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 #5

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it’s not really nice. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I’ve always thought my daughter had a sort of annoying personality. She’s really excitable and over the top about everything. She has to be the center of attention. Loud. Goofy. Unfocused. And I’m not going to lie – I can get easily annoyed with that personality. And rightfully so, if she was 25, 30, 35. But she’s 10! What was wrong with me? The truth is, I think it was more about me.

5. I’m projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter.

I’ve been using this adult gauge to judge and measure my daughter. She’s SUPPOSED to be all those things – loud, easily excited, goofy. It may not even really be her personality. Some of it may just be attributed to BEING A KID! She’s still searching for who she is and what she will be like. Of course she is. So am I! But I’ve been acting like she should have already arrived. How unfair. And it took me 10 years and cancer to realize it.

I now recognize that I actually get uncomfortable sometimes thinking about how she appears to others. Does she seem well parented, well disciplined, smart, polite, dressed well, clean? That’s all about me. I’m really thinking about what others think about me as a person and a parent, not her as a child.

I think about what she wears and how it looks – not if she’s comfortable and how it makes her feel about herself.

I worry about if other kids like her or not or if she’s difficult to be friends with. And some of that could be valid, but it’s still not about how she feels. It’s about how I feel cause she’s never once come home saying she doesn’t have any friends and nobody likes her.

My daughter is not insecure and somehow hasn’t been programmed to even care that much about what people think about her, which is a gift. So why am I practically teaching her to burden herself with these thoughts and concerns?

Today as I watched her on the volleyball court, I saw an excited, sort of uncoordinated, overly dramatic, loud 10 year old flailing around the court. For the first time, I didn’t wish she’d act differently. For the first time, when she looked back at me, instead of giving her the look to settle down and chill out, I smiled at her and encouraged her excitement.

Despite me, my daughter wants to enjoy her childhood, which she deserves. She wants to not be perfect and worried about how people perceive her. She wants to be loud and snort occasionally. I’m not sure when I stopped celebrating who she was as an individual or enjoying her childhood with her, but I’m happy to say I started again today.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #4

I spend a lot of time telling my kids what to do. It’s second nature. I don’t even notice it. I’m sure it’s what we all do but the more I think about it the more I started worrying that it’s all I do. The truth is:

#4. I’m missing the bigger picture.

Let’s take a look at all the things I nag (discipline, correct, redirect) my kids about during the day.

What they eat

What they don’t eat

How they eat (smacking, too much food, too fast)

Watching too much tv

Not reading

Doing their homework

Cleaning their rooms

Using their manners

Being nice to each other

Sharing

Being respectful to me

Brushing their teeth

Getting to bed on time

Being careful

Covering their mouths when they cough

Washing their hands

Not forgetting their lunch

Being on time

That’s a pretty good list from today! I really am not a nag. That’s just regular parenting, right? We lead them. Teach them. Show them the way. But, I wonder if on their side, it just feels like they can’t do anything right.

Well, I’m sitting here today, the last day of school in the strangest year the girls and I ever could have imagined. Actually, we couldn’t have imagined it. My 10 year old says it’s been ‘this’ way since Thanksgiving. And she’s right. Our world was turned completely upside down when we returned from Houston after Thanksgiving and I got the call – it was cancer. And ‘this’ way is the cancer way, which has been a crazy roller coaster ride. One that as a kid was probably really hard to be on, cause as a mom in a totally new situation, sometimes I didn’t know when or how much information to give them. I didn’t know what they could handle or understand. I didn’t know what they needed to know or deserved to know. How would they trust and feel secure in me when I didn’t have all the answers? The one who guides, directs, tells them what to do constantly.

And I made some mistakes along the way. I gave them premature information about my treatment plan and it then changed drastically. I would come home from doctors appointments and say it went fine, even though every appointment seemed to bring to light a new development and often new concerns. Finally one day, my daughter said, ‘You said your appointment went fine when the doctor told you it was cancer’. She was right.

So I had to learn a new way to guide them. I had to be transparent in ways that seemed beyond their years. I had to be honest with them about what I did know and what I didn’t know. I had to be vulnerable with them. All while still being mom and running down my nag list – make your bed, clean your room, do your homework, be nice to your sister – many times shouted from where I laid in my bed- bald.

And guess what? They survived this school year. This crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy, unpredictable school year. Grades were fine. Behavioral stuff – fine. 2nd and 5th grade- here we come!

But truthfully, they did so much more than survive. They changed the list. The things they do everyday- changed. And in my new situation instead of directing, I watched them:

Have faith

Trust

Believe

Stay positive

Encourage me

Support each other

Love harder

Show appreciation

Develop compassion

Share their story

Grow stronger

Express their feelings

I realize now that so many of our days had been strung together by orders barked by me from the list of things I felt like they needed to do to be, I don’t know – good? And they are important. Many are things that have to get done. But they aren’t the most important. My kids were showing me so much more about who they were as people and I was missing it. Blinded by the nag list. But I’m not anymore.