I started this blog after a breakup – a really bad one – with the idea that I was done with relationships. I decided that I was tired of comparing myself to my ex-husband (married with two kids, while I was still single and lonely). I decided I was done waiting for a guy to come along and stay in my life. I was going to take myself to a sperm bank for my next birthday. I was going to write about this process as it went along, as I made lemonade out of my sour relationship lemons.
I didn’t get far. I went to my doctor and told her my plan. She was discouraging.
“Your eggs are old; they won’t be very high quality anymore.”
I was 37 at the time. I thought I was still in the window. When was I supposed to freeze them? In my twenties? Teens? No one told me! My poor eggs. I knew I had passed the ideal age, but I imagined there was still some green in my inner garden. Suddenly I saw my eggs, not as colorful uncut blooms, but as the dusty and mold spotted roses rotting away on Miss Havisham’s wedding cake in Great Expectations. Intended for a joyful event that never took place.
“Have you thought about adoption?” my doctor asked.
I did. I thought a lot about it. I certainly wasn’t opposed to it. I did contemplate the fact that it is much cheaper to make a baby from scratch than to adopt one. But the real deterant to me was the the fact that I would have to convince a number of people that I would be fit and capable of doing it on my own. The sperm bank doesn’t have that obligation. And I imagine they take credit cards.
The thought did leave me with the question… Could I prove to some strangers that I would be a good single parent? If not, what did that mean? Would I be a good single parent? I’ve got a paycheck, insurance and a spare room. But it’s just me. There’s no fall back plan. If something happens to me, what happens to the baby? Would bringing a child into the world, or even just my life, be a terribly selfish thing to do?
I decided it was. And that was the end of that lemonade stand.
Let me say with full caps for emphasis: I AM NOT SAYING THAT SINGLE MOTHERS ARE SELFISH!!! THAT IS NOT WHAT I REMOTELY THINK OR FEEL!!! I just decided that I didn’t have the resources to do it. I have an amazing family, amazing friends, and I’m living a rich life that a part of me would love to share with a child. The rest of me, however, is afraid. Afraid I don’t have the physical or mental staminal to handle it. Afraid that I would be too anxious or too sad to do it well. And what if I get injured or sick and slide into destitution or a coma…? As it stands, I already lie awake worrying about things like this. If a little person were depending on me and only me? I don’t think I could function.
ONCE MORE! FOR EMPHASIS! THAT IS JUST ME! THE WORLD IS FULL OF AMAZING SINGLE PARENTS WHO KICK ASS ON A DAILY BAISIS AND I HONOR YOUR CHOICES AND YOUR AWESOMENESS!
Also, I heard a story on the radio about a woman whose 35 year old autistic son took a shit in the back of her car, and it terrified me so much I couldn’t blink for forty-five minutes. So, just in case I implied that I am NOT selfish, that’s not what I meant. I am. I’m completely selfish. That may be the real problem.
Anyway, that was three years ago. And I did move on with my life. I sold my condo and bought a house. I got a promotion at work and that was a good thing. I found other ways to connect with the children that were already in my life. I focused on being the best damn aunt that I could be.
I didn’t want a relationship. Frankly, the pain just wasn’t worth the reward. I was never going to throw that much time and energy and love away on anyone ever again. But time passed and – like I always do – I started losing my resolve. Because I got lonely. And I have these coupled friends that I hang out with and they make it seem so… possible. So, I got back out there. I met somebody. And yada yada yada… my boyfriend and his five-year-old son moved in with me in September, just after my 40th birthday.
So far, it is going really well. I was worried I would feel invaded and have a hard time downsizing enough of my stuff to make space for “the boys” (two human males and one snake that I am told is male; I haven’t verified). There were a few pieces of furniture that I gave to charity that were harder to let go than they should have been. Perhaps because they were things that I bought immediately after the divorce and were emblematic of my independence? I bought them during the first period in my life when I had the freedom to choose a piece of furniture for myself. First, I had to figure out what my own “taste” was, and I honestly had no idea. I chose a few things, including a red armless chair and a faux leather trunk, that may well have been completely ugly, but they were new. And all mine. It was a scary, fun, and luxurious place to be. Maybe giving those things away felt like closing of a chapter on my life, and that’s the issue? Even though I wanted to close that chapter.
Or maybe I just liked that chair and that trunk and now I don’t have them anymore. I guess I don’t need to get all Freudian about it.
My other concern was for Ethan, the kindergartener. He expressed enthusiasm over moving in from the beginning. He most often expressed excitement about getting to live with Wensley, because apparently moving in meant that the dog “will officially be my big brother!” There was one other time that he told me he was really excited to come and live with me because I have Blu-ray, but mostly it was all about Wensley.
Still, I was concerned. I was worried that once he saw his stuff in his new room in my little 1940’s house, he would realize just how much smaller it is than the one he had in his 2010’s town house. He didn’t have a backyard at the town house, but there was a playground with a slide and swings. And the old living room was more accommodating to wrestling. Similarly, the old couch was more suitable for cannon-balls and similar. I had the idea that I would set up his room with all of his old things but also put up a few new things that he could get excited about to distract him from the habitat shrinkage. So I set about doing one of those HDTV makeovers, but on a much smaller budget.
First I got a Totoro night light. You can choose if you want the stomach or the umbrella to be lit. (When I turn it on for him at night I ask him, “Belly or brawly?”) Then I got a large wall decal showing an X-wing and TIE Fighter battle over the fate of the death star from any one of the Star Wars movies (am I the only one who has noticed that they all seem to end the same way?). His rug is five foot Millennium Falcon and his light switch cover says “Light Side / Dark Side.” Admittedly, that last one was for me. Ethan will appreciate it when he is older, I’m sure. But puns are not the natural purview of five-year olds.
Ethan got a tour of his room and he loved it. Matt even helped make the light switch a success by acting out the difference between “light side” and “dark side” at the speed of Ethan’s switching.
It was a little strange because we were heading up to Idaho that day for a long planned visit to see Matt’s parents, so Ethan got to see his room but not stay in it that night. While we were in Idaho Ethan and I were hanging out in Matt’s childhood room, looking through his old knickknacks. We were blowing dust off sports trophies and holding sea shells up to our ears to listen for the ocean while Matt and his parents talked in the other room. Ethan put down his sea shell and told me again how excited he had been to move in with me.
“Daddy said we were moving and I said, ‘let’s move Friday!’”
I laughed. “Yeah, it took a little time to get it all planned. We still have a lot of unpacking to do. But I’m glad you are happy about it! I’m happy too.”
Then he looked me in the eye and said, “You and Dad made a really good choice.” I know it sounds like I’m putting words in his mouth, or like I don’t know how to write children’s dialogue. But he talks like he is 28. He just does.
I was charmed and more than a little bit verklempt. He’s such a sweet kid; of course he wasn’t focused on the size of his room, or his stuff in general. He’s been through a lot in his five years, and he is good at making lemonade, too. I felt like he was telling me he’s glad I’m in his life, Totoro night light or no. It suddenly occurred to me that he is gaining more than a dog and a yard – he’s gaining me, too. I’m so glad he thinks that is a good thing.