NoParent

CoParenting: sometimes referred to as cooperative, parallel parenting, or even platonic parenting. Simply stated: it’s when you and the other parent work together and devise a plan and support each other for the good of the child(ren). You maintain open lines of communication, make agreements, and involve the other parent in decision-making, educational goals, and disciplinary action — even though you’re no longer in a personal loving relationship. Your goal is to parent your child(ren) together; to the best of your abilities even though you aren’t “together”. Nothing between you and the other parent compares or can get in the way of the shared love, guidance, and hopefulness that you both have for the child(ren) you share.

It is extremely disheartening to discover that anyone wouldn’t want the joy and pain inherent to raising a child. Alas, not everyone was meant to be a parent. You can love a child, entertain a child, spoil, enjoy, and care for a child and STILL not be parenting material. How can you parent your child with a person that has no interest in the child, no interest in being a parent to the child, or participating in the love, growth, guidance and success of the child? How can you agree to anything when you can’t stand to look at, be near, or communicate with the other person? How does one CoParent with a non-parent?

Do it yourself, you say? Yes. A noble concept, indeed. But often times; easier said than done. The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” is far from cliché. It really does take a village. The support system required to raise children is vast. And if you’re trying to man the stations alone; the vastness multiplies and gathers levels of difficulty, confusion, and exhaustion along the way. Quadruple that factor every time another child is brought into the mix. Single parenting is not for the weak, faint of heart, or challenge-challenged. You not only have to be strong, you have to be knock-down drag-out resilient. You have to take the punch after the punch and just keep swimming. When you parent alone, there’s no down time. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself or wallow in any type of self-pity or grief. Your kids need you, ALL. OF. THE. TIME.

I have learned some hard parenting lessons (like everything I just mentioned) the very hardest way: trial and error (more error, than trial). I have struggled with all of the feelings and emotions that come with first time motherhood, single motherhood, and failed motherhood. I have felt blessed, elated, happy, sad, exhausted, doubtful, confused, amazed, anxious… you get the picture. Parenting brings out a person’s instincts, intuition and emotions that are complex, deep, and strong. Most of us need that village to help us cope with what goes on inside of us; much less the laundry, dishes, and cleanup. We need to hear that we are doing a good job and that we haven’t screwed up our kids for all time.We need someone there, even when we are trying to do it all alone. It is paramount that you understand that single parenting means that you are: mother, father, good cop, bad cop, disciplinarian, nurse, doctor, playmate, therapist, chef, maid, and barber. You are it. You are all that there is and you cannot take that job lightly.

We also need those village horror stories. We don’t necessarily need to hear someone’s pain and get relief from it. More so, we need to hear and know that someone can survive an absentee parent and still be loving. Or that someone else survived an abusive parent and can have and maintain a safe and loving relationship. We need to witness someone crawling out of the shadow of their parent’s depression, obsession, or mental illness to still turn into successful people. We just need to know that even though we’ve made mistakes, our kids still have every loving chance on the planet to be the people who God intended for them to be. We always need to be reminded that they are here for their purpose and not to fulfill the dreams and expectations we once had for ourselves. We must remember that we are ushers; guides — and our job is to “teach them well and let them lead the way” (thanks, Whitney).

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Every person walking down the street has an opinion on how to raise kids. They give you unwarranted advice and tips that they’ve never practiced but heard so many times they just pretend it’s the gospel truth. However, every child is different, just as every parent is different. Sometimes the personality of the child is so prominent that you can see it before they are born. Their stubbornness and tenacity leach out of their mother’s womb the way hot grease dripping from a piece of fried chicken seeps into a napkin. No one can parent your child better than you. God gave you that child, and He would not expect anything from you that you didn’t have the talent and resources to provide. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

We all make mistakes. We make mistakes in every way every day. But if you accept the position and title of parent (I say “accept” because there are a large number of persons in the world who think that birthing a child is a CHOICE and not a God-given duty and BLESSING), you damn sure better learn from your mistakes and up your game! Get better. DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR CHILDREN. Do not. As with anything, there are always situations and exceptions to the rule, but those instances have to be examined very carefully when your children are involved. Children seek their parents for support and guidance in virtually all things. Don’t be the parent that turns your back or the one that requires that your child raise and support you. Know your role. Admit your wrongs, polish your method, and do the best you can — today and always.

Parenting is a sacrifice. There’s no way around it. You will sacrifice your body, your memory, your breasts (you know, if you’re a woman), your sleep… oh the sleep; I miss it so much. You sacrifice your friendships, work relationships, and every party you ever thought you’d throw or attend. AND IT’S WORTH EVERY BIT OF IT. Every shoulder covered in vomit, shirt that’s been sneezed on, pinky finger that’s plucked a tiny booger… it’s worth it. Every night that’s spent sleepless, pacing, worried, and scared because you’re not sure you’re doing it right… it’s worth it. Children are worth the battle. Children are worth the dreams, nightmares, scars, and adventures. They are miniature funnier cuter replicas of you and they will never cease to amaze you.

Some people know in their hearts that they don’t want children and they make a concerted effort to maintain a childless status. There are others, who don’t consider being a parent until someone says “my period is late” and they still manage to be fervent, and competent in the parenting arena. And then there are the others… the ones who just don’t. Nothing sways them from their perch atop the “I don’t wanna” soapbox. They use any and every excuse, if they stick around long enough to be questioned. They are children, in adult bodies who’ve created a child but somehow managed to deliver themselves from the parenting role. And nothing and no one can make them change their mind. Not even their child. They’re missing out, but it doesn’t matter to them. It only matters to the child who has to learn to deal. Most of those kids are better off without the person so selfish as to not give up any piece of themselves for their son or daughter. The child learns early on that not everyone can be trusted or believed in.. and that even a parent can let you down.

How do you succeed; alone, in a job that was meant for two?? I can only tell you how I try to manage: I do what I can myself, and I try to utilize my village. I keep on keepin’ on. You should too. You just press on and do everything you can and everything you need to raise that child as successfully as possible. (While simultaneously harboring no ill will, hatred or bad wishes against that other non-existent parent). You do your best to be both parents, the good and bad cops, and you do it with a smile. The child needs every effort, every ability, and every bit of your loving care to fill in those gaps. I am nowhere near perfect. At times, I doubt that I am even “good”. I do my best and hope that each day I get better. I pray that everyday my kids grow and learn and find happiness in their home and in my heart. I have plenty of pity parties and occasionally find myself filled with doubt and fear, but I don’t let it stop me from continuing to do my job as Mother.

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Margo (L), Miles (M), and Kenneth (R).

I am proud to be someone’s mother. Three someones to be exact. I revel in their hugs and kisses; and find the ultimate joy in their devouring anything homemade. I enjoy knowing that they look for me when they are excited, hungry, or scared; because they know that I can provide support, food, or comfort. i get a warm fuzzy feeling when they demand “reading and prayers” before bedtime. Knowing that my kisses provide more relief than a band-aid makes me smile. And feeling my kids climb into my bed because they want to cuddle makes my heart sing. I have made mistakes, and don’t claim to be anything other than a parent doing her best; but I’m here and I try. I AM HERE, AND I TRY.

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a little goes a long way

i have known my best friend for more than thirty years. her name is shannon. i am six months older but she is more mature. way. together we are gorgeous, neurotic and hilarious. we share common interests; including entertainment, clothing, accessories and sweet tooths. especially the sweet tooths. we have been through the thick and the thin, the better and the worse and we still love each other. she is my sister, my mentor and my therapist. i love her dearly. when our relationship started, we were little girls. we have survived childhood, adolescence and have grown into women. we have weathered the storms of other friends, boyfriends, the birth of each others firsts and the death of loved ones. we are part of each others families and we wouldn’t want it any other way. while we have been many places together and share many memories, we have always had the best time doing absolutely nothing… besides being together.

we grew up across the street from one another. i would go to her house for days on end. she had a swimming pool, snack drawer, little brother and a gramma much like my own. her mom introduced herself to my gramma in the grocery store. the rest is a lifetime worth of memories and good times. we have walked, biked and roller skated through the city of grand terrace a hundred times over. i have probably spent years of my life at her mom’s house. we used to hunt for ladybugs, ride anything with wheels and spend hours a day in the backyard. we would sit up at night in the kitchen; snack on everything and giggle about anything. as we got older we continued with these same activities, even after we moved away from our parents and grandparents.  we have always snuck out of the house to see each other when we were sick and not supposed to go anywhere. we also used to call each other and say:

“i’m bored.”

“me too.”

“well come over here and be bored with me.”

isn’t that hilarious? and we would do exactly that. just be in the same place. bored and usually eating. we simply enjoyed the company. we don’t get together as often as we used to because.. well…. because we’re adults, we have families, jobs and other obligations. the days turn into weeks and months before you know it. it took me a long time to realize that it didn’t matter if we had elaborate plans, simple plans or if we actually did anything at all. just being together and sharing is all the good time we needed.

shannon has two children and they are both my sweethearts. callie is my original sweetheart. she is shannon’s first. she is my first as well. i experienced that pregnancy with shannon, including nausea, weight gain and sobriety. the three of us (shannon, alfonso and i) were connected at the hip during that time. we went to shannon’s appointments together, we painted the house together and we even went to lamaze class as a happy family; just the three of us. i was enamored with this little girl and she had yet to take a breath. she had a place in my heart, my home and my new car. she happened to be born on my saturday. at that time i had three consecutive days off. i took two extra days off just to be close. i was so excited to see and meet her. when shannon returned to work three months later. i kept callie for one of those three days off. i had my own supplies including car seat, bathtub, towels, clothing and eating supplies. she always made me happy. when i felt bad, i went to see callie. when i felt depressed, i went to see callie. whenever i needed a pick-me-up, i sought callie. she loved me too. one day she sat on my head and when her mama inquired as to what she was doing, she responded:

“i love herrrrrrrrrr.”

years later, when i was pregnant with my son, i saw her almost everyday. they lived in between my work and home. every night i would stop by and give her a bath. we had fuuuuuun. this carried on until my prego belly was too big to accommodate. i was unable to find a comfortable way to bathe her and still be able to breathe. not to mention, my son had his hard joints pressed into every rib. yes, bathing my darlin’ became a chore and i had to resign. she was N. O. T. happy. not at all. she cried the first night. she refused to allow shannon to bathe her. she wanted “neeeeesshaaa to doooo itttt”. she didn’t even stay in the bathtub, she got up, stomped down the hallway to the master bedroom and sat sulking on the floor of the shower.

my son, kenneth, was born a few months later. shannon was present and pacing in the delivery room. moments after he was born, i dismissed my cheerleader and fan club to get some much-needed rest. the next morning i received a phone call from her asking:

“can you have four-year-old visitors? can you please ask? she’s dying to see you. she’s been crying about it.”

my poor sweetheart was tortured knowing that kenneth had made it into the world and that she hadn’t seen him yet. she came to the hospital laden with gifts, goodies and curiosity. she even wore a new outfit! she climbed up in the bed beside me and looked at him with awe. she inspected his fingers and toes. his not yet formed belly button. she commented on how hairy he was. she was so excited she could hardly contain herself. a week later, we all (alfonso, shannon, callie, mike, kenneth and i) went to big bear for a couple of nights. it was during that time that callie found out that newborns were not as much fun as she had hoped. they don’t play, they don’t cooperate and they usually have something going in or coming out of them. that did not hinder her interest in him at all. she was attendant at every diaper change and she asked every question under the sun. she loved kenneth. she kept tabs on him and she made the idea of nursing him utterly hilarious.

“why he cry, neesha?”

“he’s hungry sweetheart.”

“what him wants, neesha?”

“he drinks milk.”

“oh, want mama get it ?”

“no sweetheart, i have milk for him.”

“where?”

“well. hold on, lemme ask mama something.”

“shaaaaaaannon!”

“what?”

“callie wants to know where his milk comes from.”

“tell her.”

“ok. well, sweetheart, his milk is in my boobies.”

“oh” she said with a very curious look on her face. we all know it was a concept too complex for her to understand, but she attempted to. every time he cried after that she said:

“i think him hungry. i think him wants you boobie.”

priceless! she is still just as curious and candid today. i love her very much. she is absolutely beautiful inside and out. she is very considerate and helpful. she got to be big sister for kenneth and that turned out to be excellent training when the MadMad showed up almost two years later. i was not as close in proximity when shannon was pregnant with AJ. she gave birth to him quietly and without me as a screaming cheerleader. we did not start out with the same relationship that i had with callie. however, we have since made up for it and he is my friend. he comes to me when he’s happy, hungry or hurt. he sometimes calls me “neesa”. and sometimes he calls me “mama”. i’ll take it either way. he’s a lot of fun and i adore him just as much as i adore his sister. i have given birth once, but i have three children. they rock my world.

now, with ALL of that said, we are two women, two friends, and we share our three children. we are close in ways that cannot be explained. hopefully the friendships of our children will stand the test of time and they can blog about each other in the future. we had a sleepover recently. simple, yet astounding. shannon and her little man, my friend “the MadMan AJ” came to pick us up. apparently, AJ had inquired as to our whereabouts first thing in the morning for two days in a row. he’d asked for us and we were available. the boys are always excited to see and play with each other.  they pulled up into the driveway and as shannon opened her door, i could hear AJ chanting:

“kenneth. kenneth. kenneth?”

his voice makes me smile. he’s a happy little man. he has the most expressive eyes and boy, does he know how to use them. i peeked inside the car and when he saw me those eyes opened wide and he squealed:

“neeeessa! kenneth? kenneth? kenneth?”

“he’s coming sweetheart, hold on.”

“kenneth?”

we made a few stops and when we got to the house, the boys busted out of the car faster than you could imagine. they ran straight inside murmuring about choo choo trains and went into AJ’s room. he came out shortly with a puzzled look on his face:

“neeesa. help. choo choo train.”

i pulled all of the train related items from our overnight gear. they just wanted to hold a train each and watch the thomas the train dvd. two peas in a pod those boys are.  they rip and run until they are worn out. they get testy with one another and have been known to hit. but if you separate them, you’ll be sorry. they have to have eyes on each other at all times. my son asks for AJ constantly. you would think they were separated at birth. good memories and a great friendship are being formed. it warms my heart.

so we watched some movies, snacked (of course),  and then it was bedtime… until “g’morning!”. we were going to make breakfast. WERE. we had pulled the waffle iron out and all sorts of things, only to realize that the dishwasher was going to be installed and the magic man that would do it was already on his way. plan change: to zorba’s i went. with breakfast retrieved and the boys seated, we served them and fed ourselves standing, the way most moms do.

we didn’t have any plans, just to be together. we often take the kids for walks. to help expend some energy, to get them out of the house, to enjoy the world and all of the critters it has to offer. so, we walked to the park. they had so much fun. all three kids were on the swings at the same time. i was being ordered around:

“mama, push me.” from my own.

“neesa. fwing. help.” from the MadMan, and

“neesha, can you push me higher?” from the little miss.

they were ecstatic. it was amazing. they were laughing hysterically and for just a second and it made me laugh too. they were so happy and it didn’t cost a dime to take them to the park. they were swinging with each other, laughing at one another and enjoying life. callie and i agreed that swinging barefoot is the bees knees. if you’ve never done it, i suggest you do it. i took so many pictures. i just wanted to stay there and watch them. freeze time. they grow up so fast and time breezes by.

this friendship, between shannon and i, this life long friendship was based around these same types of outings. going for walks, bike rides and swinging at the park. when we were kids, shannon almost always took me with her, wherever she went. we have been everywhere together. her family has always included me and treated me as a family member. back then, we didn’t have money or cars, we just had each other. someone to talk to and laugh with. we were blessed that our families came to pass one another. and our children are also blessed because of it. they are able to visit, interact and love one another as often as we can get them together. granted, groceries, water for fun and baths, along with something damaged and/or broken are not free. they are a luxury, but the time together is free, and the small cost is worth it. our friendship and theirs are effortless and rewarding. just us. just them. it’s essentially us all over again, but this time with an audience.

i have come to appreciate this friendship on a whole new level now that we have children and they are able to interact. i have some very dear friends from my childhood and from my different places of employ, but my thirty year friendship with shannon is one to be recognized. we have been through a lot, and even when separated by distance, we have always been there for each other. i hope that our children are able to foster the same type of relationships with each other. we have laid the ground work and provided an example. we talk to each other, laugh with and at each other, and we love each other. we share, we care and we make room for each other and our kids. we don’t always make plans or have a place to go. we just need to make room and be prepared. yup, a little goes a long way.