Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #22

I know most mom’s have heard the phrase, “Then I’m not your friend” from their child. I definitely have heard it more than once. And I will confess my answer was always:

#22. That’s right!  I’m not your friend!

That was my pat answer to my daughter. And I probably yelled it back with as much irritation as she had said it first to me. I was that mom set on making sure my daughters realized we were not friends. I was the authority figure, the one in charge and I needed them to know that, especially as a single mom. I know many of us can fall into that ‘hanging with our kids mode’ because they’re who we engage most with – not having another adult around 24/7, but I just didn’t believe that would be beneficial in the end.

And then came MIDDLE SCHOOL. I’m not going to lie – that is like a bad word to me. I’ve even  considered changing the name of this blog to: Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer and a Middle School Girl!  I knew middle school was probably the worst part of growing up, especially as a girl. For the most part, I was pretty popular, but I vividly remember the day everyone turned against me. I was standing in the library in 6th grade and Mrs. Vinn our librarian was consoling me. For whatever reason – which I totally don’t remember, that day, I was public enemy number one. Friendless and very sad.

Now, when I was growing up, 6th grade was not technically middle school, but nowadays and definitely in Texas, it is. And I don’t know about everyone else, but kids seem to be at least 2 years ahead of us in the growing up category. 8 is the new 10, 10 is the new 12 and 12 is the new 15! So all of the middle school drama comes fast and furious once the girls (at least) enter into the realm of double digits. And with all of that came a realization for me that I wasn’t ready for.

I have to be my daughter’s friend.

This came to me after many situations where my daughter basically was heartbroken by girls she thought were her friends. She wasn’t invited to a birthday party. She wasn’t asked to ride in a certain car after a volleyball game. She wasn’t included in a skit for the end of year show. And every time, I tried to encourage her, pat her on the back, be positive. Then I started getting irritated and rode the line of basically telling her they were all just a bunch of punks anyway that she didn’t need. And finally, I told her the truth – they weren’t her friends and they weren’t good friends.

But they were the only model of ‘friend’ she had. I don’t know what it is about middle school, but there are more mean girls than not – so most girls in some way particularly when it comes to friends and controlling the popularity pyramid are not nice. I could SAY they weren’t good friends all day long, but she had nothing to compare it to.

So I had to be nice to her – like as a friend, not as her mom. I had to show her what people who really love and support you, not just cause you’re family but because you choose to be friends looks like. I had to laugh at her jokes or stories that I really didn’t think were that funny (cause I’m not a middle school girl). I had to watch videos she thought were interesting. I had to listen to her lament over why a boy asked her to change seats with him in class and what it really meant. And even when I wanted to pull my hair out or say WHO CARES!!! I couldn’t. I had to show her that people who choose to love you – listen to you, laugh at the same things you think are funny, and are interested in what happened to you today. She knows as her mom I feel that way, but her mom who was dead set on not being her friend, would have shut down some of that monotony of middle school drama and discussion because it annoyed me, cause I’m an adult. But I now accept that those moments are not about me and I just need to be her friend.

I don’t ever want to go through middle school again. It’s bad enough I have to do it two more times vicariously through my girls. But what I know, that you don’t realize the first time you go through it, is that it’s really a short period of time. A blip on the radar screen of your life. So I suck it up and I laugh at the girls doing that ridiculous dance, or the 500 bottle flip videos. I support her completely when someone upsets her – not making a lesson of every situation (which is REALLY HARD). And I make it clear that I LIKE her.

I told her the other day – I am your best friend, and I meant it.

 

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #9

Maybe my mom was right. As I get older the more I start having this thought and I had it today over something I really wasn’t willing to agree with. My mom always says we (me and my sisters – in my mom’s mind we are like one being) don’t tell our kids ‘NO’ enough. Now in general, I don’t agree with her. My kids ask for 101 things every day, so I have to say no to them often. However, I had an experience with my 10 year old today that made me come to this thought.

9. I work too hard to ensure my kids aren’t disappointed.

I know that sounds CRAZY. I have spent the past 10 years trying to ensure my 2 daughters didn’t experience disappointment. Definitely not from me or frankly anyone else who they believe loves them. I’ve been afraid that being disappointed would make them feel a deep sadness, making them feel unsure or insecure. It also just felt like failure on my part. Disappointing the girls by not being able to be some where or doing something for them, within reason, seemed like one of those things that separated the good parents from the bad.

Then, the cancer thing happened. Being diagnosed in December meant the beginning part of 2015 was going to be challenging. It also meant that we had 1/2 a school year left to tackle.  And all of a sudden, there were disappointments, several of them. Trying to be mom, keep up at work, and endure the chemo and radiation treatments resulted in disappointments. I couldn’t do it all. There were doctors appointments and treatments I couldn’t miss. Because of my immune system, there were places I couldn’t go. And there were days, I just didn’t feel up to doing anything.  I missed a parent-teacher conference, science fair, field day, the end of school performance, class parties, open house, church programs and solos.

I wasn’t there and I knew that was disappointing for the girls. Especially because, I’m ALWAYS there. I jump through all kinds of hoops to be there for my kids. I know most parents do, but honestly as a single working mom this is when I feel the stress of that title. I have competing priorities between work and home. I can’t be in 2 places at once and sometimes I don’t have a choice but if there’s a way, I will make it happen. And up until now, I pretty much always have.

When it happened the first time, there was crying, and begging me to go. I was really sad because I knew they were disappointed. It got better as the months continued. Everyone acclimated to the new reality – which was mom can’t go, go, go! But there was always sadness.

Then today, I experienced something for the first time. I had to tell my 10 year old I couldn’t be at her end of camp performance. She said, I really want you to be there. She was sad, but then she got over it. QUICKLY. No crying, no pouting, no begging. Even after the program, I asked her how it went and she said, I wish you could have been there but it was great.

Now to give you some background, last year (BC – before cancer) she attended this same camp. Last year’s program was at the same time as our company board meeting and my boss made it clear, he wanted me there. My daughter also made it clear she wanted me at her performance. I was determined to do both. The camp was nearly 45 minutes from my office. I figured I could get there but I’d have to get back and maybe even leave early. I called on one of my best friends for help to meet me out there in case I needed to leave and to bring my daughter home since I’d be back at work. I made the haul out there and back just in time to see her dance and do my part at the board meeting. I made it happen, but it was stressful and a little crazy for sure and what I discovered today – UNNECESSARY.

Because she survived me not being there. She still was excited about her performance. She still smiled and did her best. She was still proud of herself, even if I wasn’t there to see how great she did. She lived through the disappointment.

Before cancer, I honestly think none of us believed we could survive me disappointing them. But in a way, I think it makes them stronger. I think it helps them understand that people who love you are going to disappoint you, sometimes it’s out of their control, but even when it’s not, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. I think it helps them be more realistic. They pretty much believe I have a MAGIC WAND and can do anything and everything. Finally they know, I don’t and no matter how badly I want to, sometimes, I can’t.

It’s freeing in a way for me. I was driving myself crazy and beating myself up for the things I couldn’t do, WAY too much. Being FORCED into this situation of disappointing them, was the only way I was going to see how this change in my behavior could be beneficial for all of us.

As I start thinking about what our life looks like once all the treatments and surgeries are done, I know I want to have the ability and flexibility to do more with my girls, to be there for them, and make them a priority, but I also know that we’re all going to be ok even when I can’t.