A few years back, as my then 5-year-old daughter perched over a bowl of cereal, her ringlet curls dangling amongst a sea of tiny O’s, the words, “Mommy, what does decapitate mean?” drifted towards me. Nearly spraying my mouthful of coffee across the kitchen floor, I gathered myself enough to concoct together a Disney-esque definition of the word (omitting the gore and stressing more of a historical context), the G-rated version satisfying my daughter so she could resume her morning routine. My routine,on the other hand, was a different story.
How adorable was that? Wasn’t that just the funniest thing you’ve ever heard? How did we manage to keep straight faces?
But…wait, who am I kidding? There was no we in this conversation. There was no one whose heart welled up with the same surge of emotion as mine did at that very moment. There was no one to witness the tears brimming from my eyes, who smiled lovingly from across the room knowing we’d be reminiscing about this for years to come.
Did you see that? No, of course you didn’t. Because you weren’t there.
Being a solo parent as I am to three children, feels as if you’re living life on a tightrope. There you are, up there with the kids, trying your best to keep it together and not lose your footing for fear of bringing everyone down with you. Yet, while you’re balancing on this tiny lifeline, you’re also aware that everyone else seems to be walking on solid ground…and on top of that, they’re looking at you kind of strange. And as you’re thinking all of this, and beginning to feel shaky from having to balance the family on your own, your foot slips – and there you fall, without a safety net.
Sometimes I dream of what it would be like to hand the wheel over to a co-pilot, just to gaze out the window for a bit.
But don’t get me wrong. This isn’t meant to be some pity-party for solo parents, or some “Oh, woe is me” column for the despondent. Just the opposite really, in a sort of surreal, Kafka-esque type of way. It’s more of an acceptance of one’s reality. A wakeup call that says, Hey, this is your life, so get on with it. It seems some of us are meant to be up there on the tightrope doing the balancing act, and some of us are meant to stay below, dodging or catching those of us who fall. And sometimes we switch places for a bit. But that’s OK, too, because we’re in this crazy circus act together…and at the end of the day, the applause we hear at curtain call is for us all.