Tag Archives: Single parenting

Single parenting is always hard, especially in poverty

Ch 8, Post 3 A New Way of Talking with My Teen

Relaxing Parental Control

The next Friday, when Sharon asked to stay out late after the basketball game, instead of immediately saying “No”, I said, “Well, let’s talk about that.” We did talk, and we reached a compromise. That Saturday morning, she was tired from staying out with her friends and I was tired from sitting up writing until she got home. We were equally irritable.

“I told you I don’t want anything but juice and toast for breakfast!”

“Well, excuse me!  I guess I got your order mixed up with someone else’s!”

“And why do we have to have such a small, wobbly table to eat on?”

Suddenly, I remembered the little speech I’d prepared for the next time we both got snippy.

“Sharon, we’re both a little tired right now, so let’s just be quiet, including me, until we feel better. Remember our problem is the problem, not each other. And our problem right now is this little kitchen and little, wobbly table.”

Our tiny table was a problem (picture from Dreamstime)
Our tiny table was a problem (picture from Dreamstime)

This little speech I repeated countless times in the ensuing teen years, sometimes out loud, many times silently, with one or the other of our problems plugged as the subject:  the lack of money, the lack of a car for Sharon, or the lack of privacy and space in the apartment.

Investing in My Daughter When She Needed It Most

Besides investing my emotional energy in maintaining our relationship, I determined to invest monetarily as well. I made it an irregularly regular habit to surprise her with a pizza date or a trip to the mall for the stone-washed jeans, hemp sandals, or silver anklet I knew her friends had but that she hadn’t even mentioned.

She would be a teenager only once, and she had already spent so much of that tumultuous time of her life working too hard and doing without too much.  I knew she cherished each little unexpected pleasure as much as she had those two unexpected mechanical pencils the Christmas she was ten.

She still appreciated the little things
She still appreciated the little things

Ch 8, Post 1 My New Frontier: Parenting an Adolescent

Chapter Eight-  Torment

            Anger is like . . .  Well, how can you really describe anger?  It comes in so many forms, from mild irritation to agitated frustration to towering, all-consuming rage. Each person experiences, and expresses, each of those forms in a manner consistent with personality, role in the situation, and, in the case of a teenage girl and her mother, state of hormone imbalance and reserve of parental patience respectively.

Irrespective of how it’s defined or individually experienced, anger involves change, change that has happened, soon will happen, or that needs to happen.        there is 32 shut door free cliparts all used for free

One night early that winter, what had become a typical shouting match between teen and parent ended, just as typically, with a slammed bedroom door and Sharon’s angst-soothing loud music. I stood in our little front room, the air still bristling with tension, and thought, with no small amount of irritation, at the natural order of things, the way growing up had to be, how adolescence had changed Sharon, and, of course, changed our relationship.

The physical changes, of course, were coming one after another, as were the mental and emotional changes, exactly as they were supposed to.

However, my cherished little girl was also becoming sensitive to the pressure to conform, to dress, talk, look, and act like her peers and to do and have the same things.  That’s where the friction was.

That summer, she’d starting working in a bookstore, 20 hours a week.  She had completed all the work my boss had for her to do on Saturdays about that time. And she wanted more money.

Fortunately, her new job had increased her weekly earnings at the same time her new adolescent status had increased her desire for what those earnings could buy. Of course, she wanted things like mascara and eye shadow, magazines to read, movies to see, and pizza to eat with friends, all of which I could not buy for her.

Things Single Parents Cannot Provide

When school started, though, her paychecks had taken a nosedive.  Now she wanted to work three afternoons a week as well as Saturdays in a fast food franchise.  We’d had several quite warm discussions, but none so intense or loud as tonight. Our positions were entrenched.  It was all-out war.

money_3 clipart - money_3 clip art

“I am old enough to have a regular job now!  I can still get my homework done and get enough sleep.  IF I don’t start working now, I”ll never be able to save for a car. You can’t buy me one.  What else am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know,” I’d replied, my voice thick with threatening tears.  “But you are not old enough to work like an adult, and you’re not going to!”

How could I have gotten so angry and yelled so loudly when I loved her so much?  I slumped on the sagging blue plaid love seat, elbows on my knees, head in my hands, and closed my eyes.  I prayed and cried at the same time, quietly so she would not hear

CH 7, Post 8 A Birthday Too Sweet For Words, Part 2 of 2

Overwhelmed Beyond Words by Love

By the time I finished unwrapping, I was losing the battle to hold back tears. Sharon had bought so many presents for my birthday.  I was overwhelmed beyond words

The blue teakettle, to replace the one that had long ago lost its whistle and had long ago acquired its own distinct pattern of mineral deposits, had cost at least 10 dollars.  The dish drainer, its predecessor equally as old but showing its age even more than the teakettle, had cost about the same and so had the ten packs of notebook paper I used for my writing.

The tea kettle was perfect and such a thoughtful gift
The tea kettle was perfect and such a thoughtful gift

It was not only the cost, that had come from three long Saturdays of toil in my boss’ garage and yard, that made the presents unbearably special.  Sharon had lugged everything home on foot.  From our apartment, it was well over a mile to the department store.

“I had to make two trips, because the paper was heavy, but I didn’t mind, and the lady in the store was real nice.  She kept the drainer and teakettle under her counter until I got back, and now you have paper for a whole year.”

I bit my lip so hard it hurt as I smiled through wet eyes.

“Now, Mommy. Come sit at the table.  e have to have cake and ice-cream, you know.”

“The individual Sara Lee cheesecakes and the gourmet vanilla ice-cream cost her another Saturday,” I thought as I leaned over and patted her hand, no longer the dimpled hand of my little girl and not all that much smaller than mine.

“Thank you again, baby, so so much.  You made this day very, very special.   I appreciate all your hard work and how much you must have thought about everything.  It’s all just totally, absolutely perfect!”

She didn’t blush, but she lowered her head, pressed her lips together tightly, and turned her head to one side.

Nothing ever tasted sweeter, or was harder to swallow, than that strawberry cheesecake and vanilla ice-cream.  I struggled to get it past the lump in my throat and smile at the same time.  I just wanted to hug her forever.  How could she be so loving?  And so generous?  She was so very very young still.

Like “The Gift of the Magi”

Sharon’s generosity reminded me of the timeless tale “The Gift of the Magi”, written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter).   In this classic tender portrayal of a young couple in love, they each sell their most treasured possessions in order to buy the Christmas gift the other is longing for but has not mentioned.  (Here is a link to a delightful black and white video set in the time the story was written.)   http://bit.ly/20JViID

Jim, the husband, sells his beloved watch to buy combs for Della’s beautiful hair.  Della cuts her hair so she can buy her husband Jim a watch chain.  Here is a link for the full text of the story.  http://bit.ly/1oqiGtr

Loving, totally selfless sacrifice, given from a heart bursting with love – that was my Sharon.  I was so proud of the beauty of her heart!

When I told a friend at work about it, she smiled her grandmotherly smile.

“It’s going to be hard, for both of you, when she gets to be a teenager,” Betty had said. “The two of you are unusually close.”

I’d politely thanked Betty for her concern and promptly disregarded her warning.  She had never been a single mom and she had raised three boys.  What could she possibly know about Sharon and me?

Ch 7, Post 7 A Birthday Too Sweet For Words, Part 1 of 2

More Good Qualities Were Blooming

Another interest Sharon pursued on her own without any urging or subsequent help from me due to my own lack of skill, was cross-stitching.  A school friend, whose mother had taught her, helped her get started with counted cross-stitch and she was soon better at it, and more persistent, than her friend.

She did it all by herself! I marveled at her initiative.
She did it all by herself! I marveled at her initiative.

She completed a large canvas of trees in browns, golds, and yellows and took it to the craft store down the street from the apartment three different times, for the owner to show her how to knit tabs to attach the completed canvas to a dowel rod.  It graced the wall over the television for all the years we lived in that little apartment.  I was more than proud!

A Kind and Generous Heart

Besides her independence, acceptance of responsibility and development of individual interests, what would eventually be her adult personality and habits of heart were budding as well.  How I cherished those signs of sensitivity and depth of feeling and capacity to love!  She had a truly kind, gentle, and generous heart, which she demonstrated on my birthday in late August that year.

She was waiting for me in the recliner when I came home from work and was on her feet before I’d completely opened the door.

“Here, Mommy” she said, taking my purse, my lunch bag, and my tote.

“Come sit here in the recliner.  I’ve got something for you.”

She stepped into the bedroom and came back, holding a big, irregularly-shaped present and singing, “Happy Birthday to you!”   Her eyes danced more than they did when she was the recipient of gifts.

Too many presents!
Too many presents!

“Thank you, baby.  What a big present and what lovely singing!”

“Oh, don’t open it yet, Mommy.  There’s more.”

She returned with a box wrapped in blue paper and a bag.  The bag was obviously heavy. Its two ends were taped-together and topped with a big blue bow, the kind that cost $1.99 each and that hang by a hook, individually, above matching packages of wrapping paper, enclosed in cellophane.

“What a beautiful present!  But you shouldn’t have spent your money. ..”  She had spent long hours working with Major Boon. Every dime had cost her hard work and precious Saturday free time.