Perspectives

My son is going to go to a sort of group therapy at school. He is the only kid in his class who doesn’t live with both parents. The ONLY ONE in a class of more than 20 kids. He was the only one in K last year as well. It’s hard when they do units in school about families and family trees and such, everything is a painful reminder for him of missing whomever he is not with that week. So he’s going to go to group with some other kids of divorced/separated parents. I had to tell him about it tonight. I did so matter of factly. He already knows the school counselor, who I have had monitoring him occasionally since last year, so I just explained he’d be going to a group occasionally with other kids who only live with one or the other, or who trade off like we do, like his friend from swim class last week, so he doesn’t feel like he is the only one. He said ok.

I’m the only single mother on the PTA as well.

And every time we go on a play date or to a birthday party at someone’s home, my son gets bad “house envy,” and spends a lot of time in the following days and weeks complaining to me about why don’t we have a backyard, we have nothing, and why don’t you or Dad have an upstairs, or a basement.

It’s very hard being in this particular minority. This is one of the big negatives of living in such a small town (relatively speaking) and in the suburbs. Everyone else is the same, and we are different. The only kids in his school who live in apartments are Indian children (our complex is about 85% Indian) and they all live with both parents, so even the immigrant families seem to be doing better to him than I am. It’s rough. I know from my friends far and wide that we are not that unusual, but it still sucks when your kid has to go to group because you’re simply trying to raise him in an environment where his parents aren’t miserable, and filled with hatred and resentment. It will take years for him to get the perspective to understand why this is better. The very, very many ways that it is better, but which cannot be explained to or understood by a child.

And yet I’ve been reading the periodic stories posted on Humans of New York about the Syrian refugees who barely managed to escape with their lives (though not their loved ones – children, spouses, parents – in many cases), and the terrible things they saw and went through. A boy not much older than my son who saw his friends’ school bus get blown up and four of his friends died. The near-drownings. The violence before they left. And I think, things could be so much worse. So very much worse than not having a backyard. But you can’t explain all that to a small child either. That would just be frightening.

I feed him. I clothe him. I love him, so damned much. I work on his homework with him. I just got him a new/used bike since I knew his had gotten too small for his growing frame. We work on his math, his spelling, keyboarding, we brainstorm words using short “i” sound. God, I try SO HARD. I put little notes in his lunch box so he can learn a fact or know that I’m thinking of him. I slip in little extras sometimes when he doesn’t expect it, like the few candy corn I put in today. I let him have kid-friendly food against my better “epicurean” judgment sometimes – chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and peas tonight – everything does not have to be ratatouille and spanakopita, you know? I drug him out late to see the cloudy supermoon, and I took him to a fun children’s theater play this past weekend. I make him do chores and help me, so he feels a sense of responsibility and buy-in to our life. He has to finish homework before TV. He has to pick up after he’s made a mess. I’m also looking for a one-mile run we can try to do together before it gets too cold. He won’t run alone with me, but if there’s a competition and other kids, I know his competitive spirit will kick in and he will try really hard.

But really, sometimes I just feel like I’m drowning. Or at least swimming upstream. The road is lonely, and really, really hard. I know we are lucky in so many ways. I really get it, and know I shouldn’t wallow. But he doesn’t know at all, and I can’t make him understand. I can only hope that one day, he gets it, and will forgive me not having a backyard, for never buying him a brand-new bike, for not taking him out to a restaurant that one night he promises to be really good and says he really wants to go, because I can’t because it’s the day before payday and the well is dry. I hope he will forgive me for all of it. I’m doing the best I can.

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