Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What my kids say....

Since I'm a spokesperson in favor of Choice Motherhood, I'm aware that it might put a burden on my kids over time to be rah-rah. And I want to be careful that they are able to express how they really feel about aspects of it. I don't want either of them to feel they have to be "poster children" for Choice Kids.

For now, my nearly 3-year-old son is still trying to put basic sentences together, so it will be awhile before he and I discuss the Choice lifestyle in any detail. But I was amazed when my boy of few words saw an online version of my book cover and exclaimed, "Mama's book." Good brand imaging, I guess—I wasn't aware that particular design had any meaning for him.

My 7-year-old daughter proudly tells kids that her mom is a "Choice Mom," and that I have written a book that "millions of people have read." (Wouldn't that be nice for my bank account. )

But I don't want them to ever feel that because I'm proud and confident of my choice to be a single mother that they are not allowed to feel something else. I know my daughter recognizes that there are aspects of Choice Motherhood that are tough. (Although frankly, I think it's self-employment that makes it tougher.)

Recently she asked why I wanted to have kids without a partner....which enabled us to talk about how important it is to find the right person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

We're in an interesting place, because I'm raising them alone, and paying my bills alone, yet I'm married for two years now to a widower who is raising his teenage special needs daughter alone. (She tends to be aggressive, especially toward my little ones, which is why we don't live together.) So last night she and I talked about how it is different when he is with us, which happens about one weekend every two months (when his daughter is in respite care), and for maybe an hour each week before he and I go on date night.

She clearly loves having mom's attention and devotion most of the time. She likes having him show up occasionally to mix things up, but right now thinks men tend to be "rougher, and like wrestling, and don't care as much as moms do about watching what you're doing." I'll continue to remind her of the fun things we do with the men in our lives.

My son LOVES his visits, and I'm trying to get them together more frequently. He loves the wrestling, and being lifted and spun around in the air. And my outdoorsy husband is likely the one who will get both of them skating, bike-riding, and more over time. Good balance to their more bookish, indoorsy mom, who would rather take them to a museum than play in the backyard.

Both kids call him by his first name, rather than "dad" or "stepdad." That might change in four years or so, if he ends up living with us after his daughter gets into a group home situation.

For now, I welcome his influence on my kids, as well as his brothers and father as male role models who complement my brother and father (all quite different!), whenever we can get it. And I'll continue to find ways of letting them separate from mom's more intense presence as they mature.

I'm feeling really good especially about the International Baccalaureate program at my daughter's elementary school, which has an excellent male principal. There she's learning about the skills and strengths of being an Inquirer, a Communicator...the value of being Caring and Principled...

Last week she was awarded a Student of the Month recognition. Her classmates and teacher rewarded her for exhibiting the traits of Tolerance.

When her principal asked students assembled for a definition of tolerance at the award ceremony, my normally shy daughter quickly raised her hand and said, "Respecting other people for who they are."

I teared up. I don't think there's anything more valuable to me right now than knowing my little girl practices, understands and succeeds at putting tolerance into action. If my daughter lives a life of "Respecting other people for who they are," I'll be a very happy mom indeed.

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