Mamapedia National Voices
Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.
by Lucille Zimmerman
Photo by: Shutterstock
Three days ago, my son attended his dad's wedding. He got dressed up in a suit and bow tie and led the way down the aisle as the pageboy, wrote a little speech which the best man delivered on his behalf then well and truly burnt up the dance floor. More
Three days ago, my son attended his dad’s wedding. He got dressed up in a suit and bow tie and led the way down the aisle as the pageboy, wrote a little speech which the best man delivered on his behalf, then well and truly burnt up the dance floor.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out what he wrote in his speech or how he was really feeling on the day. I was not there with him – I was 4000 km away on the other side of the country.
I do know that he was very excited to be flying to Brisbane unaccompanied, and that he was chuffed to be asked to be part of the wedding party. He was also looking forward to seeing his dad’s sister and brother, who had both flown in from England. Except for a very casual marriage ceremony he and I went to several years ago, it was also the first real wedding he had ever attended.
When he walked off the plane, he didn’t give me the enormous hug that I was expecting; not like other times when he has returned from holidays with his dad. He did give me a little hug, but it felt rushed, awkward even. His trip to Brisbane lasted only three days this time. I know that he must have been extremely tired from doing the flight twice in less than half a week and from all the excitement that he’d packed in in between. He’d probably only had five hours’ sleep the night before after getting home late from the reception then getting up early to get to the airport. This is what I told myself to rationalise his lack of affection.
I can’t deny that it hurt though.
On the way home in the car, I asked him all sorts of questions about the wedding, mainly about what he had to do as a pageboy, if he’d had fun dancing, if he’d had a wonderful time catching up with his aunt and uncle. He responded to everything without going into much detail then suddenly he said: “why are you asking me all these questions?”
I was doing what I normally do. Each day when he comes home from school, I bombard him with questions about what he did at recess, what he did at lunch, what he learnt that day, what was his favourite thing that happened during the day, and so on and so on. I got the feeling this time that he knew that this wedding had nothing to do with me. I felt intrusive then for asking.
So how does it feel when the man you married marries someone else?
The day of the wedding, I was laying on the grass out in the garden, my baby crawling around on top of me, enjoying the spring weather and watching the clouds form and reform themselves into animal shapes. As I daydreamed, I asked myself that very question: what exactly are you feeling?
It’s been almost seven years since we went our separate ways. It was my decision. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the hardest damn decision I’ve ever made in my life though.
For at least two years afterwards, if you’d asked me how I felt, I would have said angry. I was angry at the man I married for belittling me for four years, for controlling me, for uttering unspeakably cruel words which echoed in my ears day after day. I was bitter for the time I had lost by being with him, time I felt that was supposed to have been the very best years of my life. I was crushed by the sting of infidelity. I was exhausted beyond measure from lack of sleep. Then like salt to a wound, I was also shocked and deeply hurt by the judgement I faced from others from having left a marriage and from having taken my son away from his father.
But mostly, people didn’t really ask me how I felt and to those wonderful enough to really care, I usually shrugged it off and said I was coping pretty well. I’d got married young and I knew full well that there were whispers behind my back underlining my stupidity and speculating an expiry date for my relationship well before I’d even walked down the aisle. When I ended the marriage, I knew there were just as many whispers of I told you so. Many arguments ensued in those first years. Not just between my ex and I. Not everyone in my camp was happy with my decision and my ex’s family definitely weren’t. I was the one to pull the plug and that therefore made me the bad guy. Those were the years of cries and whispers.
I didn’t have any close friends at the time who were divorced or separated. In fact, a lot of my friends were still living at home with their parents or were setting off to backpack around the world. Every time I spoke to my ex on the phone regarding the finer points of our separation – the distribution of our belongings, the signing of the divorce papers, the organisation of his visits with our son – the conversation would turn ugly after a matter of minutes and my stomach would twist in angry knots of hatred. Yes, I really did hate him. I hated him for a long, long time.
But time marches on. Each season fades into the next. Eventually we learn how to sleep again and slowly, ever so slowly, we heal during that sleep. We go to new places, we meet new people. These places and these people can change us for the better, if we let them. A cloud that was once a dragon gradually turns into a butterfly.
So this is what I realised, as I lay there: I realised that I did not feel anger, or resentment, or bitterness or envy or even scorn. I realised that I genuinely want my son’s father and his new wife to be enormously happy and to stay together in that happiness for the rest of their lives. I need my son to know that relationships can work and that they can last. I want him to see as many examples of that in his life as possible. With all my heart I hope that their marriage is blessed with children, because I want my son to have more brothers and sisters. When they come along I know it will feel like another party that I’m not invited to, but I will still be delighted for them. I know that even if I never see their future children, I will love them simply because they are my little boy’s little siblings.
Something has shifted over these years. My son’s father and are aren’t exactly friends, but we can talk on the phone now without arguing. I now realise we have very little in common and even if we did, I don’t think it would be respectful to his new wife if we were to be ‘friends’. Everybody is different, but that’s just how I feel about it. I see him very seldom and I know that if it weren’t for our son I would never see him at all. We don’t really talk about anything except our son, so our limited conversations are centred on a little boy who we both think is absolutely incredible. That is one thing we do have in common.
My relationship with his family has changed too. There have been several times over the last couple of years where we have shared a cup of tea at each other’s homes when I have dropped my son off to see them or when they were bringing him home to me. When my daughter was born, they sent me little baby dresses in the mail. Whenever they see her, they always fuss over her.
Sometimes it seems that it all happened decades ago. Other times it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, that it happened to someone else altogether. Every now and then I think of one of our happier moments, years ago. For such a long time, I couldn’t remember any of the good times we had together at all; they were so clouded by all the hurt and sorrow. And when I think of one of those moments, I stop and smile.
I have discovered something that I believed impossible seven years ago. I have discovered that it is possible to find a sense of peace.
Lizzy Allan is a mother of two, a teacher by trade and a gypsy by nature. She has lived in Sicily and Sweden and many towns and cities throughout Australia. A hoarder of books and an experimental cook, she loves languages, natural medicine, photography, the ocean and all things Italian. You can more on her blog or follow her on Twitter.
My Aunt Flo is due to visit tomorrow, and I have to say I’m just a bundle of anxiety. I don’t know why I’m surprised. It’s always like this, even though she comes every month. Still, somehow I’m consistently taken off guard and unprepared for her visit. I fidget nervously. I’m a bit on edge. Nothing seems right and I have to fix everything before she arrives. Everything!
The pictures on the wall have magically all tilted overnight, and there’s cat hair all over the place. It’s also apparently too difficult for anyone to put their cereal bowls in the sink, or manage to reach the hamper with their dirty underwear. Seriously, are those extra two inches just too much?
Don’t they realize the stress I’m under? She’ll be here any minute.
“Is something wrong?” My husband asks, as I straighten the toys up for the kabillenth time, huffing and puffing and deep sighing, tossing toys with gusto into their bins. Stupid Superman figure. His face is so annoying. He makes me sick. I hurl him into the bin.
“What do you mean?” I snap. “Nothing’s wrong. It’s the same old wrong of every day. Why are you badgering me?!”
He looks afraid, and slowly backs away.
“Where is the freaking phone?” I yell to the air. I was holding it a second ago. A second! Oh, it’s still in my hand. My bad.
There’s too much to do. I need something to eat. And it has to be sweet. I need it right now.
I head to freezer and take out my ice cream tub and spoon out five scoops to my usual three, then reconsider, and add another scoop. I shove the container back into the freezer but something is wrong. It doesn’t close properly no matter how much I slam it. I slam it again! It’s not closing! I can not deal with that right now! I need to eat.
I’m consuming my bowl unconsciously; my brain thinking ahead of all the things that need to be done that aren’t done, and all the things wrong that might never be right, when my son comes in and asks for a cup of milk.
I nod, and reach into the fridge, but there is no milk. There is no milk! How did I let that happen? I’m usually so on top of stuff like that. I am a terrible mom. How do I not have milk for my children?
Tears start to well.
“I’ll have juice, mommy.” My son says, sensing my distress. Overwhelmingly grateful for my sensitive child, I hand him a little box of juice and he runs away happy. He’s so good and sweet. I’m so bad and disgusting.
When my husband comes back in, he finds me sobbing, kicking the freezer door trying to close it.
Tentatively, he steps towards me.
“There’s no milk,” I say.
“It’s okay.” He soothes. He’d better not laugh. If he does, I might kick him next.
I take a deep breath to regroup, and find my ice cream.
It’s all Aunt Flo. She’s making me crazy.
Because the only thing worse than waiting for Aunt Flo is when Aunt Flo is late.
Alisa is a SAHM with three delicious boys who she eats up day and night, except when they go bad, then she eats ice cream instead. On any given day she can be found throwing baseballs on the lawn, burning cupcakes and being dragged with her kids by her crazy husband on some fakakta adventure. Follow her at Ice Scream Mama or on Facebook or Twitter.
In the last few days I’ve heard from five people who told me the spouses of their adult children have limited access to their grandchildren.
I don’t know all the circumstances… one said she gave pasta to the child. Now the mom won’t let the child be at grandma and grandpa’s house.
I asked, “Is the child allergic to gluten?” “No,” she said, “his mom didn’t want him to have pasta and I forgot.”
Now let me give you a bit of background on myself: I did not have deep, warm, and safe attachments with my grandparents. I did have a grandma I loved, but we only saw her once a year when my parents packed up the Suburban with seven children and we drove 24 hours to Chicago. Grandma smelled like cantaloupe, coffee, and tomato soup all rolled up into one. Her husband scared me: smooching on you one minute but then smacking you the next. They were my dad’s parents; I didn’t know my mother’s parents.
In addition, I don’t know what it is like to be a grandparent. I have two grown children, one of whom just got married. But I can tell you the ache to nurture and love a baby is almost overwhelming these days.
I don’t think I need to be a grandparent to know that being one is a thousand times better than being a parent.
Because when you get to this stage of life, you have perspective. You’ve raised children and you don’t have to freak out about whether or not you’re doing it right. You don’t have to balance your time and energy with what it takes to survive in this crazy expensive world. You understand at a deep level that the more access your child has to safe and loving people, the more likely your child will grow up happy and whole.
So why am I writing a post about the importance of grandparents to grandchildren if I didn’t have a deep relationship with grandparents, and I have no experience as a grandparent?
Because I’m mad!
The five people I mentioned are good people. They are compassionate, sweet, healthy, caring, and whole.
And yes, my friends are imperfect, but everyone is.
They are suffering, while their adult children, or spouses of their adult children, are acting like spoiled bratty prime donnas. They would rather use their children as a weapons to inflict pain, than allow their children to love and be loved in a setting broader than their immediate family. I wonder how they will feel if their grown children limit access to their grandchildren?
What goes around has a funny way of coming around.
These adult children are immature. Rather than using grown up means of communication, they yank their children from what could be an immensely beneficial situation. There is no consideration for the childrens’ benefit and certainly none for the hurting grandparents.
Most grandparents can’t even protest—they know their rights are limited. They tippy toe, hoping for a crumb of compassion — 15 minutes of supervised visits with a grandchild — which will be tossed their way, if they behave.
Talk about a power imbalance. Grown children have all the leverage while grandparents and grandchildren get trampled in the wake.
Yet, here’s the sad thing: both grandchildren and grandparents are the losers.
According to a study presented at the American Sociological Associations 108th annual meeting, grandparents and older grandchildren who have good relationships with each other are less likely to suffer from depression.
“The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health.” ~Sara M. Moorman, an assistant professor in the department of sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College.
Moorman said she thinks the study resonated with people because of its “positive message”.
“It’s a good story about family relationships,” she said. “Grandparents and adult grandchildren contribute to each other significantly. That grandparents still continue to be a resource and affect the well-being of their grandchildren into adulthood is meaningful."
Other studies have shown that older men and women who do not have close contact with their family and friends had a 26 percent higher death risk over a seven-year period compared to those who were more social. The increased risk was still observed even if the person did not consider themselves to be lonely.
I am so grateful my own children got to spend a lot of time with their grandparents. Yes, we have horror stories (the time the rooster pecked one of the grandchildren’s foreheads), but my kids have a truckload of memories that will help them be more successful and more resilient. My kids are loaded with fun stories (hiking up Bears Ears), exciting stories (catching that first fish), loving stories (both grandmas arranging flowers at my daughter’s wedding), and sad memories (my grown boy carrying his grandpa’s casket).
So you see where I’m going . . . parents who limit their children’s exposure to the love of a grandparent remind me of the two mothers brought before King Soloman. Each claimed to be the child’s real mother. Solomon declared, “Let’s cut the baby in two!” The real mother—the thoughtful mother—pointed to the pretend mother and declared, “It’s her baby.” (I Kings 3:16-28)
She cared more for her child than for her own needs.
Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, though it is often indirect. Most of their significance to children is seen through the support and help they give to their parents.
Grandparents are often seen as “stress buffers,” family “watchdogs,” “roots,” “arbitrators,” and “supporters.”
Research suggests that children find unique acceptance in their relationships with grandparents, which benefits them emotionally and mentally. Grandparents can be a major support during family disruptions. Sometimes they’re playmates for their grandchildren. They’re very often role models and mentors for younger generations. They are also historians — teaching values, instilling ethnic heritage, and passing on family traditions.
And so I write this article for my hurting grandparent friends whose hands are tied and mouths are clamped shut.
I have nothing to lose. Their grandchildren have everything to lose!
Do you think grandparents are critical to the emotional health and happiness of grandchildren?
Why or why not?
*A disclaimer: Anyone who knows me, knows I’m the first to say boundaries must be set with a grandparent who is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive.
Lucille Zimmerman is a counselor and teacher at Colorado Christian University. She has a passion for helping hurting people. Check out her newly published book: You can read more on her blog and follow her on Twitter.
Our first child was born two weeks before Christmas and for the last 15 years, the belief in Santa, reindeers and the North Pole have (once again) been a regular part of the season.
I’m feeling a little wistful this year because I fear that it may be the last Christmas that we have a true believer in our family. Our youngest child is eight and in the third grade, the same age and grade I was when I found out there was no such thing as Santa.
Or as I remember it, the day I took my first step into adulthood.
Growing up holidays were a huge deal in my family, and none was as big as Christmas.
Right after Thanksgiving, my mom would paint a Christmas scene on our front door, start baking fruit cakes, dozens of cookies, and plan her wonderful gingerbread houses. There was a joy that entered our house, and it stayed until New Year’s Day.
My parents loved the mystery and fantasy of the season. They really turned the day into a magical celebration, and Santa Claus was a huge part of their plans.
My two sisters and I saw him every year.
In the flesh.
In our own home.
At around 2:00 am or 3:00 am Christmas Day, Santa Claus would come in to set up the tree and bring our presents. He would stay just long enough to wish us a Merry Christmas, and then he would run out the door to continue his work.
Why were we so lucky to get to see Santa each year when our cousins and our friends did not?
Well my maiden name starts with a B, and as everyone knows Santa delivers his presents in alphabetical order. It was just a good piece of luck that we had a name in the beginning of the alphabet. Our best friends and cousins had to suffer with surnames starting with Hs, Ms, or Zs.
My parents would put us to bed by 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm on Christmas Eve. We would have to will ourselves to fall asleep. The anticipation was almost too much.
The ornaments would be left out so Santa could trim the tree for us. We didn’t see our Christmas tree decorated until after Santa came.
With much fanfare and excitement, my mother would wake us up in the middle of the night. She would tell us to listen for the sounds of Santa’s reindeer’s on our roof.
(It wouldn’t be until years later that I found out it was my dad throwing pebbles on the roof. These people were not fooling around.)
I still remember the rush of adrenaline I got as we walked down the stairs, clinging nervously to my mother. We were in the presence of a celebrity. And not just any celebrity, this was, The Man himself. It wasn’t just the Christmas elf helping out at the local mall.
How lucky could a girl from Long Island get?
Santa would hand my sisters and me a present and tell us how good we had been the whole year. Then he was off. The whole visit lasted about five minutes.
As we were opening up our gifts, my dad, who always managed to miss Santa, would come back from the store having had to buy ice at 2:00 in the morning. We would tell him all about our visit and would unwrap the rest of our gifts when it was still pitch dark outside.
I could never understand why my dad always forgot to get ice each year. Did the man never learn?
When I was in the third grade, my friends started to say something that was just outrageous. According to some of these so-called friends, there was no such thing as Santa Claus. They had the crazy idea that our parents were the ones who really bought the gifts.
Poor misguided souls. If they only had names in the beginning of the alphabet.
One day I’d had enough of these naysayers and decided to ask my mother, the person I knew would tell me the truth, why these poor children would doubt the existence of Santa Claus.
As I remember it, it was a few weeks before Christmas, and I was alone in the car with my mother.
“Mom I really want to know, is there such a thing as Santa Claus?
“You want the truth Kathy?”
I should add that I was 99.9% sure she was going to say yes. How could it not be true? I saw him every year.
“Well, there is a Santa, but he is the spirit of Christmas.” Then she went on to explain that the man in the red suit who rode in a sleigh with eight reindeer was just a fun story.
I was devastated. This was not the answer I was expecting. It was the beginning of the end of my childhood innocence.
I found out the truth. Daddy was Santa. He really did not go out to buy ice in the middle of the night, he was getting out of his costume.
What was the world coming to? What was she going to say next that there was no Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny either?
We both cried in the car. It was the beginning of the end for her too. Her oldest child was growing up.
That Christmas was different for me. It ushered in a new phase in my life. I remember I got to stay up a bit later and trim the tree with my older cousins who were already in the non-believers’ club.
As much as I loved the mystery of Santa, I also loved that I was growing up. I felt as if I was in a secret club, different from my sisters.
Our family traditions started to change after that year. The next Christmas we put up our tree as a family, and when my youngest sister finally admitted that she knew the truth, we even started taking turns dressing up as Santa. Christmas was still special but different.
Peter is my baby, and when he crosses over to the land of the non-believers that will be it for Santa and my family until my kids have families of their own.
Just as it was a step into adulthood as a kid, it will be a step into a new phase of my parenthood.
Is it wrong that all want for Christmas is one more year with Santa?
Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog, My dishwasher’s possessed. She is honored to have essays in two anthologies, Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother, and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
When my husband and I had been married for a few years, I went through a period of being conflicted over whether I wanted kids or not. I once said to him, “What if I decide I don’t want to have kids?” to which he lovingly replied, “I would leave you.” (I have witnesses.)
Clearly, he suffered no such ambiguity. I think it’s notable to consider who ended up stepping away from HER career once we did procreate. (Can I get an, “Amen, sister”?)
Anyway, during this time, I searched for a book that would help me weigh the pros and cons of having children, but I came up empty handed. The opinions of my friends with children weren’t helpful because, much like a foreign terrorist group, part of a parent’s job is to recruit others to the cause.
As I am nothing but helpful and don’t take orders well, I have decided to break with protocol and give you a real, constructive way of determining whether parenthood is right for you.
- The exact scheduling of your sex life
- The quantity and quality of your husband’s/donor’s sperm
- The evils of formula feeding
- The evils of breastfeeding
- The evils of starting a child on solid food before the age of 6
- Whether or not you will circumcise a potential child who may or may not have a penis
- Mucus plugs
- The diameter of your cervix
- Rock hard porn boobs (I’m guessing your partner will give that one a thumb’s up)
- Cracked nipples
- Heartburn that makes Flaming Hot Cheetos seem mild
- Leaking milk in public
- Catching vomit with your bare hands
- Having poop in the crevices of your wedding rings
- Add dark circles under your eyes
- Add wild eyebrows, hairy armpits and an unruly bush
- Delete manicure and pedicure
- Take your perky B cups and replace them with one of the following:
1) droopy A cups that look like deflated balloons, or
2) enormous D cups that require major structural underpinnings and make all your tops fit like that half-shirt you wore in 10th grade
- Add stretch marks (this one’s optional, but you don’t get to choose)
- Add one muffin top
- Have sex
- Poop in private
- Sleep 5 or more hours in a row
- Eat a hot meal
- Be on time for anything, ever
- Have an uninterrupted conversation
- Put your makeup on anywhere but in a moving vehicle
- Add approximately 5,000 garishly colored plastic objects
- Add a film of filth to every wall measuring from the ground up to approximately 3 feet high
- See that handy guest room? Remove guests and add a bunk bed
- Throw all your clothes on the floor
- Gather all the objects that are irreplaceable and smash half of them
- Replace that Diptyque candle with the scent of a teen boy’s feet after marinating in sweaty sneakers all day
“Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, moooooooommyyyy!!! Now, how do you feel?
- Have your intelligence insulted on every subject?
- Be the cause of constant embarrassment?
- Be viewed as nothing more than a chauffeur, chef, ATM?
- Receive late night calls from the police?
- Listen to the same Taylor Swift CD over and over and over again?
- Age 20 years in the next 5?
If all of the foregoing sounds like a fun adventure to you and your partner… congratulations! You are now ready for some super hot, rigorously scheduled sex.
If not, then run! Run for your life! That is until your hormones take you hostage and send a ransom note demanding a soft, pink, sweet-smelling, little ball of love who will steal your heart and trash everything else in its wake.
Jaclyn Schoknecht is a former Los Angeles entertainment lawyer and producer who got all hormonal, had two kids and reemerged from the fog only to find herself a conflicted forty-something Atlanta stay-at-home mom. She is currently on a quest to claw her way back up the corporate ladder… or at least learn to bake a decent loaf of bread. You can read more at Mommy Ennui.