I was 19 years old, unmarried with not a single bit of direction in my life. I was working, however – oh yes. I was the lead singer in an R&B band — and on the side, I was a bartender and a disc jockey for a Polka/Country music station. Bet you didn’t know that about me, eh? Heh.
I was dating the sound and light man who worked for our band, at the time. I met him at the theater. I was performing in a stock theater presentation of “Guys and Dolls” and he was in the audience one night. He was friends with a guy who was also in the show with me. After that nights performance, he asked his friend to introduce him to me – – and the rest, as they say, is history. About a year after that, we found ourselves still very young – – but, now, also very much pregnant without a pot to piss in and zero direction.
We talked. We argued. We broke up. We got back together. We broke up again and then… we got married. Were we in love? No, we weren’t. We wanted to do the right thing™, however – – and live up to the responsibility that we were now presented with.
I quit my music career and moved onto something that I knew would provide more security in our lives. I started working as a nursing assistant while I was pregnant with my son . . and then, very shortly after giving birth to him, 10 months later I was pregnant with my second, my daughter. I was very motivated to provide a secure life and home for those two – – unfortunately, my husband, at the time, wasn’t so motivated and he found other interests in life.
Less than 10 months after giving birth to my second child, I left him. Took both kids, the car and left him. That was in 1992. I immediately enrolled in nursing school – took the accelerated path and graduated in 1994. Not a small feat for a single mom with two babies, mind you – but I had a very supportive family that backed me up and helped during those years.
17 years later – here I am. My ex-husband.. the kids father.. has turned out to be more than a dissapointment. That is not even a good word to describe him – – it’s not descriptive enough. I never asked him for a thing… when we divorced, I wanted nothing from him. The one and only thing I wanted from that man was for him to be a father to his children, and that turned out to be too much to ask for. I raised those kids on my own – – every bump and bruise, every sibling fight and argument, all that laundry, all those meals – – every single bill, doctor visit, dentist visit, Parent-Teacher meeting, report card, every piece of clothing, every single pair of shoes… all of it – with him nowhere to be found, really. He’s stayed involved on the very fringe edges of their lives… my opinion? He’s stayed involved just enough to keep his own mother happy – – if she really knew what a low-life looser he is, or what his own children think of him to this day – she’d probably flip.
So, back to what I was saying – – I would never be one to say that raising children is the bees knees. It’s hard work, man – the hardest work you’ll ever do in your entire life…bar none. I am also quite honest in saying that I have regrets – of course I do. I have that honest talk with my kids when they say “I wasn’t a planned pregnancy…I was a mistake”
My response is always “Never a mistake – – but, rather, unexpected. A mistake implies regret, and I do not regret you.”
The only single regret that I have over it is that I didn’t wait. If I could have been guarenteed that I would have had the exact same children if I waited until I was older.. more established in life – then that would be the one thing I would have done over.
But there are no do-overs in parenthood. There is only today and the immediate now.
Sure there were other choices and options available to us at the time, but we made our choice and here I am, 17 years later – telling this story.
Why do I tell this story? Because I recieved this gift from a friend of mine this week. I took a picture of it to share with you – – it made me laugh, and it made me cry, on the inside.. just a little bit. Because if there is something in this life harder than having and raising children?
It’s learning to let go of them as they become adults.