Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Been a While Since I've Bitched About my X

The girls called their dad and left a message at his last known cell phone number when they learned about their acceptances to their schools for next year. Haven't heard from him yet. I don't really remember when the last time it was they did hear from him, but it's been at least a month, maybe longer.

I'm always torn about this. Part of me gets really ticked off at him for hurting them like that, especially Sylvia. She handles it pretty well, but it's still there. I see her trying to connect with him on FB, and get no response. I think we both assume he's not on the Internet much.

Then today, I made the mistake of checking his FB page. He's connected the iPhone app.

I think there might literally have been smoke coming out of my ears. For many reasons.

First, NICE that you can afford an iPhone. Haven't seen any form of child support in HOW long now (3 years easy, and that's probably being generous), and yet, he can afford an iPhone. I can't afford an iPhone. Must be nice.

Second, he is aware that it's still a phone, right? That it has the capability of calling his children? He's got to know by now about the girls' schools. It's been on FB, his entire family knows and has congratulated them, it might as well have been in skywriting by now. He can't call and congratulate them?!?

Third, I think Sylvia already saw that he has an iPhone. The other day, it came up that they haven't heard from him since they left him a message about their schools. I told them (again) that he probably doesn't have a phone. Sylvia looked like she was going to say something, but didn't. She goes on his page a lot more often than I do, sending him Fortune Cookies, tagging him pictures, practically begging her own father to notice her. It breaks my heart. And while I wouldn't necessarily call him out on his page (not for his sake, but hers), I still stop myself from sending him a private message saying, "CALL YOUR CHILD." Because he just might. And it would be nice for that call. And he might even call back a couple of times. And then he would be gone again.

Maybe he is trying to be gone for good. And maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing after all. At the same time, I think she would need closure of some sort. (I say Sylvia over and over because Riley really does seem fine with it.) If that is his plan, to be gone from her life for good, she needs to know that.

I hate this. I hate that she's always the one who has to grow and accept and adapt. But if I could know this was the last time? It just might be worth it.

That's not to say it would be easy. She'd hate it. She'd cry, she'd lash out at me, and even after we got through the worst of it, it would still hurt from time to time.

I'm sure it'll feel a little empty when she graduates from 8th grade not to have her dad there. But she knows he's not coming. She's prepared for it. There might be a hole there, but it won't ruin her day. I don't want him to be capable of ruining any of her days. But I don't know if that's possible. Probably not.

And this is what I hate the most. Not knowing what to do. Well, really, knowing there's nothing I can do. I seethe with anger, but don't know how to productively manifest it when it comes to him. I cry, but in private, where she can't see my heart break for her again. And I just keep doing what I do every day. Buy her school supplies, say yes or no to her requests, tell her to take out the trash, and kiss her good night. All I can do is love her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The 2nd Family Meeting

It did not start well. The girls were stressed, knowing there were certain things they hadn't done yet that were supposed to be accomplished since last week's meeting. They entered it without the first "rule" of family meetings: come with a good attitude. They were defensive from the start.

I tried to let it slide, remaining calm, but as they broke more meeting rules by interrupting me repeatedly, I lost my good attitude. I cut the meeting short, and put myself in time out.

What was I doing wrong? In a flash, I remembered the most important lesson I've learned from my therapist, SuperNanny, and my own experience: it's never them that's the problem, it's me. So where had I gone wrong?

I remembered something else I heard from a friend: children need to hear 5 positive comments for every critique.

While the meetings weren't about being critical of each other, they were concentrated on more things we needed to do, more responsibilities, more pressure.

I called the meeting back to order, and told them our first order of business was to write 5 things we like about each other. Their faces softened.

I told Sylvia 5 things I like about her, and she told me 5. Then it was Riley's turn with me so we could complete the process with the girls saying nice things to each other. I told them to keep in mind throughout the week things that they appreciated about one another, and that this will be on the agenda every week. These meetings aren't supposed to be about tearing our family apart, but strengthening us. Part of that has to include taking the time to praise one another. Not only that, but taking the time to write it down, and then to say it out loud to each other.

We also handled the other items, less defensive now, more willing to listen, and brimming with ideas. Then we went out to dinner to celebrate Sylvia's Student of the Month Award.

By the way, Mandy mentioned that her family has these meetings over dinner. While I agree about the importance of a family dinner, I would rather use that time to just be. I prefer for each of us to have pen and paper, have the calendar handy, and not worry about getting upstaged by the last piece of garlic bread!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Call this Family to Order

Thanks to a blog (I apologize for my poor memory that I can't tell you which one), we had our first family meeting this weekend. I hope this is something we continue on a regular basis, but we'll see.

I made an invite using fancy fonts and such to invite them to a family meeting, Sunday at 3, come with ideas, paper, and a good attitude!

I made an agenda: Why Family Meetings? Calendar, Mom's Issues, Sylvia's Issues, Riley's Issues

Why Family Meetings? Go over next week's schedule, talk about issues, strengthen our family.

Calendar: PTA meetings, PAC meetings, rehearsals, special events.

Mom's Issues: Long-term goal of creating an art space for Sylvia's upcoming school year, rework homework area for next year, get rid of stuff girls don't need anymore.

Sylvia's Issues: Wants/needs new clothes (my response: come up with ideas for earning an allowance for us to go over, and start a wish list and clean out closet of items that no longer fit/don't want anymore)

Riley's Issues: Unfortunately, too many of them involved complaints about her sister. New meeting rule: only ONE complaint about a sister allowed at each meeting. Pick the most important issue to bring up. Wants to rearrange bedroom. (my response: come to next meeting with ideas on how to rearrange.)

I stressed that not all issues will be solved at one family meeting, and family meetings won't solve everything, but it's a chance for us to concentrate on us. We will try to keep our weekly meeting time consistent, but of course, will change it up as need be.

The girls took notes, squabbled when the complaints started to get out of control, but I think they remain open to the idea and we'll see where it leads.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Reading

Just one to share this week. My post at Parentella is on the book report project you might find offensive. I certainly did.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Free Spirit

She was probably around 70 with one of the earphones from her iPod dangling. She was leaning against the lamp post, maybe waiting for someone, maybe waiting for the light to change, most likely just soaking up the sun. And then the music moved her.

Completely carefree, completely oblivious to the world around her, she danced. She reveled in the moment.

I saw one driver laughing, another looking embarrassed for her, but I felt admiration. Good for her!

I would love to be that confident, that willing to do my own thing, no matter who is watching, no matter what someone else might think.

The light changed, and I drove with a smile. 

I want to be her when I grow up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Mirror Through Another's Reflection

I had a chance last week to sit down with a friend whom I've not spent one-on-one time with in over a decade; probably closer to 15 years, really. We've seen each other at a few social events, we're Facebook friends, of course, but we hadn't really sat down and talked in about that long. As much as I learned about her, I learned about me, and how, no matter what, the essence of who we are cannot be held down. Not forever, anyway.

We've both been married and divorced in the last 15 years. We've both been surviving, with some victories, but always only having ourselves to depend upon to keep us afloat.  And I have to say, we not only keep getting through it, but we keep creating new goals for ourselves to reach.

Our conversation wasn't centered on catching each other up, though. We talked about everything from what we're doing now to Charlie Sheen to politics to what we're looking forward to in the future. The past came up naturally, relevant to the point we were making. We were both matter-of-fact about it, having long ago finished the soul-searching of those old dramas, and being comfortable enough with each other to be honest without dwelling or pitying.

These 15 years clearly hadn't damaged our friendship, and fundamentally, they haven't changed who we are. We've grown to be sure, but I think I finally understand what's meant by the phrase, "people don't change."

I may call myself a bitter divorcee, but really, I've just learned some stuff. I still love passionately, I just concentrate that love on people who deserve it now. I still believe in the same ideals I've held for decades, I'm just more realistic on what are politicians are willing to accomplish. I still want to change the world, I'm just better at focusing my efforts where I think they can truly make a difference.

From what I saw of my friend the other day, I think I can safely say the same rings true for her.

There was a time I feared my X had broken me. And maybe for a while, I was. Now, I think we all have stuff in our lives that changes us, even devastates us, but most of us learn to not just put ourselves back together again, but re-shape ourselves to take the falls to come with just a little more grace. And still recognize ourselves in the mirror.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend Reading

After I found out about Riley getting into the charter, I wrote why I'm actually looking forward to the commute on MomsLA.

At Parentella, I'm trying to keep a more long view perspective on education.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Finally! The Wait is Over

After months of waiting (and weeks of agonizing waiting), we have received our big news: Riley is going to the charter middle school we wanted, and Sylvia is going to follow my footsteps into the arts high school (only she's going as a visual arts major).

Their futures look so much brighter with this news! They will have individual attention, they will spend time doing their favorite "extra-curricular" activities as part of their curriculum.

It won't be easy, for any of us. With these acceptances come greater responsibilities on all of us. I will be commuting, the girls will have more homework, and the expectations will be higher. But it will be solely up to them (and in some part, me) how much they make of this.

And they are both so excited. They will be going into the new school years as giddy as kindergartners. I'm fairly certain they will believe all over again that the world is theirs for the taking.

If one of the joys of motherhood is re-discovering the wonders of the world through the eyes of our children, surely nothing can be greater than seeing that spark reignited.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More on Friends of the Opposite Gender

I fell into the trap. When I noticed Sylvia was spending a lot of her social networking time chatting with a boy, I assumed that it was a boyfriend. She insisted he wasn't, and I'm ashamed of myself for not believing her at first.

Then I remembered my own life. From second grade, I had a best male friend. That year, it was Jesse, and it started a trend of always having male (straight) friends.

There seem to be a lot of people who have trouble with the concept of men and women being friends without being romantically involved. And I loved When Harry Met Sally as much as the next person. But here's the thing: it was a movie! It wasn't real life!

I don't try to have male friends, I just do. Sometimes, it just works. And for whatever reason, if I look back at any time in my life, there's always a connection to a male friend that meant the world to me.

Sylvia told me that she hates it when people assume there's something going on, and tease her about some of her friends. Riley chimed in, too, and said it has even cost her a friendship with a boy who hated being teased for being friends with her, so he started treating her horribly to try and combat the rumors.

So silly. So sad.

Sure enough, we just happened to mention to someone that we met a mother and her son recently, and this someone turns to my daughter with that "knowing" smile: "Is he cute?" Sylvia and I both shook our heads and rolled our eyes. That wasn't the point!

It's been over 20 years since When Harry Met Sally, and it still might take another 200 before people can start appreciating males and females not "just" being friends, but having a meaningful and valuable friendship...that has nothing do with romance or lust.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Life as a Fag Hag

I actually hate that term - so derogatory! And not nearly as nice as it is to be a friend of friends of Dorothy.

Even Glee gave the concept a hard time when Kurt accused Rachel of beginning a lonely life as one. It's so not lonely! There is tons of laughter, tons of fun, and tons of great conversation.

Being a child of theatre, I found the joy of hanging out with gay friends early in life. When they weren't cracking me up, they were making me think, and inspiring me to be myself, no matter what.

Of course, for me in particular, there are - for whatever reason - more gay men that can appreciate a good Sondheim song than there are straight people, of either gender. In high school, I have fond memories of singing through all of our favorite Broadway songs with one friend who knew them as well as I did. I could say, he happened to be gay, but it kind of goes without saying, right?

I've danced the night away with gay friends, I've been comforted, I've been advised on everything from make-up to wine selections. I've learned from their stories of coming out, surviving AIDS, and thriving despite being loathed for being honest.

Which is not to say that our entire friendship is based on their sexual orientation, or mine. It's just a friendship. Maybe a little more willingness to color outside the lines, but really, just a friendship like any other.

Frankly, I don't understand the need for a label for females who happen to enjoy spending time with gay men. The idea that I can't be a friend without falling in love with them is simply ludicrous. I love them, indeed, just like I love all my friends. And so what if I'm single? I've been friends with gay men, no matter my relationship status. (Interestingly enough, only straight people have ever questioned me about the concept of being happily single.)

My life is simply better by being a friend of friends of Dorothy. They love me best when I'm being me. There's no better friend a person can have than one that accepts a person for who they are.