I am writing this post with a well deserved homemade banana split as my writing companion. If last weekend was kick ass, this weekend pretty much kicked my ass. I am exhausted. I don’t even know what I want to say right now, except there is a rumbling in my brain, like far away thunder, and my thoughts feel thick, heavy with barometric pressure, the same feeling of unease I get when rain refuses to fall and storm clouds are still without release.
The boys’ father is having a hard time and I guess it is weighing on me. More than I would like to admit. It’s still hard for me to see him sad. Harder still when it affects our kids and I have to pretend that I have hope he will get better. Because I’m pretty sure he won’t. And I hate having to say the opposite.
As a parent I’ve learned to not make promises.
I’ve learned to show up; every day, every morning, every school meeting on my own, alone, I am there.
Because that is what matters
Promises are for people who aren’t there, and their father, all of his life, has wanted to be seen as a man of promise.
Promises are cheating to me, a way of getting the love or appreciation or respect before actually putting the work in. I don’t promise my children anything, I don’t want to waste my energy; I power their lives. The only promises I make are in my own head, and then they are more like oaths. Maybe more like challenges to myself. I see they need something, can I provide it for them?
Maybe it’s not just being a parent, maybe it’s the word smith in me. Words in complex forms and pretty shapes come easily to me. It drove their father crazy how easily I conjured just the right words out of thin air. We measure worth by the amount of labor put into a product, yes? For enough people, putting life into words takes effort. They have to really want to say something in order to put the time and energy into crafting a clear or eloquent sentence, paragraph or even a conversation.
So when the words roll off my tongue or onto paper or into a frame on a screen, it’s not the effort of craft I struggle with, it is the effort of integrity. Which is easy to confuse. Earnestness and a smooth tongue are difficult to reconcile. I can talk you in circles, up is down and everything is nothing and all you have to navigate your way through the maze I dropped you in is the same voice that just ensnared you… makes one a bit nervous now doesn’t it? My words can get me into and out of a lot of trouble.
And so my bullshit meter is Richter scale quality. When a person paints a pretty picture of promises to me, I will acknowledge it for what it is, a well crafted expression, but you won’t see me do backflips in appreciation. “Isn’t that sweet,” I think, “look at you putting words to an idea… let me know when you actually do it.”
Having children changed the weight of my words. I finally figured out why the boys get so upset when I curse: my blessings means everything. How often do we think about that?
Being a word person is kind of like being an architect, except your materials aren’t material; they are projections, emotions, the inherent beliefs we filter information through. Yet, an engineer is an engineer regardless; tensile strength, compound junctures, even foundations; words matter.
Do I want my children to believe everything I say? Yes. It’s a matter of survival. This is good, this is bad, this will help you, this will hurt you. It also limits what I can say to them about their father. I’ve learned the less I say about him the better. We only have so many years where words suffice and experience must take over. My words are a crucial guidebook; what they experience is their truth. His actions, or rather inactions, speak volumes. Which is such a cliche, but it’s true! I could have painted my children a noble portrait of the man I wished their father would be, the person I saw in him when we were young. I could have spun that tale so thoroughly no doubt of it’s veracity would have ever entered their minds. But I hate the way adults shift the real world experiences of children with the power of their words. I really really do. We constantly manipulate our youth to make the adults look better and then wonder why they have problems facing reality? Really? Um, no thanks. The boys have in me a co-consoler when it comes to their father, yes it is too bad, yes it is disappointing that he is so sad, yes you have every right to be frustrated, no it’s not normal, no it’s not ok he hasn’t called.
I am completely independent from their father. I’ve never asked for child support or demanded any resources from him. This allows me to be free. What he does, he does because he wants to, and the same holds true in reverse, what he doesn’t do… well he has a hard time explaining that to his very intelligent children. I’d rather struggle supporting us myself before I depend on him for one degree of comfort. And man does that piss him off, and has, continuously, for 8 years now.
I promise as little as possible and do A LOT. I act constantly. And it has carried over into my close friendships as well, if I care about you, you will hear very little promised by me; but I will show up. Always. Sometimes even without permission. Aside from my children, I don’t think about the future of my relationships much, there is too much going on in them today.
But, I’m a little tired. And I’ve typed for so long without stopping, all the ice cream has melted and slices of banana are floating in the dish. So maybe it’s time for Sundae soup.