Three years ago at this time I was plotting and planning our trip to Europe. Those three weeks feel like a dream, as do the young children I set out on such a lofty endeavor with by myself. Virginia was 8 years old, and Isabella 13.
I had enough foresight to realize it was probably the last window to share in such a life-changing experience as a family. I’m fighting back tears as I write this, remembering the moment I realized why being in Testaccio, Rome felt so hard. Watching the girls sway back and forth on swings at the park in the middle of the square reminded me of the many hours we spent in DiMattina park around the corner from our home in Brooklyn, the place where our family felt normal.
Why do I keep waiting for life to feel normal again? What is normal anyway? Maybe it’s the dreamer in me that refuses to give up on creating a new kind of normal with which I can feel content.
The weight of single parenting is so heavy lately—emotionally, logistically and physically. I guess after Michael died my head was filled with too many movies where love finds you again, and a happy family grows once the requisite growing pains worked themselves out. I miss having a partner to face every good and bad day with, knowing we’re a team, figuring it out together. And what I know now, compared to after Michael first died is that it’s harder to single parent older children.
There’s the physical fatigue of parenting small children alone. Bathtime, bedtime, getting dressed for school (or at least trying to), getting shoes tied, and good gravy, bundling them up in the winter. But there’s also bedtime stories, snuggling, hugs and simple pleasures like drinking hot cocoa together.
For those with little ones underfoot, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, it involves your little ones forming a chrysallis, also known as their tween and teen years. Every now and then, signs of life emerge. There are even moments when you’re getting along and best of friends. Then the cocoon closes again, and all we can hope is they emerge ready for the next phase of their lives, a time when they need us less literally and more as an idea.
And that is when single parenting gets especially lonely. You become your children’s cheerleader and champion but there’s no one to help shake the pom poms. You’re a pyramid of one.
Now with Isabella in her junior year, and thoughts of college becoming real, it’s apparent that we will always be “we” and not part of a bigger “us”, at least not in the way I had hoped would happen. I’m worried I’m not doing enough, and that what I am doing is all wrong, even though I know deep down “right” isn’t one size fits all.
Somewhere in the midst of all this I’m also trying to find time to make my own personal health, both mental and physical, a priority. I’m sitting at my desk clothed in workout gear, determined to finally start using an app called Sweat that a friend told me about. I started taking ceramics classes five weeks ago to do something creative and fun that wasn’t about food and writing. Of course, all I’m making are bowls and little pinch plates (poorly, I should say), so food is never far from my mind, even recreationally.
I love using the wheel in ceramics class, though there’s still so much to learn about controlling centrifugal force. Pinch pots look easy, but it’s quite the opposite. I don’t enjoy making them right now, and find myself feeling very frustrated when my bowls inevitably become plates because I’ve pinched them the wrong way. Plus, I can never seem to get them smooth enough. One might be tempted to say the remnant finger imprints should be joyful reminders that I created them, but I find them mocking evidence of my lacking abilities.
Inyo, my ceramics teacher, constantly reminds me I’ve only been doing this for five weeks, and should be easier on myself. So much easier said than done.
Dear readers, I’ve meandered on here with my words. It’s time to bury my head back in work, and preparing for tonight’s shabbat. I’ve a pot of these beans in the oven and some challah dough rising, ready to be shaped and proofed again before baking. Arancini, Italian rice balls, are on the menu, too. Here’s hoping the weekend is kind, gentle and more play than work for us all.
Pecan Pie Smoothie
- ¼ cup old fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
- 1 oz pecans
- 2 whole dates, pitted
- ¼ cup very hot water
- Dash of ground cinnamon
- ¼ to ½ cup macadamia milk, or milk of your choice
- 3 to 4 ice cubes
- Add the oats, pecans, dates and hot water to the bowl of a blender; let sit for 5 minutes for oats to soften. Add cinnamon, macadamia milk and ice cubes; blend until smooth.