When You Can’t Just “Walk Away”

It’s 8:34 p.m. and I’ve just spent my entire Saturday in an endless battle-of-the-wills with my four year old. It was a day full of tantrums, limit testing, reaction invoking, arguing, making “deals,” throwing toys, ignoring punishments, avoiding naps, and eating way too much sugar because Halloween. I’m so glad he fell asleep quickly – but who wouldn’t after a day of such focused effort?

I do not consider myself a single mom. There are tons of men and women who wake up every morning to the pressures of raising their child completely on their own, some with absolutely no support. I coparent with my son’s father and step-mom but when I have my son, it’s just the two of us. Most of the time, I love that it’s just us. But let me tell you, when we have a day, man do we have a day.

Today, there was a moment where I stood in the hallway as he was yelling and refusing to listen to me for the hundredth time, and I thought to myself, “How am I doing this? What the hell can I do in this moment?” I was at a loss. But I tried. I would’ve loved to not be alone in that moment. I would’ve loved to have a partner in this who could have stepped in while I took a five minute walk outside.

But I didn’t have that option. And I got through it. Because that’s what we do. Somehow, we find a way. I think it’s really important to just take that in sometimes. This time, I actually stood outside of my front door while he finally cleaned up his room just to give myself two minutes to regain perspective. I’ve never done that before. But it was enough.

There are nights when we put our head on the pillow and cry, question our worthiness, search parenting articles hoping we can find an internet stranger to commiserate with, regret the day we allowed a man’s spawn to enter our womb. But those feelings always pass and we realize there’s nothing that will stop us from waking up the next morning and hugging the crap out of our child when they get out of bed. It’s 8:59 and I’m already excited to see my son’s sweet, rested face in the morning. What the hell?

Honestly. Parenting can make you feel legitimately insane.

I was venting to my boyfriend about my day – while my son was yelling for me from his bed until he finally gave up and fell asleep – and he reminded me that I’m doing everything I can and doing it alone is the best way to ensure I’ll always be able to. So thankful for him and his ability to keep me grounded. So thankful that I’m with someone who is also coparenting and just gets it.

But man, I’m really not sure how I do this alone sometimes. Especially when I hear about the dynamic in my son’s other home and the dual effort that goes into taking care of him. My son is a smart, energetic, sensitive, loving, and empathetic kid. Those qualities make him incredibly challenging…most times. He requires a lot of attention, stimulation and movement but I believe in the importance of downtime and learning to be content in the quiet moments. So I strive to provide a healthy balance for him and promote his emotional development. I’m fully aware I’m way too hard on myself but most of us are. This is a pretty big gig, you know?

I’m always so impressed with how in-tune he is with other people’s moods and motivations. He’s also more self-aware than most kids his age. The questions he asks me blow my mind. We’ve had moments when I’ve sat him down for a Danny Tanner Talk and explained why I reacted to something the way I did. Every time, he explains what he did wrong and what he could have done better. It melts my heart.

But not every day can end with a bedside chat to the tune of a violin. And we definitely did not have one of those moments today. I didn’t have the capacity and I don’t think he would have been able to take it in. Today, I think we both just needed some alone time and a good night’s sleep. But tomorrow we get to start fresh and set an intention for the kind of day we want to have together.

I told him tonight that I was going to try very hard to have a great day tomorrow. He let me know that he was going to try to have a very bad day and that he was going to win. I just smiled and said, “Buddy, as long as I’m trying to have a good day, I can’t lose.” He looked up at me inquisitively for a moment before he responded, “Then I’ll try to have a good day, too, so we can both win.”

So if you’re struggling with this parenting thing – and of course you are – just remember you’re a part of an exclusive club. It’s pretty rough but always, always worth it. As parents, we can’t always walk away. But I think sometimes that’s for the best.

Until we meet again, take care of yourself and take care of those tiny humans in your life.

With love,

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