“I’m sad,” S said plaintively as we drove home from an errand tonight.
“Why are you sad, honey?”
“One is not enough.”
As I asked questions to get more out of him, it became clear that he meant that *I* am not enough. I’m not being paranoid here. He literally rattled off the names of all the people at his dad’s house (dad, wife, sister, and currently aunt) and said he wished we could all live together.
“Don’t like just one,” he repeated (again meaning me). I like a lot a lot. More parents.”
I tried not to take it personally. After all, he’s four. And his little mind is probably processing a whole lot. He goes to his dad’s one day a week, and coming back after that must be rough - even though he says how much he misses me, and he never seems upset about coming back to me.
How do I compete with all that is going on over there - the dad, the wife, the sibling?
The answer is, I don’t. I don’t try. I can’t.
I am in so much pain right now. It’s as if everything S said tonight highlighted and underscored all my worst fears and vulnerabilities. Kids have a way of doing that sometimes. Perhaps by osmosis, he has picked up on the way I have been feeling for years, ever since his father departed, that our little family of two is not enough.
Oh, I try to smile and put on a brave front, but he must feel the sadness, the sense of lack, of incompleteness, radiating off me in waves.
He makes me want to go out and find a partner post-haste and get knocked up. Right. Now. So I can give him the family he wants. So I can stop feeling so alone and so not enough. But that’s just plain crazy. That is me trying to compete with my ex, who in his infinite wisdom built a new family on top of the smoldering ashes of the old one.
I tried to do what he did. I’ve been there, done that. I was not as successful as he was, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Actually, that is not entirely true. At basically the same time that my ex began his Year of Skipping Out on Fatherhood so he could bond with his new girlfriend, I went out and found a man right away. This man was a very decent and good man and wanted to commit to me. He was actually into the whole family thing. I kicked him to the curb after three months because his love, his attention, felt like hands around my neck, squeezing, steadily, harder. I was too raw, too wounded, to let him into our lives. The closer he got, the more I retreated. I was just not ready.
And so I am one. Just one.
So here I sit tonight…feeling so wounded by the words of my child who was just telling me how he felt, with no idea how it would impact on my fragile psyche. Tonight, I am feeling even more not enough than I usually do.
Old habits creep in. I want with all my heart to reach out to a man for attention, for confirmation that I am OK, lovable. I will not do so. I will not violate the vow that I have taken this year. A vow to learn to love myself. What better test than this?
Maybe in the midst of the tidal wave of not-enoughness, I can look for the good here. My son and I love each other. We have warmth and affection, and I endeavor to treat him with respect and kindness. We have a beautiful, cozy home that we share. We do a lot of fun things; I am always on the hunt for new and exciting activities for us to enjoy together. I am not a perfect mom, but I am relatively certain that I am a good-enough mom. Maybe even marginally better than good enough.
But yet, what do I do with what he said tonight? It is in his heart, it is his little truth, at least tonight it was, and I may hear this out of his mouth again. I must honor his feelings, which I did. I explained in the most loving way possible that his entire family loved him, even if we did not live together. I named each person by name - even HER - and repeated that they loved him.
His eyes grew heavy and closed, and he drifted away from me into his dreams. Maybe he dreams of the complete family he longs for. I am sorry I can’t give that to him. I can only offer my heart, my unconditional love, my support, my encouragement. I can only hold the space for him to grow into the person he wishes to become. I can only cheer him on as he moves in the direction of his dreams.
I will not be able to prevent all pain and sorrow from entering his world, but I will do all I can to help him to weather the storms and come to intimately know his own strength and resiliency.
Maybe that is not enough, but that is what this mother has to give.
My prayer is that he walk through life knowing always how much he is loved, and always feeling that he is enough.
I offer that prayer to myself as well.
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.