Working parents, this one’s for you.
For the past nine years I have been a full-time employed divorced mom. I share custody of my kids, who are now 10 and 13, with their stay-at-home homeschooling dynamo dad. I hear about classes they take after they take them. I try to keep up, but I mostly feel like a bumbling mess when it comes to staying abreast of my kids and their schooling.
But then, everything changed.
It started with a large posterboard and a grumpy 10-year-old. My ex dropped him off at my house and said they just finished Around the World in 80 Days and Little Man had to identify five places he would like to go and put pictures of them on a posterboard. They had already printed up the pictures. The rest was up to me.
Oh, how my heart sang. I have waited 10 years to do something like this with him and the moment was here. I felt like I took flight. Think Wendy, John and Michael in Peter Pan when they think of a wonderful thing. It’s the same as having wings! I felt like I left the ground for a second. I also pictured images of Mary Poppins happily floating about. I was tickled. It was time for me to shine.
You see, my mom was the master of all things art project. The woman could sew, she could draw, she could cut like nobody’s business. She was a master. I remember endless projects she made tremendously beautiful even if I hated the subject I had to report on. She made real curtains on a posterboard for my project about weather; it looked like a REAL WINDOW. I inherited some of her flair but almost all of her enthusiasm. What I lack in skill, I make up for in excitement.
Little Man and I dove right in. I could tell he just wanted to get it over with. “Oh no,” I thought. “This party is just getting started.” I worked quickly so as to hold his interest, instantly seizing on the idea to color code each of the five places he wanted to visit with backgrounds for each picture in a matching color. Done. He loved the idea and we worked swiftly to accommodate the attention span of a 10-year-old.
I gave him scissors. He cut jagged lines but I didn’t correct him. I didn’t have time to find his lefty scissors, but we made do. I couldn’t find my small rubber cement bottle so I used the huge one and a plastic knife was my “brush.” The pictures were printed on normal copy paper and the glue showed through. Darnit. Fortunately, I realized this after only two pictures were glued on so I knew to try a less “wet” glue after that and it worked fine. We used stickers to cover my boo-boos and I emphasized how it doesn’t have to be perfect. That mistakes are normal and I make them, too.
We had a blast. He got to choose his five colors and he drew lovely lines and arrows showing his route to Italy, China, Australia, Japan, and Greece. I really wanted to throw some glitter on some areas, but he drew the line at glitter. “No glitter, Mama.” Message received!
He was so proud of his work. He was smiling ear to ear. He hugged me and thanked me. Wow. This is what it feels like. I love my job and I am proud to support myself and my family. But I also realized this moment is priceless. This relationship is unable to be quantified. It is so special. I loved it.
The very next day, my FirstBorn asked for help with his Halloween costume. From me! He wanted a steampunk getup; hat, vest, pants, the whole bit. Again, I left the ground and felt touched by an angel. I live for crafting things, but my ex is always the one to do it. This time, I took out my button collection, my sewing box, my box of “useless objects” and we got to work. Finally, my son understood that his mother’s penchant for collecting items of useless value, which is a feature of my OCD, comes in handy at times like this! I had a cornucopia of weird bottles and metal items and vials and wire and fuses—which all became my materials for a costume he is so excited about.
I could not be more honored to hold a doctorate in Neuroscience from UCLA and to be on the No. 1 comedy in America, but darnit if I didn’t feel like a natural woman crafting away with my glue gun and this child next to me with his little hand on my shoulder saying, “Oh, that looks so cool, Mama!”
These children know me as the working mom. The mom always on her phone. The mom who is always texting or having conference calls. The mom who always says, “One second” and often forgets she was supposed to come in one second.
For one weekend, I was more than that. I was competent. I was available for their needs in a way I have not really gotten to be. When I was managing rubber cement and construction paper and tiny clocks and gears and faux leather fabric, I was the only thing I didn’t go to school for and the only thing I walk into every day without knowing if I can do it right. I was mom. And I was–and am–mom enough for these boys of mine.