It pains me to admit this, but I’m not a fun mom. I always imagined I would be, though, before the actual kids came along. I pictured myself building sandcastles with my little ones, playing “Ring Around The Rosey” and collapsing into giggles, leading Brownie troops and having the fun house where neighborhood children came to play and never wanted to leave.
But in real life, I don’t have time for that nonsense. What single parent does? I’m too busy running an inn all by myself. Washing clothes, cleaning rooms, preparing food, shuttling my two young guests from here to there. The hours are long and the tips are lousy. And not once have my boarders ever commented on how soft their sheets are!
Children don’t notice these fussy details, so our best efforts usually go unrecognized. They’re too busy being free spirits. And I marvel at that. One minute they’re listening to music in their rooms, and the next, they’re impulsively jumping on the trampoline outside.
My daughters used to invite me to play with them. UNO. Barbies. Duck-Duck-Goose-Goose. But there were clothes to fold and dishes to put away. Little girls can take only so much rejection, so after a while, they stopped asking.
Sometimes I think they’d be happier at the Shaw house. The Shaws have five daughters, two rats, one rabbit, a dog, a bird and someone’s always spending the night. I’m not sure how they get any sleep over there. Their mother, who I call “Saint Sandy,” is one of those “fun moms” who lets her kids demolish the kitchen making pancakes and helps them transform the living room into Tent City using every available sheet. Little do my own children know that without the child support I get every month, that’s exactly where we’d be living.
Last week, my tween had a friend spend the night. They wanted to go TPing (toilet-papering houses) and surprisingly, asked me to go, too. Wait a minute—that’s vandalism. Since when did TPing become a legitimate pastime, like catching a movie or roller skating? Sure, I did it when I was young, but that was different. We snuck out into the dark of night and never told our parents. Of course this fuddy-duddy said “No!”
Lately, my biggest fear is that my girls will want to go live with their dad because he’s more fun. While I’m the one in the trenches doing the real parenting—helping with homework and making doctors’ appointments—he plays with them every other weekend. How easy is that?
But guess what? He’s exactly the kind of parent most kids want—someone still working through childhood, himself. I’ll bet he would have taken my daughter TPing. He already lets them stay up as late as they want. To add to my fear of abandonment, I hear he’s building a fancy pool in his back yard. I can’t compete with that! Shoot, it makes ME want to move in with him.
Today, I have to take my youngest to get new glasses and drop the oldest off at camp. And there’s another load of laundry to wash. Life, as a single mom, goes on.
And as unexciting as it is, I pray it will never end.
Lynn Armitage is a freelance writer and enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and she just washed all the bedsheets. Do you think her kids will notice?