Does Holden Have a Dad?

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That curious little boy with bright eyes and bedhead standing face-to-face with Holden (with his own bright eyes and bedhead) looked up and asked me that this morning at Pre-K drop off.

I noticed my instant reaction was full of thoughts. Conclusions already made. He already knows the answer to that one. He knows Holden is somehow different than the others in this class when it comes to his family. It’s already starting… at four-and-a-half. Here we go.

My head replayed instances where this young child did most likely already see Holden with his step-dad, knowing that he had one.

Did I immediately come to conclusions because that’s where I’m comfortable? To jump ahead and not allow any other possible explanations. Couldn’t it just be mere childhood and innocent curiosity? Because I am the only one who brings Holden to school day after day; that’s all this young child had seen as of recent, anyway. And in actuality, I’m sure there are other children in his class that come from step-families as well. But maybe not.

It was easier to jump to those conclusions alright. Especially since Holden has been bringing home some language lately that I know has NOT been introduced in this household (haha). Language that allows me to believe that children are far more advanced socially than one would think at almost 5-years-old.

But back to that moment. I smiled, waited for Holden to answer the question. Knowing that quite a bit of time between the two of us has been spent getting excited and packing his bag to visit his biological dad, reading books on step-dads, building separate relationships and making memories with the both of them, introducing this idea of having two dads in his life who love him very much. Something that makes his family both different and special. I felt the urge to protect him and answer the question for him, but I didn’t. And Holden didn’t answer the question either. He just stood there, taking in the question. Wondering, I’m sure, how to answer. Does he really know that all this makes him different? It’s all he really knows. And maybe he wasn’t thinking about it at all, either. Holden doesn’t love to answer questions anyway. I think that’s his stance on being the only child. He has been picking and choosing which questions to answer and whose questions to answer (since there have been a lot of them- both people around and questions) since he was a baby. I didn’t force this one either.

And within seconds, they started to giggle, hugged, and were off and engaging in something else. Wrestling on the floor, building blocks, painting, name-writing, playing with arts-and-crafts. Off to play and learn. I so anticipate that red folder that comes home at the end of the day with all of his creations made of construction paper, glue, markers, and love.

I already knew that I can’t protect my child. There will be a lot out of my control. There is a lot out of my control already. And this is just the beginning. The beginning of social influences that might begin to open Holden’s eyes to the ways in which he is different from his friends. Being the child in a step-family won’t be the last way either. For this particular topic though, Holden will decide how he wants to answer that question the next time it’s asked, but for now he chose not to. And it might not have to be so complicated. It was so darn early in the morning after all. It takes him a few hours to wake up, to get his wheels rollin’. I struggle to slide his uniform on day after day, as his body instantly morphs into a 46-pound limp noodle at sunrise. “My legs don’t work this early!” as he throws himself on the floor pretending to cry. It’s only when he starts to play does he really wake up. And then he’s off to learn, through school, and through his “fwiends” even more.

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The day will come

I took Holden to see Inside Out over the weekend. After Kick and Holden returned home from the first all-boys/men camp sleepover with 5 boys under the age of 5 and their dads. The trip consisted of fishing, four-wheelers, BB guns, pillow fights, and body odor. You know, “man” stuff. All and all, it was a great weekend, especially for Holden.

Upon returning home, Holden was a crabby mess of course. Exhausted from the excitement and stimulation. I was aware of my own annoyance as I couldn’t wait to have my sweet boy in my arms hugging me and indulging me in all the adventures he had been on over the past 24 hours. Telling me stories. The minute he walked in he had to show me the details of his Red Ryder that had been in the closet since Kick had presented to him at his 2nd birthday party. It had finally been the time to wipe the dust off and put it to good use. He showed me where you look to aim, how to shoot it, and the little switch around the barrel. His mouth moved a mile a minute.

But then, he took a turn. Eyelids heavy, he refused my wish for him to take a bath. For me to wash him from the stench of that boy smell. The combination of sweat, dirt, urine, and McDonald’s breakfast. Through one ear and out the other my words went, not even a glance to my eyes letting me know he was merely listening. The voice within my heart saying, “All I wanted to do was spend quality time with my child AFTER I clean him up, and right now he doesn’t want a thing to do with me nor does he respect me!” (I think I’ve told you before, I’m anal.) This thought was on repeat. Anxiety rising. I’m aware of it.

Well, he took that bath alright. He put up a good fight at first but only to succumb when the effect of the boys’ weekend was too much to bear- the itch to the back of the underpants. “My bum hoits,” he tells me. Translation: my bum hurts. His speech delay is still lingering after 2 years of therapy- the odd pairing of a Boston accent and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, not much hygiene present during this outdoor rendezvous.

Alas, bathed, clean, smelling good. No more bum hoiting. Off to the movie we went. As a budding therapist, I couldn’t wait to witness the mental health aspects of this children’s movie! I had read the articles and anticipated all that I had been learning over these past two years in graduate school in color on the big screen. Holden and I have been talking about each emotion that we had seen in previews. His favorite? Anger, “because he gets vewwy mad!”

Much more than the flowery, exaggerated, and totally missed by all children plot line (other than the adventure these characters/emotions go on) was the theme of how each emotion serves a purpose in your well being. At the end of the movie (read no further if you haven’t seen it and want to be surprised), Sadness finally gets to feel important- she’s the character that solves the challenge in order to get the little girl “fixed”. When I interpret its depth, sadness does serve a function in everyone’s life. Without acknowledging this emotion as legitimate and giving it some attention, we fall off balance. We change. We find ourselves behaving in ways that don’t align with our values. We’re conflicted. It’s so very internal.

Much more than this takeaway and all its excitement (I could talk about that for hours) though, were the the thoughts I have as a mother. Some kind of inspiration within me. The little girl, 11, was going through transitions in the movie. Memories kept, different emotions taking precedence over them. Stored, then. The memories served to function the different personality islands, or “traits” as I saw them. I was reminded that Holden will only be a child for a very small part of his life. A child that needs to fill up his “Goof Ball” island, his “Family” island, “Friendship” island, and any other island he takes to, feeds, and builds up. Before any other more serious islands come to fruition (Girlfriends, Social Skills, School Pressure, etc.). He should be living in silliness, napping when dirty, getting stinky with the boys. Letting his bum get itchy. BEING A CHILD!

The day will come when it’s no longer cool to come home to Mommy, express his excitement, and fill me in on his adventures.

The day will come when a girlfriend is way more important to fill in on all his thoughts.

The day will come when it won’t be cool to give me a kiss and do our secret motion from Little Rascals where you wiggle your fingers under your chin to each other and say goodbye at the door.

So, for right now, I’m going to make an effort to put anal mom-mode on the back-burner. Let the kid be a kid. (I thought I was doing this already, and maybe I do it often, but it’s nice to get re-reminded.) Indulge in childhood wonderment. Before his memories are stored in shadows, before emotions other than Joy resonate with how he sees and feels the world, before he cares too much about things other than what he gets to see today and who he gets to play with and what he gets to play and what he will learn today and how much time can be spent dancing, before it’s no longer the best part of his day to open his lunchbox and see the shapes I cut his sandwich in, and before he knows a little something about what it’s like to be any kind of adult much sooner than I would hope he would.

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I don’t know.

The more I learn, the more I become aware of just how much I don’t know. That’s all a part of maturing right? When you’re young, you know everything.

So, the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. The more you know you don’t know, the more you know already.

I thought I knew just enough some time ago. Enough to be happy? Thought so. Enough to get by. I didn’t need nor want to know more.

But, I know more now. And the more I’ve gotten to know, the more I’ve realized happiness, for one thing is a choice, amidst many other things. Happiness does take effort day after day to choose it. By nature, days will come and go that naturally will impose unhappiness. Fight it. Fix it. Choose happiness and be happy.

That’s more knowledge than I knew a few years ago years ago. When I turned 25 amidst a painful divorce. When I was 24 with a newborn in my arms. Or 23 and being married. Or 21 being engaged. Living in a bubble.

So here I am now…I still don’t know a lot. But I know much more. More than just knowing happiness is a choice. That’s just what seems important right now… and wanting to share it. With a three year old. A few months shy of getting married. Feeling as though I’ve aged 20 years over the past 3. And there’s so much that I don’t know still of course… because I now know more. That’s why I’m not shaken, surprised by much. Every now and then that one instance throws me, but overall it’s pretty steady. Knowing now that human behavior is full of endless possibilities… not everyone thinks the same way, acts in the same manner. People are both intentional and unintentional. But also full of goodness (a post for another day). More understanding, more empathic. More accepting, less judging. My armor is knowledge, experiences that led me here. Stability.

Happier. Smarter. Richer for knowing I don’t know much.

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Normalcy.

We are busy people. There’s so much I have to say, but so little time to say it all it seems.

The constant hustle that is wearing many hats leaves little time for leisure, i.e., my blog. Sometimes what I want to say out loud is distorted upon delivery. That’s why this outlet is exactly leisure for me, what I want to say I can say. It’s accomplishing and reinforcing that subtle words can impact the lives of others. That’s the beauty of reading and writing.

It’s a good hustle though, the business. Currently. It’s a solid routine of commitments and expectations without the constant second-guessing and rumination. Less wastes of time. It’s confidence in that my life now really is full of goodness and it’s true. It’s terribly busy but full of simplicity. It’s a steady continuum of supply and demand within the exciting chaos. Balanced and normal.

So that’s exactly it. Happy to have normalcy. Happy for the realness.

The word “normal” usually comes with it a negative connotation in pop culture. If you’re normal you’re boring. Don’t be normal, be different. Normal is an insult.

Me? I’m grateful for the normal amidst my busy life. Generally speaking… Normalcy on a daily basis. I’m grateful that the words spoken are exactly what’s thought within. Lacking ulterior motives. No skewed visions that don’t make sense nor get explained. There are no other plans other than what’s said and not said. There’s no show, no front built up to be something that doesn’t necessarily even matter. What normalcy is for me is honest, believable. And I’m thankful for that. Actually, I’m more than elated having exactly that.

And within a steady, normal life, needs do still remain.  Just less of them.

When what I want is reassurance, I get it. When I need a listening ear as the demands start to outweigh the supply, I have it. When it’s direction I’m lacking, I’m steered straight.

It’s all I really need. And what I wish for everyone else is this as well. Some taste of normalcy too.

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Undeserving

It’s a feeling I’ve been hanging on to for a while.

My friends and family get so upset when I tell them that I feel undeserving. Undeserving of something really good.

It’s really been the one negative emotion that I haven’t been able to shake thus far. I guess this is what people might mean when they say ‘damaged’? The extreme end of humility. Feeling undeserving is my biggest insecurity… possibly my only one left of the many that were instilled within me, so I’d say that’s a good thing.

One of my friends told me that she’d rather me end up with a fairytale life than her if she could choose between since I deserve it.

Another became upset once when I referred to ‘the situation I got myself into,’ refusing to agree with me that that’s actually what happened. It wasn’t a choice I made, she said. And that I deserve such goodness and someone special.

Tears have streamed down their faces because of my expression, so immediately I regretted sharing.

(I have some pretty amazing friends.)

In my mind and heart, I’m undeserving, but I am also okay. I do want to eventually feel deserving, of course. But I don’t know what it’s going to take. A final transition within myself probably, but how do I get there?

Put a ring on it

About how long after you had your baby did it take to fit your wedding ring back on?

I feel so naked without my wedding ring! I couldn’t wait to put it back on my finger.

Why would I have gotten a fake one just to fit when I have a real one waiting for me to put it back on?

I won’t cry, I won’t cry.

I didn’t cry. I’m used to the kick-in-the-stomach questions and conversations like these by now. It doesn’t get me as much as it used to. In fact it doesn’t get me at all.

When I moved home last year? Holden was 5 months old. One of the hardest kicks came from a lady who I just met saying, “Oh! You were the girl on the cover of the InRegister bridal issue! I just adored your wedding! It was so beautiful!” I believe this happened the week I filed for divorce. I just stood there with tears streaming down my face as I held Holden and couldn’t respond.

These words of the other moms in Holden’s Wednesday mornings Mommy & Me gymnastics class pierced through my ears as I struggled to get Holden to sit on his red floppy circle for the ‘stretch’ before class began. I have the only boy there, but he needs to go to exert some energy.

Like this:

Which is the amount of energy he has all. day. long.

During the conversation, I think about how I will respond. If I start to think about getting upset, I turn it around. These are moms who are happily married, some of which are expecting again. I’m happy for them. Hopefully, that will be a conversation I can in join one day (if not, that’s okay too), but not without taking a look at some ring fingers first.

The lucky one

Just as I find myself feeling strong enough to come off of my medication, I think, “Hey, what a good idea it would be to watch The Lucky One all by myself while eating a gallon of mint chocolate chip!”

Single Mother…. check.

Adorable son… check (my only thing to brag about).

Amazing soundtrack… check.

Zac Efron / ex-marine with a big heart (who loves dogs) and a body like whoa…. future check?

Agree to disagree

It goes a little something like this. Everyone is different, and not everyone will agree.

It’s this simple.

There have been two major times during my professional career, and many times in my personal life, in which I have learned this lesson. I am still struggling with what I know to be the resolvement: to let it go. If anyone knows of a better solution, please inform me.

I am the type of person who, when my mind and heart are dedicated to something, I need to do it all the way. I need it to carry through. I don’t wait until the last minute, but as soon as I can. I overachieve. To quote Noah from The Notebook, “When I see something I like I gotta have it. I love it. I go crazy for it.” Obviously here I am not talking about someone else, maybe in the future! But for now, this applies to anything. Even selling a house I’ve come to find.

The point I’m trying to make is, even when you work so hard for something, no matter what your intentions are (in my two major professional situations, the best of) sometimes you won’t be perceived that way. Sometimes people will just disagree, and if they go further, misperceive your intentions. It’s unfortunate, but hey agreeing to disagree is something we all have to face from time to time, right?

If you know you’ve done what’s right, with all of your heart and mind, and you can’t get any further by any means of your effort, there’s only one thing left to do.

Let it go.

If you’re a bird, I’m a bird

Sitting in a closing early this evening, we were waiting for some copies. The title attorney recognized the nursing home housekeeping scrubs that the sweet African-American woman, the buyer, was wearing. He mentioned to her that he had been there before. She smiled a mouth full of gold teeth and giggled as if he was telling a joke. In all seriousness he started to explain how he knew about it.

There was an elderly man whose wife was admitted to this certain nursing home upon advancing Alzheimer’s. They had been married 60 years. He was heartbroken and did everything he could to get her out of the home. He even snuck in and hid to spend the night in her recliner beside her bed just so he could be with her while she slept.

They had little money. This man sold his home to afford the cost of being able to get her out of the nursing home and move somewhere else together just so he could be with her and take care of her.

This elderly man was the title attorney at my table’s client.

I watched as the lightbulb turned on across the table for the buyer. For she had worked at the nursing home for years and new exactly who he was referring to. “Oh that was Miss Elsie!” (Or some name with an E… I couldn’t focus on the details as I was trying not to cry). She started laughing as she recalled how her husband would try to smuggle her out of the home on numerous occasions. The staff even had to put a censor on her ankle in case she ever left the doors. I guess a hand-full of other ladies at the home complained about how they wished a man loved them like that, the rest saying no thank-you.

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I’d want that kind of love.

I smile thinking about The Notebook and how similar their love must have been to the fictional tale of Noah and Aly. I guess that type of love isn’t just in books or movies.

Connections

The anticipation is the worst part. You know that in a half hour it will all be over and worth it. You try to distract yourself, think happy thoughts as you feel the warm paste on your leg grow bigger. Just as you start feel the breeze come across your face while lying on the beach…YOWZA! There it is!

“So Miss Samantha, you were saying?,” I hear her asking as the tingling spreads across my thigh and my eyes fill with tears. It had been a while since I went in for a wax, and I was due. Overly due. I can’t believe I had waited this long into the summer, especially when swimsuit season starts as early as March in South Louisiana.

She was a light-skinned, beautiful African-American woman with kind eyes and a gentle smile. Strong voice, assertive. Welcomed me right in. I knew I was in for it. The aesthetician room was my torture chamber, and she the master. So abruptly I switched from the dimly lit, aromatherapy-smelling massage room across the hallway. This one was bright and sterile. Like a doctor’s office filled with tools. Preparing myself for vulnerability, I zeroed in on that boiling pot of wax and took a deep breath. I remember thinking, why on earth did I not schedule the massage AFTER the wax?

I have to state though, since becoming a mother I am somewhat superhuman. I have been able to recondition what hurts and what hurts badly. All you have to do is this, as soon as that pain starts to take over, think…Contraction! If you’ve given birth, I can swear by this strategy. People say that a contraction feels like a really, really bad menstrual cramp. I wanted to strangle those people as I was in labor. Hell no, it did not ‘feel’ like a menstrual cramp. Compared to what I was feeling, a menstrual cramp was a nice slice of strawberry shortcake. Anyway, it works. Paper cuts, toe jams, hitting your head, even a wax… just as the words fumble out of your mouth, redirect those thoughts. Holy Mother F….Contraction! Hmm. Doesn’t feel so bad after all.

Strange isn’t it? Those brief moments you feel at one with a complete stranger. A connection. Normally people work at these connections. Friendships, relationships, etcetera. This time it fell right into my lap. Literally, with the wax and everything. The aesthetician’s words were telling my story. I didn’t even probe. Just laid there…Contraction!… and taking it all in. Every word. I felt the tears run down my cheeks, not from the burning sensation all the way down my legs. But from emotion. All I could think about as this woman laid out her life to me is what an amazing person she was. Resilient to the fullest, but ever so faithful and honest.  The situation with her ex-husband. A better person because of what she had gone through, and a strong mother whose main priority was a delicate little girl, or diva as she joked. She was talented too, a psychology degree just like me, but a wearer of many hats. An actress in the local theater, a dermatologist’s assistant, a graduate student. Aesthetician on the side, only for her preferred clients. Yea, she knew she was going places as did I when we were both young and naive. As far as we knew it, the world was in our palms.

I left the spa feeling rejuvenated in every way. I can thank that woman for that as well as my smooth legs. Every day we pass by so many people. People we don’t know one bit. Every one with a different story. Then in one second, when the stars align, two of those people connect in a way that was for sure intentional, and probably not under our control. I’ve had many, many of these moments. Each one with so much meaning too. Those instant connections make me so grateful for humanity.