Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

The Good Things November 21, 2012

I’ve only been a single mother since late May 2012, but nearly every mother who has gone through a similar situation shares my sentiments:

We were single parenting long before we were actually single.

There are some things that have actually changed though. I may have had little time to myself before leaving him, but at least the children didn’t have to come with me to pap smear appointments. I no longer hold out the hope (though it usually wound up in disappointment and added resentment) that someone will help carry the load. I no longer have anyone to vent to about the children’s behavior on a rough day or the hardships of pregnancy. There is no soft skin to bury my face into, no strong arms to wrap around my waist and hold me tightly until I’m feeling okay.

There isn’t any abuse, but there aren’t any of the good things he brought to our household either. I miss the good things tremendously.

I miss the way he made me laugh. I miss our talks about the country, society, history. I miss him teaching me things. I miss his cooking. I miss his hair. I miss the smell of his skin, and the feel of his large hands. I miss the feeling of being protected from everybody; he was the only one who could truly hurt me. I miss the dream of loving each other eternally. I miss knowing that I had somebody.

I miss saying, “my husband,” in conversations. Now I don’t know what to call him. We are still married, but…

I miss his ears. He always thought they were too big, but his head was big and his ears fit it perfectly. I miss the way that he said my name. I miss watching him play video games that were too complicating for me to see how they could possibly be entertaining.

There were so many good things.

Tomorrow marks six months since The Big Incident, but somehow I’m supposed to smile and host a celebration.

Before The Big Incident, there was energy surrounding his presence. Whether he was raising hell or being peaceful, he was there. Whether he was gainfully employed or gleefully indulging in one of his vices, he was there. Whether he was contributing to my attachment parenting efforts or being a dictator, he was there. Now he is gone, and though there are countless ways things have gotten better, the reality of being alone, truly alone, makes getting things done just a bit harder than ever.


Amara’s Antics August 17, 2012

I feel like I’m losing this parenting game. I’m trying so hard to do everything perfectly, to be what my daughters need me to be, to fill them with love and positive energy and help them to build the strength that they’ll need to survive in this chaotic world. Lately, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but my oldest is constantly rebelling against me.

I try incredibly hard to give her the space she needs, to explore behaviors and ideas and choices without scrutiny, but even with her unprecedented independence, I feel like a failure. Am I just trying too hard to make her secure and content? Am I expecting her to understand concepts that are beyond her years?

It has always been important to me to nurture my children in a way that doesn’t interfere with who they are or who they are becoming. I try to guide them without stifling their creativity. I try to teach them social constructs without demanding they conform, but when your five year old is making high pitched noises in the middle of the grocery store, picking up trash all over the floor “for her collection”, and running around on all fours because “she’s a Dalmatian”, I find it hard to not feel a teensy bit perturbed.

Gentle discipline and attachment parenting were so much easier before my daughter started telling me that she likes to make messes, she likes to make me feel bad, she likes to throw sand in her sister’s face, and she likes to pretend that she cannot hear me calling her name. We cannot go outside without Amara finding a patch of dirt to rub her entire body into, even if she was just bathed, and even if we are on our way someplace where I’d prefer her to look presentable. Usually I don’t mind her getting good and dirty, I encourage puddle jumping and digging for worms, but if we’re not outdoors for outdoor play there is a limit. If she’s not filthy she’s making contorted faces with wild, unfocused eyes and twitching her head from side to side in jerking motions while raising her arms to her chest like a tyrannosaurus rex and walking on tip-toes.

AAUGH!!!! Is this just childhood? Is this how it feels to be five? I don’t remember life before the age of nine so I cannot recall a time where I behaved in such a fashion. Is every child at some point their parent’s precious little tantrum throwing, annoying, back-talking little *&%!*^!???

What drives me the craziest is her utter lack of response to every method I use. I’ve been there done that with getting angry, raising my voice, and punitive responses. I don’t want to revert back to that, it always made me feel sick and guilty and cruel. I want to be kind, empathetic, friendly, and humorous, but she finds a way to challenge absolutely everything I say and I refuse to enter into senseless debate with a kindergartener. I hate feeling like the enemy.

It’s not that her behavior is dangerously extreme, at times she does risk damaging property, but usually it’s simpler things (i.e. running across a parking lot without me and before looking both ways, constantly creating a delay, and just being generally irritating). The problem is that if I say even one thing to try getting her to temper herself she acts flat out crazy! I don’t feel like I should just back down and never say anything, but I cannot even suggest better choices lately without her rebelling.

If she rebels against me at five years old I can hardly wait for when she’s 15! My theory has always been that if we can have a solid bond while she’s growing up, we will be better able to deal with bigger issues when she’s in her teens. I want her to feel like she can talk to me, that I respect and understand her completely, but lately I feel like my child got swapped out with some demonic otherworldly creature sent here solely to test my patience and torment me.

I suppose no mother knows quite what she’s doing or if what she tries is right or will ruin her children eventually. I can certainly say one thing; I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be relieved that she would soon be going to school. Since our plan was to homeschool I had only considered her going away to learn as something surrounded with negativity. Now, I am elated. I will enjoy these last three weeks of her being home with me, even if she’s filthy and walking through stores like an alien, because soon I will probably miss her antics and maybe, just maybe, long for them.



Gluten Free Crepes with Fruit Paste July 30, 2012

Our latest favorite breakfast is gluten free crepes topped with a homemade fruit paste and a side of fresh squeezed orange juice. The meal tastes fantastic, it’s fairly quick to make, and the girls help every step of the way.

The crepe recipe is an adaptation of Chef Antonia Lofaso’s, which was featured in the July edition of Parents magazine. The fruit paste is an adaptation of something my husband used to make. He never wrote down a recipe, but it tastes like I’m making it the same. Feel free to experiment with different fruit combinations!

Crepe Recipe

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour

2 Tbs. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup powdered sugar (for sprinkling on finished crepes)

Coconut Oil

**Whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in the gluten free flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Coat your skillet with coconut oil and set over low-medium heat. Pour ¼ cup of the batter into the skillet, swirling it to make an even layer. Cook for one minute on each side (the crepe should be lightly browned). Transfer from the skillet to a plate. Sprinkle the crepe with powdered sugar and top with fruit paste.**

Fruit Paste Recipe

1 cup chopped strawberries

½ cup blueberries

1 ounce cream cheese

1 Tbs. butter

**Put all of the ingredients into a covered pot and set over low heat for 20 minutes. Whisk the mixture every four minutes or so. Take the pot off of the heat when the paste meets your desired consistency.**

While the fruit paste is cooking we like to make fresh orange juice. I do not have a juicer so we cut the oranges in half, put a strainer over the glasses and squeeze the oranges to bits. The girls love proving their strength while doing this part, though getting messy and snacking on the ingredients is probably their favorite.

I make sure to model a positive demeanor by not overreacting to spills, offering options instead of dolling out demands, and doing my best to make cooking a fun and safe experience. I not only get to encourage their appreciation for and knowledge of cooking (teaching them about standard measurements and sanitation after handling eggs, showing them all the yummy goodness they’re capable of creating), but cooking also gives them a chance to practice kindness and patience. The girls have to take turns pouring ingredients, share the fallen flour and powdered sugar, wait for the food to cook thoroughly before they can eat, and remember to thank one another for contributing.

We all enjoy the meal so much more knowing that everyone worked together to create it. I hope your family enjoys this wonderful crepe recipe!


My Duty is Not to Control Them July 16, 2012

I always wanted to treat my children differently than I’d been treated growing up.

I vowed to allow them choices whenever possible, and to provide logical reasons for denying their requests. I knew that I would never spank them and I never wanted to utter the phrase, “Because I said so.” Prior to conceiving, I had numerous conversations with my husband about how important it was to me that we treat our children respectfully, appreciate their individuality, and do the best job that we could as parents to protect their fragility.

These practices only lasted a short while for my husband. Our first born, Amara, was a very reasonable child. I’d describe to her once or twice why we didn’t do certain things (hit, bite, chew the window sill) and she would follow our lead. There was no need for anything more than explanation and empathy. When logic and positive reinforcement failed I turned to redirection, but this is where my husband began to draw the line.

“You’re just letting her get away with it” he would say, as though a two year old needed to brood over her errors. He began enforcing time-outs, which I wholeheartedly disagreed with.

When our second child, Terra, was born, headstrong, impulsive, and independent, my husband didn’t seem to care about attachment parenting or practicing gentle discipline anymore. We’d get into heated arguments about how the children should be treated, but this only led to shaming, blame, judgment, and “we’ll see whose method worked when they’re older.”

I felt so betrayed. I wanted our parenting to be a unified effort, not me doing things my way and him doing things so incredibly different. I felt like he was taking the easy way out, being the impatient and compassionless parent that he’d always resented his father for being. The way he treated them granted him instant gratification, but was ultimately damaging to our children. Nevertheless, he continuously demanded their respect.

They listened to him because they were afraid to do otherwise.

He would raise his voice and I would watch them cower. If they dared cry he would say “Whaaaa!” mockingly and make their whimpers turn to shrieks. Often times he would punish them without even inquiring about the situation (what exactly happened, what were they in fact trying to accomplish, how could we do this better next time to avoid a mess?). He’d tell them that, “It’s a man’s world” and that they needed to get used to taking orders from men without complaining.

I watched in horror as my daughters became crueler, bossier, and less compassionate toward others. They began hitting and throwing things more often, they stopped listening to logic and reason almost entirely and only responded to punitiveness. despised myself for it, but I began to use his methods, because the girls no longer seemed capable of listening if I wasn’t screaming.

Yelling slowly became routine. Instead of suggesting, asking, reasoning, and allowing them a decision I found myself demanding. I found myself threatening and punishing more, hugging and kissing less. How could this be? How could I have fallen into the habit of feeling as though my children owed me something? How could I have become the enemy?

Now, even with their father hundreds of miles away, the damage of our straying from attachment parenting and gentle discipline remains. Time-outs are a thing of the past and I am doing a lot less yelling, but bad habits take time to replace. We’ve been creative about handling our anger and other difficult emotions, the girls are in counseling to help with the transition of living without Daddy, and every day I strive to get a sticker from each of my daughters on my “Respectful Mama Chart” (my rewards are hugs and kisses).

My children constantly challenge me to be a better human being, and I will never again allow someone’s ill-intentioned resolve to get the better of me. It is not my duty to control my children, but to protect them from being broken by those who might interfere with their ability to thrive.