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Trying to do something right

3.30.2010

in Uncategorized

As I type this in the dark of the cloudy, diffused, early morning daylight, Nate is sleeping off his ninth consecutive night shift. I’m convinced that this isn’t just some sort of new guy dues-paying hazing exercise at his restaurant, as it is a wily attempt on behalf of the chefs to break up our relationship.

That is, whatever kind of relationship you have when the only time you see your sigOth is as you quietly dress in the dark so as not to wake him.

Which also explains some of my wardrobe choices lately.

One of the hardest aspects of our work situation right now is the whole single mom-ish piece of it. I’m not a single mom, of course. If I did, my insurance premiums would be way less and I wouldn’t be in possession of a dog hair-encrusted Washington Redskins blanket. But when I’m the one getting the kids dressed and fed, racing off to a 10 or 12 hour work day, coming home (hopefully) in time to read them stories and get them back into bed, all while trying to eke out a little down time for myself, it can get brutal.

I’m starting to feel more and more, as I’ve mentioned before, that that World’s Greatest Mom Trophy is escaping my reach. I’m more apt to dump cereal in a bowl for them a breakfast (Nate’s idea of the last circle of hell) than to attempt my famous eggs. My patience wears thinner and I find myself raising my voice more often than not, and making those idle threats that oh, every parenting expert in the world tells you don’t work. It’s hard to even make the quality time we do have together stick when I’m racing through the bedtime stories, knowing I still have taxes to do, dishes to wash, a blog post to write, dog pee on the kitchen floor (again), and no clean underwear.

Boy do I appreciate you single moms. You sometimes single moms. You formerly single moms. You military moms. You chefs’ wives. You parents of 800 children.

So in an attempt to resume my regularly scheduled life this weekend, I channeled the actions of one of my wisest single mom friends, and just got out. I dragged the kids to hair salon with me on Sunday, had my hair purdied while the kids ran around shrieking, and tipped the stylist a whole lot.

Then, against better judgment, I insisted that we were going out to a nice dinner, dammit.

We hit the local better-than-average Italian restaurant for the 5PM shift on Sunday, which sounds like it would be empty–except that we live in the Kidlandia section of Brooklyn. The manager offered us the one remaining table by the front window, right next to the panic-stricken older couple who took in the frazzled mom (with the good hair!) and her two catastrophe-ready daughters.

I wrangled Thalia and Sage in to their seats as we narrowly avoided the Great Booster Seat Meltdown of 2010, inspired by the horrible fact that there was only one and not two booster seats remaining. I kept the hungry girls occupied with crayons and word games, copious amounts of focaccia, and the (bribe) promise of dessert. Good dessert. We told stories. We quietly sang songs with silly words. We talked about the pussy willows in the vase on a nearby table, and how no, you can’t pet them right now like you do at Grandma’s.

Add the Great Pussy Willow Meltdown of 2010 to the Narrowly Avoided List.

Forks were loudly dropped and quietly retrieved. Loud high-pitched giggles were shushed down to a safe volume. Angel Hair was removed from Sage’s face (that she had put there). Miraculously, not a single glass of water was spilled.

A third meltdown was then averted as the busboy quickly wiped away the dusting of evil grated cheese that had accidentally fallen on Sage’s plate.

I didn’t divert my eyes from the girls for a second. It was exhausting.

The wine helped.

Mine, not theirs.

As we waited for the check, the eye-rolling couple approached the table. I braced myself, mentally creating my excuse about Nate the chef, and the long hours and how I just didn’t have it in me to cook and clean tonight so please please pleeeeease forgive us for dropping all the forks and singing the song about farts. I was prepared to cry, should it be necessary.

“I just want you to know,” the man said through a wide smile, “your kids are wonderful.”

What? They are?

“Oh, absolutely!” he beamed. “We were a little nervous when you sat down….”

I admitted I was having a bit of a breakdown myself.

“Well,” he continued as he buttoned his jacket, “it’s because you’re paying attention. Thank you for all of us. It was a pleasure.”

Thalia and Sage and I skipped the six blocks home. I let them sing as loud as they wanted.

79 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

amy turn sharp of doobleh-vay March 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

thanks for sharing yr life with us- it as always makes me feel connected to this big chain of motherhood/parenthood. xo

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Amanda March 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Threaded throughout this whole parenthood/marriage/life thing are these little crystals. Generous of you to share this one.

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Meredith L. March 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm

We all gotta do what we all gotta do. Major kudos to you, lady, for pulling it off with humor and wit. I raise my (filled to the rim) wine glass to you. L'chaim!

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Mrs. Q. March 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Your girls are gorgeous and hilarious and, although they sometimes drive you batty, I'm so glad you got out with them for a boost of mommy confidence.

I remember being in the same situation– my children were ridiculous, and I was freaking out trying to shush them; after dinner, a kind older couple came over and gushed about how wonderful they were and oh, lord– they eat sushi, too? WONDERFUL! They were right, and I ordered dessert.

I hope things get easier for you all.

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FreeRange Pamela March 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Oh, that's so lovely. I am totally with you on pretty much everything you covered here — the single-mom-seeming reality, the need to do something for yourself, the nail-biting nice dinner out. So glad you got a little positive feedback on one of the many, many things you're doing right.

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Boston Mamas March 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Beautiful Liz. And sending hugs. xoxo

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Rita Arens March 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Sometimes I think that's why it's so hard to get “you” time — it's just exhausting to make it happen.

I can totally picture you guys sitting in that restaurant. Great scene. Great voice.

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Jill March 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I too am alone with my kids – A LOT. I am not afraid to take them out (I'd go NUTS staying home) and if they cause a ruckus, then I embrace the ruckus (till they go to bed at which point I cry into my pillow.) :)

Well done.

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Her Bad Mother March 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I'm a TV industry widow. My husband disappears for days at a time, shooting commercials, during which time I am functionally single, and during which time it takes a great deal of effort to not go crazy.

I don't know the full-time single moms do it. I stand in awe of them. Also, in awe of your bravery. My children would dismantle a hair salon entirely, and no amount of tip would put it back together again.

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Ironic Mom March 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm

A breath of humanity in a busy world: that's what the elderly man's comment was, that's what your dinner out was, that's what your blog is.

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Lori March 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I LOVE it when people compliment my kids on their good behaviour in public situations like that so I've started making an effort to do the same for other mothers. Once in a while, everyone needs to hear they're doing a good job and mothers are too often overlooked.

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Amy March 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Coming out of lurkdom to tell you what a great job you are doping, though it may not feel like it somedays.

I too, am going through single parenthood right now. My husband is a nursing student with long clinical days and lots of patient research and papers to do. I'm forever trying to keep Makenna quiet so Daddy can work, but some days, it's just easier to get out of the house. I haven't braved the hair salon with her yet though.
You and your girls deserved the break and I'm glkad you got out and enjoyed an evening out.

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Beth March 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm

What an awesome story. With a very validating ending. You're doing things “right” way more often than you think.

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Selfish Mom March 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I admire you for getting out with them. When I'm exhausted and frazzled I'm so much more likely to stay in and yell. Which is kind of aerobic when you think about it, so I've got that going for me.

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Mara from Motherofalltrips March 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm

You have got the best voice in your writing Liz – funny and wise. Love this – especially that you went and got your hair done (GOOD FOR YOU!)

I'm taking this with me as inspiration as I prepare to fly cross-country with both kids solo on Thursday.

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tara March 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I don't know how you do it – work 10-12 hour days bookended by almost-single parenting and still have time for brilliant posts. good for you for getting your hair did. i'm so glad they noticed what a good job you do.

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Lisse March 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Thank god for people who will say things like this.

Behaving in restaurants is one of those things that's high priority for us, so it's nice to hear once in a while that our efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Great job!

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Jerseygirl March 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I feel your pain and I admire you more than I can say for going out to dinner solo. I honestly don't know how single moms do it either, but I do know that paying attention does make a big difference. Kudos to you. . .and kudos to the couple for telling you what a great job you're doing!

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Mom101 March 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Mrs Q, we waited til we got home to have dessert. I wasn't going to push my luck!

Ironic Mom: Thank you. Yes, that's exactly what it was. A little humanity.

Lori: You're right, I'm going to do it more too. Mamas paying it forward. Yeah!

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Jennie March 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Good for you! It's tough enough taking those outings even with a partner. I agree…BIG props to single parents. BIG. and how nice of that man to comment on the GOOD stuff. Seems that most of the time people only expend energy to let the world know how annoyed/put out they are. We need to give each other the “thumbs up” a lot more!!

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Anonymous March 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Tears stream down my face as I read your post. I can relate in the worst way and it is so difficult! Thank you from a mom who feels like nothing is going right.

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cheri March 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

you did win the award! we all do the best we can, given the circumstances.

i'm skipping with you and the girls :)

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Jaelithe March 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I am continually in awe of your ability to juggle all the different aspects of your life so beautifully.

I know from your perspective it must look like you're almost dropping balls left and right. But from out here, in the audience, it's a damned impressive performance.

I hope your life and Nate's slow down a bit as soon as possible, though, so he can make his fancy duck fat eggs for breakfast and you can take an hour to get your hair done without company, and all of you can spend more time together.

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sarah doow March 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Well done you. How nice of the man to come and give the compliment out loud, rather than just think it to himself.

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saradgoldberg March 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Thank you for writing this. My husband was away all weekend and by Sunday night I felt like a pretty horrible mom. The thing is, I know I'm not. And your post reminded me of those moments when, like you, I am doing it right – and darn well.

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andreaberg March 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm

What an amazing post. I just found your blog and love it already! Going out to eat is one of the most stressful times with my kids but I insist on doing it, both so I get a break from cooking but also to teach them how to behave out to dinner. Keep up the good work.

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Beta Dad March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Great story!

I always get nice comments when I go places with my twins and they don't cause a riot. I wonder if that's because people start out with lower expectations from a dad out alone with his kids than they do from a mom. In any case, it's gratifying despite my having very little to do with their behavior!

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Mom101 March 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thank you all for the nice comments.

Sniff.

And Jaelithe, YES the main goal would be for us all to be together at some point. Wouldn't that be refreshing!

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Cloud March 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Awww. It is so nice to hear about people actually saying something nice!

I had a similar experience once, when I was still pregnant with baby #2. I gave in to the begging from the backseat and stopped at the library on our way home from day care. Unfortunately, my toddler started getting a little too loud, and I had to make her to leave before she really wanted to. As I stood outside the library trying to get her to stop screaming at me and walk to the car (I was pregnant, and tired, and did not want to carry her), a nice lady came out and said I was doing a great job, and that it would all pay off someday.

I'm still waiting for the pay off, but that comment just about made my week. I should write myself a letter to read when I'm 60, to remind me to do things like this for the next generation of struggling moms.

I hope the scheduling woes ease soon.

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Christy March 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

We started our own computer business over a year ago. I knew that when we started their would be long hours and a lot of hard work. And I am sure it will all be worth it in the end. But some days, like yesterday, I feel like everything is on my shoulders. The house the kids and all the activities they are involved in… well it's just a LOT. So I appreciate your post so much. I have some days that I don't know if I am gonna make it thru! But this post gives me strength in knowing that I am not alone. Thanks for sharing your life with us. And I do hope things calm down some for you.

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Magpie March 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm

That was sweet of them.

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R March 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I can relate in that my husband works 12-hour shifts (5pm-5am) 3-4 days a week (alternates bi-weekly) as a Sheriff's Deputy and leaves before our baby girl & I are home for the day, and is in bed before we're out of it in the mornings… some nights when I'm home alone and E (almost 15months old) is on a cranky/teething/crying/fussy jag I can only sit down and cry myself… other nights I buck up, head to Target and let her run around while I browse… I can't imagine doing it with more than one child, or on a more regular basis – to the single moms – I salute you!

Good for you on the hair, and congrats on the compliment :) I hope you are able to remember that the next time you're about to go nutso ;) *HUGS*

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Lanita March 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Wow, what a mom! It's almost like having the people on the plane giving you the evil eye as you find your seat, only to tell you that they were “wonderful” as you wait to file down the aisle. Yeah, not every parent is bad. And yes, wine always help.

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chimom March 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Good for you. Hang in there! As the wife of an oft-traveling hubby I am sometimes single mom as well. Although the single (divorced) moms I know get every other weekend to themselves — can you imagine?!?!

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Abbey March 30, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Now that is a good story. Thanks for sharing and big hugs for you!

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Jennifer (ponderosa) March 30, 2010 at 6:36 pm

All hail tolerant strangers!

I've been through days like that, single-momish days. My husband travels a fair amount… My kids get toast w/ jam, which is one step up from cereal : )

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The Empress March 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Beautifully written. Thank you. And the elderly gentleman was right on. It was because they were paid attention to. I see the opposite on planes, parents want to read their own thing, and actually expect their children to sit quietly while they do their own thing.

Ain't happening: just realize it, they need attention.

Good job. You should get the Mother of The Year Trophy.

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bernthis March 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I am a single mom of ONE and I find that hard. I would have assumed the guy was going to say exactly what you thought b/c that is what us moms always do.

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Laura March 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I feel like you have perfectly described my life over the past 10 months. My husband has been working over 800 miles away for 16 days at a time, then home for 4 or 5 days. While I am not technically a single mom, it sure did feel like it.

Having someone notice all the hard work you do and compliment you on the good behavior of your children just makes things a little bit easier, don't you think?

Luckily for me, my husband is now working much closer to home and we see him almost every day.

Give yourself a pat on the back. A mom's job is hard no matter what her situation in life.

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Mom101 March 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Seeing how hard you all have it, I'm duly honored you take time out of your days to come here. Thank you.

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MaggieK March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm

First…I just found your blog – and I love it. Second, I panic everytime I walk in to a restaurant with my four year old son – and would avoid taking him (and the baby) to a restaurant alone at all cost..Good for you

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Jessica {Team Rasler} March 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I don't know how the single moms do it, either. I am in awe of them each and every day. Kudos to you for acknowledging them AND for doing such a splendid job when it was your turn to be on your own. I love that the man came over to compliment your girls. When I was little, my mom would make sure that she told us about every compliment she got on our behalf and how she was so proud of us. Give yourself the pat on the back, but let the girls think it was ALL THEM. If they are like me, it will inspire a lifetime of good behavior.

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Mama Cas March 31, 2010 at 12:04 am

Agreed…every word of it.

We've had it happen (once or twice), too…we go out for dinner and walk on eggshells the whole time and then get complimented by some very-generous stranger. I nearly weep at the kindness of it. Whether we'll admit it or not, we Moms need a pat on the back sometimes…and it just feels so good to get it!

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Rowgirl08 March 31, 2010 at 1:36 am

I'm off to get that glass of wine and sit back and think about what I need right now and work my lovely daughter and little boy into it too…

…oh yes, and get myself and DH (a Nate too) off the computers and into bed for a little loving…the one without the baby in it! LOL!

thanks for the inspiration and the reminder that it doesn't have to be perfect…hugs

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Denise March 31, 2010 at 12:47 pm

This made me cry. I'm a single mom.It's never easy, but sometimes SO rewarding.

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kootnygirl March 31, 2010 at 1:40 pm

How awesome!

We beat ourselves up so much for the times we do it poorly (or think we do it poorly)…doesn't it feel great when we get it right?

I have felt that single-mom thing. I think it gets better as the children get older, or we do it more, or something: http://rhapsodyinbeige.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/on-my-own/

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Kim March 31, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for sharing that story… it really made me happy. I am the same way about watching my kids like a hawk in public, so I can imagine how amazing it felt to hear that (I always picture people saying something like that to us at restaurants, but strangely enough it never happens…)!

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Jenny Grace March 31, 2010 at 3:52 pm

This story makes me happy. Really happy.

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Scat March 31, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Great snapshot! I loved it. “Westwant” terror is common in my life. My four-yr-old is the consummate gourmet and sits there like an angel (except for that one time when he decided he was a chicken–oh dear God). My seven-yr-old is getting better but still views the world as his playground. And I do mean playground. The single mom gig is hard, but you learn to manage the hysteria and shock. Sometimes I think the mother of the year trophy is going to be a t-shirt with a hole in the armpit, stains, an unrecognizable glob of something right where your breast would be and white smears from deodorant. That or a hair scrunchy.

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Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac March 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Wonderful post! I want to buy you a drink and hug that restaurant man!

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