Here we are, all geared up as Daphne and Velma. Fyi, the Daphne costume came from eBay, and the only thing Annika really liked about it was the wig. She LOVES this wig. I think it’s because she can flip her hair around and feel it on her shoulders. Who doesn’t love that?
The rest of the costume was not accurate enough. The dress is all wrong. And it came with boots! “Mom, Daphne doesn’t wear boots. She wears high heels!” Or, in this case, tennis shoes that light up when you walk. I think they look better than the boots, too, Annika.
However, she now wants me to go find her a proper Daphne dress, you know one that looks like this:
And not one that looks like a drag queen. (This is, by the way, the actual adult version of this costume. It’s kind of torturous, don’t you think?)
I bought all of my stuff at thrift stores with the exception of the socks, which I got at Academy (a sporting gear store. Think, softball knee socks.) And so since Annika wants to do this again for Halloween, with the proper outfit, I figure I might as well do Velma up properly and go find myself an orange turtleneck.
Every year around this time, Annika and I have discussions about Santa. And they are always ridiculous.
I don’t know if it’s just that my kid is too smart for my lies or if it’s that I’m just saying the wrong things.
Annika doesn’t seem to have this wonderful magical notion about Santa Claus. She’s suspicious of his motives, it seems. (Although, she has no problem accepting his gifts.) And confused about when he shows up.
This year I kept telling her that Christmas comes after Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving she informed several people that Christmas was, “tomorrow.”
It took me several tries to fix that mistake.
She’s also suspicious about his actual being. I like that she questions him. It is a character trait she got from me even though I have no such memories of wondering about his actual being. I was sure that Santa was real. And very disappointed when I found out that he wasn’t.
But Annika, oh this kid, she was on to me from the very start.
For the past two years, ever since she could talk, she’s asked me if Santa is real. My answer, vague as hell, which probably explains her suspicion, is that, “some people think he’s real.”
But it doesn’t end there.
She needs to know how he gets into our house since we don’t have a chimney. Last year I told her that I stay up and open the door for him.
After that, in her mind, Santa and I were old buddies who must sit around shooting the shit while she’s sleeping.
My story to fix that one just spiraled into a bigger mess.
I told her that even though I stay up and open the door for him, when he’s about to leave, he sprinkles me with magical dust that makes me sleepy and I forget all about him.
Christmas night, after I spent an entire day indulging myself and my daughter, as I drove home from my parents’ this thought crossed my mind, “I’ve lived a life of uninhibited indulgence.”
I’m not saying that I have lived a life filled with debauchery and excess. I haven’t. Not in the context of American life, anyway. In fact, it’s been the opposite. I’m un-American in many ways, in that I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, food, or cars.
But in comparison to most of the world, my life has been filled with always having enough. I’ve never lacked for anything, not really.
I’ve always had a home, with food on the table, clothes to warm my back, and transportation to take me wherever I need to go.
When it comes down to it, I’ve always done exactly what I wanted and gotten exactly what I wished for.
The latter part is subjective. There are many things I’ve wished for that I’ve never gotten. But in all honesty, they are things that are either impractical, illogical, or completely unnecessary to my being. Day-to-day, I cannot say that I have lacked for anything.
If I want new clothes, I buy them. If I want food, I get it. As an American, if I want. I get. It’s just that easy. While yes, there are poor people and homeless in this country, overwhelmingly, we are a country filled with more haves, in comparison to the have-nots.
Yesterday as Annika opened her gifts, she went from gift to gift, finding all things she had asked for at one point and a few things she had not.
Then we went to my parents’ where she got more gifts that she had wished for perhaps once.
Yesterday morning, the day after, we were driving in the car and I asked her, “Did you have a good Christmas?”
Her response was, “Well, Mommy, I did get the things I asked for, the dolly, and the wagon, and the jump rope. But I got a lot more things that I didn’t ask for.”
She wasn’t being ungrateful. I don’t think it’s logical to expect a 3-year-old to be that knowingly selfish. She was being honest.
It was too much.
Oh, from the mouths of babes.
And this conversation got me to wondering, “Can one suffer from having too much?”
This question in itself might seem selfish. But the reason I wonder is because I know that while I have always had plenty, I have not always been happy. And I look around me, at this world and our country, and I see many depressed and angry people, wanting something different.
We spend our lives wishing for more, or something else. And this season just has me wondering, maybe, it’s that we just have too much and that we got a lot of things that we never asked for.
To my surprise, Annika popped the big question to me the other day.
“Mommy, is Santa Claus real?”
I stammered for moment, wondering what to say. It had never occurred to me that she would ask at such a young age.
I guess my critical nature is rubbing off on her.
Let me just say, I was not prepared.
After stammering for a few seconds, I said, “Well, some people think he’s real.”
LAME ANSWER! My brain screamed. But at least I didn’t tell her a blatant lie.
Apparently it sufficed for the moment, because she began babbling and I vaguely remember something about Mrs. Claus and Rudolph before the conversation changed to more important topics like what kind of dog to be and the next thing I said was, “Stop licking my face!”
However, it wasn’t enough for the long term; the conversation didn’t end there.
A few days later, right in the middle of several days of learning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I referenced Rudolph in conversation as if he was real.
“Mama, Rudolph isn’t real!”
“He’s not?” I questioned.
“No Mama. Rudolph isn’t real. But Santa is real, and he’s fat because he eats too much sugar.”
She’s mentioned Santa again several times since then. And to be honest, my answers still haven’t become less lame because I honestly don’t know what to say to her.
What I Thought Before She Was Born
Before Annika was born, and even when she was still a tiny infant, I always thought that I wouldn’t do Santa.
I would never lie to my child, I swore on it. It had been so long since I had looked at the holidays through the eyes of a child, I had forgotten the fun of Santa.
But then she started to grow. And we had our first Christmas, and our second.
I began talking up Santa without even realizing that I had soften my stance on the issue. It just came naturally.
I realized that I wanted her to experience the magic of Santa Claus. The letter writing, the excitement on Christmas Eve, lying awake, hoping to catch a slight tinkle or clip clop of reindeer feet on the roof. The wonder when she awakes on Christmas morning to find gifts and candies.
I don’t know why it’s so important, but there seems to be something so special about believing in magic as a child. And Santa is just part of it.
I recently made the mistake of introducing fairies in a poor manner and now she’s afraid of them and tells me she’s allergic to fairy dust.
I really don’t want to screw Santa up.
Then and Now
So when she asked me last week if he was real. And then brought it up again. And again, I began to wonder, what is the right effing thing to do?
Do I play it off? Do I outright lie? Do I distract? Do I encourage? How will she look back on this as an adult and will she wish I had done it differently? Will she be pissed that I lied to her? If I told her the blunt truth, would be happy about it? Or would she be angry that I didn’t give her the magic of Christmas for a few years?
She’s so young. She could easily believe in Santa for several more years.
Part of me says that I’m obsessing over it way to much. “Just answer her GD question,” my pragmatic brain says. Any other question, and my parenting philosophy declares that I should give her an honest, age-appropriate answer.
But the other part of my brain says, “But she doesn’t know what she’s asking you to do. She doesn’t know that if she finds out the truth at age 3, she will lose several years of magic and make believe. She doesn’t know that she will have to be in on an adult secret while her friends still believe that the North Pole is home to elves who make toys and believe in a man who can fly around the world in one night.”
So for now, I’ll be lame. Because I can’t honestly say to her, “Yes, Annika Santa is real.” But I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell her that he’s not. Not yet.
I’ve had my share of being alone during the holidays.
After my divorce, living in Detroit, 1400 miles away from my immediate family, I spent plenty of Thanksgivings alone. And truthfully, it’s not that bad.
Yesterday, I spent the morning by myself. So even though this one was not spent alone, being without Annika gave me a bit of that feeling early on in the day.
I took a long walk early in the morning. I’ve done this on most holidays when I was alone. I love it because the streets are desolated. Walking the empty streets gives you a true sense of the world. The sky seems bluer than usual. The air feels crisper. Wildlife sounds aren’t masked by too much traffic. Bird songs are sweeter.
It’s a little like being out in the country, or in a sci-fi movie where everyone has been killed off by an alien virus, only you’re immune to it and you’re left to wander the earth by yourself. At least, that’s my favorite scenario. I suppose the first one would be preferable to most people.
If you have to be alone on a holiday, I think Thanksgiving is the best one to do by yourself. Christmas sucks because you can’t exactly give yourself presents. But if you want to, you can gorge on a huge meal and fall asleep in front of the TV by yourself.
On past holidays that I’ve spent alone, I never cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal for myself, but I always made sure that I had a favorite food handy and something to do, even if all I did was watch movies all day.
So yesterday I spent half of the day alone, pondering a world where I might wonder if I’d ever see another human alive, baking a pie, making some side dishes, and listening to the blues. There’s something about listening to the blues that makes being alone seem deep and meaningful. It helps change loneliness to solitude.
In the afternoon I went over to my parents house where my two brothers and one sister-in-law were hanging out with my parents. My older brother had brought some friends. We laughed and drank and ate a shitload. Then I went to my brother’s house for more drinks and we channel-surfed and drank more wine. It was a fun day, all-in-all.
It wasn’t better or worse than being with Annika, just different. It felt more like holidays pre-motherhood.
So, would I choose to be alone on a holiday? Not really. But I’m sure this one is not the last where I will be missing Annika and hoping she’s having fun with her other family. But it’s good to know that I have the skills to get through it on my own.
In fact, not only do I have the skills to make it through a holiday alone. I have decided to look forward to them. Perhaps the next one will be spent going to the movies. Or maybe I’ll try real camping next time. Either way, I think that I’ll do my best to enjoy my holidays no matter who I’m with. After all, that’s what they’re for.
How do you like to spend holidays? What’s your favorite thing? The hustle and the bustle, or the afterglow, where everyone is fat from food and ready for a nap?
Annika is going to get on a plane without me for the first time tomorrow morning. She and Toyin are going to Michigan for Thanksgiving. They will be gone for three days.
Tomorrow marks the first of many things.
Our first holiday apart; her first trip on a plane without me; her first trip visiting her other family that I am not a part of; her first time in Michigan without me.
For the most part, I’ve been okay with it. But tonight, as I read her bedtime stories, she picked out a book I bought in preparation for going to school, Llama Llama Misses Mama.
I started to tear up a little as I read it, wondering if she chose it as a way of telling me something.
Logically, I doubt it. She’s pretty open about what she does and doesn’t like. And she has picked out that book several times lately. She’s even told me that she doesn’t miss me when she goes to school, like the llama misses his mama.
But I know she’s scared. When we first started talking about the trip, she told me, emphatically, that she did not want to go on a plane without me. She was scared. And she told me today that she was not scared anymore, but she is nervous.
I’ve been pumping up the trip, telling her how much fun she is going to have. We bought gum for the plane ride and filled her backpack with books and toys for the trip. I made sure she had one of her favorite stuffed animals. And I’ve given her a blow-by-blow of what things I know will happen during the trip.
It’s a small glimpse into the future of motherhood as I do my best to prepare her for situations that I cannot possibly predict, but hoping that I’ve given her enough information that she will be comfortable and happy.
And then there’s the other side of this trip. Me. Alone without her while she travels into a world that I will become less and less a part of.
To be honest, I am partly looking forward to having a full three days alone. Pre-child, I was mostly a loner. I liked my solitude. I craved it more than I can describe after she was born. This will be the longest stretch alone I’ve had since Annika was born.
But I’ve come to feel more complete when Annika is around. When she’s gone, even for one night, I miss her. Our tiny apartment feels huge and lonely when she’s gone. I simply miss her presence.
I don’t mind so much that she’ll be gone for a holiday. But I am glad that it’s Thanksgiving and not Christmas. I think I would be devastated if she missed her first big girl Christmas with me. I don’t even want to think about future Christmases without her, even though I know they are coming. I’ll probably just curl up in a fetal position when she’s gone.
So, in less than 12 hours, I’ll be either blissfully enjoying my solitude for the next three days, aside from the family dinner on Thanksgiving. Or I’ll be curled up in a fetal position, missing her terribly and counting the hours until she’s back.
I wonder what things will have changed when she comes back on Friday night. Will she be clingier than usual? Or will she have grown up, just a bit more than I can handle? Will she realize that, like the llama, that she can love me, and still have a good time without me?
In general, the study quoted in the article showed that overall dads are more involved with their kids than ever before. Even though there are more dads living out of the home than previously, the dads in the homes are more actively involved with their kids and dads outside the home are getting better at staying involved with their children through phone calls, emails, and outside activities.
Single black dads are doing better than their white counterparts too.
“But of the fathers living apart from their children, black dads were the most involved in their kids’ lives,” according to the CNN article.
I smiled to read that part even though Toyin doesn’t fit any of the negative stereotypes that come associated with being a black man. I sometimes worry that people who don’t know us, might assume he’s a deadbeat dad, or less than stellar based on common assumptions of single black dads.
Toyin is a rock star single dad.
He is super active in Annika’s life. Whenever she is missing him, he steps up and takes her more. He calls her. They hang out. He takes her overnight two nights a week. We swing by and see him when she’s needing a dose of daddy. She is a huge priority in his life. And she knows it.
Sometimes I worry that having two single parents instead of a cohesive unit will have negative effects on her psyche. Perhaps she will grow up feeling left out, or anxious, wishing for something that she can’t have. That’s the thing I hear from adults who grew up with single parents. It’s innate. Children want their parents together. That’s what I’ve heard.
But then I wonder if perhaps it’s not so much that kids want their parents to be married, just that they want both parents around. The evolutionary part inside of people wants two parents to attach to, to learn from, to be connected with. I don’t think that parents have to live in the same household to accomplish those goals. They just have to be more creative than married parents.
I worry about this stuff, but when I look at it from the latter point of view, I think, in some ways, she has it better than some kids who live at home with both parents.
Although, it’s definitely changing, I think a lot of dads who live at home with their wives and kids often don’t spend as much quality time with their kids as some who don’t live with their children. And even the ones who do spend quality time with their kids do it inconsistently because their kids are just always there when they come home.
Not the case for us single parents.
Annika gets concentrated daddy/daughter time regularly and consistently. Sure, there are times when Toyin goes out of town or we have meetings or other obligations during our regular hours. But instead of Annika missing out when that happens, we just switch times that she’s with us.
I’m not bashing traditional families. I see evidence all around me that families really are becoming more of a priority for this generation of dads. I see dads at the playground. I know stay-at-home dads. It’s not just evidenced by a Pew Research study, dads really are just more involved these days.
It’s just nice to see that single dads are getting better at it too. I know that the general assumption is that children are better off with two parents in the home. But I think that single parents can make it work too.
There, I just had to get that out there. This isn’t going to be a post complaining about being single. But the reality is, single motherhood doesn’t typically include an annual celebration organized by a significant other.
To my surprise, I have found that single motherhood is not nearly as hard or tiring as I thought it would be. That’s not to say that it isn’t hard or tiring. It is. But I think being a single mom is wayyyy better than being in a dysfunctional relationship. I am not good with relationships, so therefore, single motherhood is really the better option for me.
But in the past week, for the first time since Annika was born, the impending holiday has been increasingly annoying to me. Mostly, because it feels like I am not really involved, even though in theory, this is a holiday created just for me.
Unless you’re creative, lucky, or have kids who are older and sensitive to your needs, being a single mother on Mother’s Day is just another reminder that our society doesn’t really celebrate single moms. While partnered moms are (in theory) getting things like breakfast in bed, brunch, flowers, and naps (alone!), Mother’s Day is pretty much just like any other Sunday for most single moms. We are either with our kids. Or we are without our kids. And on a day like Mother’s Day, most moms, the single ones included, probably don’t want to be without their kids the entire day. So, us single moms have to decide if we want to be pampered, or have a typical day with our children. We don’t get both.
So this morning, as I woke up, I decided to make this day as relaxing as possible for myself and enjoyable for Annika. Just like most of the other day-to-day activities, Mother’s Day is a day I will have to just do for myself.
I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. We played with some new games I had picked up the day before. I popped Annika in the stroller and took an extra long walk so I could sweat. I hadn’t been planning on a special outing. But as I neared my apartment after my walk, legs shaking and sweat pouring down my face, I decided, what the hell? I can take myself and my daughter out to eat.
Before we went, I decided to make this Mother’s Day about teaching Annika one of the things I hope to teach her: The Importance of Enjoying a Fancy Drink. Something I never learned until I was an adult. Before going out for an enjoyable evening/meal, enjoying a fancy drink at home is a must. It makes everything better.
Fancy drinks. I only have one silly straw.
I also broke out some jewelry and we both put some on.
We both wanted to wear that one.
I have never been much of a fancy girl, but I always liked to wear earrings and necklaces. Like many new moms, I gave those up when Annika was an infant, then it just seemed like I had gotten out of the habit.
So, Mother’s Day for me didn’t include extra sleep, pampering from someone else, or a surprise meal, but it was still nice all in all. I hope you all had a nice one too. 🙂
I don’t believe in religion. That’s not to say that I don’t believe in God. But I don’t believe in religion. I think that religion has done just as much – if not more – harm than good, in our world.
Looking for eggs.
But oddly enough, I found myself, on Easter morning, telling Annika (in 3-year-old terms) the crucifixion story.
We went to the beach in Port Aransas for the weekend. I brought candy and eggs with us so we could have an egg hunt. It was the first year I even thought about having Annika hunt for eggs. I’ve never been big on Easter. I was way more excited about Halloween, than Easter. I’ve always thought Easter was kind of silly. I mean, a giant bunny that brings colored eggs? Even as a kid I knew that chickens laid eggs. What the hell did bunny rabbits have to do with eggs?
Yesterday morning, as we sat on the edge of the bed, I began to tell Annika about the Easter Bunny. It just didn’t seem right to leave out the spiritual aspect of the holiday. I grew up going to church. I know the story well.
So, I explained to Annika that some people believe in a man named Jesus who died and then after three days, he came back to life. I told her that for some people, Easter is a time of new life, a time of new beginnings.
Hey, an Easter egg right next to the Bible!
I liked the explanation and I liked that I was able to give her my take on it. It’s funny, even though I don’t go to church anymore, I find solace in church services on the rare occasions that I go. I enjoy them. I like the ceremony and the congregational singing. I even enjoy the symbolism of communion, even though I think it’s a little creepy to think about partaking in the body and blood of another human.
I don’t believe in religion. But I do believe in a spiritual world. I can’t believe that this is it. I don’t believe that we just sprung out of nowhere. I believe this life has purpose. I think that each person’s purpose is different. I also believe that one person’s right path is not the necessarily the right path for another.
The good that religion does is give people a story, something to cling to their spiritual beliefs.
I like the stories in the Bible. I enjoy the symbolism. As a child I was fascinated by the really gory stuff. For years, my favorite bedtime story was about Jezebel being thrown to the dogs.
But even so, I was surprised at myself for feeling the urge to tell Annika a story from the Bible.
When I was pregnant, I always thought I’d teach her that most of it was just a bunch of horse hockey.
Toyin wants to take Annika to church and teach her about the Bible. Our agreement was that he’d teach her about Christianity and I’d temper it with some Eastern religion, such as Buddhism. I had promised that I’d hold off telling her my views until she asked for the truth and was old enough to understand varying views. I never thought I’d be the one presenting any of it as even a semi-truth.
I don’t know how this changes anything. I like the idea of Annika knowing about the Bible and hearing my take on it, which may change from year to year. I like the idea of teaching her about Christian views simply for the sake of understanding our society. Our culture is, in theory, a Christian culture. I’d like her to understand the depth of the knowledge. I think that many people who profess to be Christians don’t understand the true nature of the Bible and the message. If she’s going to grow up believing in any of it, which she might, I want her to understand the true message.
It angers me when I hear all the judgmental bullshit coming from people who claim to be Christians. Jesus taught love. To me, that was the true message of the Bible. If anything, that’s what I’d like to teach her about religion and spirituality.
Mostly, I can’t look around the world and believe that there isn’t something more.