Farewell November

A tree in Mt. Tabor park, a few blocks from our home

{Note: I last edited this post on November 30, 2010. On March 1, 2019 I was digging through my WordPress account and found that this one had only been published privately, whatever that means. I changed to public and clicked Publish again. So no, none of this stuff is current.}

November is when I left the house on Morrison St and moved my daughter and myself into a new home. Goodbye to that painful month.

My current internal conflicts are a teeming cacophony in my head. Setting all the stuff aside about my own faulty inner mechanisms, I detect an expanding category called: Pain I imagine I must be inflicting on my child. I have been vulnerable to crippling doubt when it comes to parenting, ever since I left her dad when she was only 8 months old. Translation: for nearly her whole life, I have suspected that I am a parental loser.

When it comes to my own wants and needs, I am confident. I could care less if any portion of the narrow-minded collective American public disapproves of my words, or ideas, or actions. But now it isn’t just me; it’s us. Making a wrong decision on behalf of myself might only result in harm to me, but the world takes on a different shape under the immensity of parental responsibility. Remember how Rhett Butler swallowed his instincts and became a whole new person in order that his beloved Bonnie would be accepted in society when she grew up?

I agonize over how much sacrifice is required to protect my baby. Where is the balance between having a safe male role model vs. a happy mother? The two apparently don’t come together. This point was reinforced when I called my Grandmother Thursday to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving. She took the opportunity to tell me I might be ruining my daughter’s life and that she wanted my assurance that I wouldn’t date another man till she was 18 years old. Her stance was insulting on so many levels I didn’t even try to respond. Through my choking tears I cut her off in mid-lecture and said I didn’t have the constitution to hear the rest. I understood she felt she needed to say it because she loves us, but she had to stop.

After six years I concluded that I had to leave him for my own mental health. Like every parent who wants to leave a partner, much of my consideration was given to whether I should stay for HER sake. But too often I have seen examples that it is a faulty line of reasoning, beginning with my own tumultuous childhood. Two miserable parents are not better than one happy one. Still… It had taken four of those six years for him to finally let his walls down to her. Now they are tight. She calls him her step dad to all her friends, and on the school emergency call list. They are crazy about each other. Finally. The relationship I have been yearning for between them finally happens, right when the relationship between him and I looks irreparable.

And the house! She had the perfect little princess-in-the-tower space in the converted attic with her own bathroom and loads of teenager privacy. She told me she never wanted to live in another house because that one suited her perfectly. Being in that house was driving me mad. It seems one good rainstorm away from disintegration. I hated living there and seeing it slowly fall apart around me while we never had the money to repair the place.

The new place is beautiful and clean and safe and warm, so I tell myself it’s good. But how much does a whole new life disrupt a child, even if it’s a comfortable safe one? I moved every few years as a kid, and I recall that I LOVED it! I was told years later by a psychiatrist that moving is a horrible trauma to nearly every child, and I should completely discard all my own memories of moving. On this occasion, we moved three blocks from the old house. How bad could it be? At parent teacher conferences Monday, I found out she hasn’t turned in any homework for any class in the previous two weeks.

Of course I’ve got a girl who keeps her feelings inside (just like me, go figure), so I can’t get anything out of her. I’ve tried. Since she’s a teenager, I anticipate several more years of not being sure of what’s in her head. I have to add my detective’s cap to the psychiatrist’s spectacles I have used so frequently in her upbringing. I need to act, and watch for a response, then interpret it correctly. That is our communication.

A couple of days ago I purchased our first new furniture. We’ve got nothing here other than bedroom furniture. Not even a dining table. I have been using the living room as a place for collecting the giant pile of Junk I Moved But Haven’t Put Away. It was super depressing. When the new couch, chair, and ottoman were moved in and set up, they made an inviting living space. I intentionally chose furniture with deep seats to accommodate extra pillows, and soft throws, and legs curled up under. Her cat was the first of us to weigh in. Cookie took turns napping on each new piece before we even had them set into place. And, curiously, my own sweet girl followed suit. That evening she asked if she could sleep on the new couch instead of her bed.

I don’t understand it, but I feel that this is a communication of something good. She’s making the new place hers? I’m not going to pass up a sign like that! I suggested that it was time for a table too, and she said she wanted to pick it out with me. We went out together and chose our new table and chairs over the weekend, and they will be delivered today.

2 thoughts on “Farewell November

  1. For what it’s worth, I think you made the right decision.

    Granted, I don’t know your daughter and really can only extrapolate my opinion from comparing my own experience to hers, but, well, I’ve been through the parental separation/divorce, constant moving, and always living with mom thing.

    Shortly after the divorce mom tried dating. I…did not approve, because I didn’t want anyone taking mom away from me. She stopped dating for a while, and then later on, when I was in my teens, we were in Hawaii, and far away from the looming shadow of my abusive father, she dated again and I was fine with it. I even took to calling Tom my step-dad.

    That relationship ended, but I still think back on Tom as a positive male role model in my life, of which there have been precious few.

    Your ex can still be your daughter’s stepdad, if that’s still the relationship they have. In Hawaii there’s a cultural paradigm of Hanai family — family not related to you in anyway (blood, marriage, etc) but still family. There’s a similar belief in First Nations culture, that we are all connected. The elders who spend time in class with us are “Uncle” or “Aunty”. This idea persists throughout many cultures — yet in capitalist North American society, your only family are the ones bound to you by blood or a piece of paper in the courthouse (or an invisible piece of paper, in the case of commonlaw marriages).

    Anyway, this long-winded comment was basically to tell you that I think you’re doing the right thing — and you’re only three blocks away, so even though adjustment will be hard at first, things will no doubt even out and then there’ll be smooth sailing.

    And good luck on the “teenager communication” thing. I remember those years well. There was very little communication between my mom and myself, and NOW I’m able to see that it wasn’t all her fault, as I thought it was. It was a combination of factors. Luckily for her, I happened to be a heart-on-sleeve kind of girl, so she usually knew my mind even if I wouldn’t or couldn’t tell her.
    It sounds like you have a bit more work cut out for you.

    1. Thanks, J. Your insight is helpful and reassuring. I was wondering if there is hope for their continued relationship, and you agree that there is. In fact, we walked over to the old house a few nights ago to pick him up, and then all walked to a local pastry shop for desserts. It was fun and we felt comfortable together. As First Nations members ourselves, my daughter and I have always found it easy to define our family by love and not by random pieces of legal paper. I should trust in our strengths.

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