This week was my daughter's 'thirty something' birthday. It gave me reason to pause and reflect on her growing up and all that we went through - me as a single parent, and my daughter, as an only child. It was like you see in the movies -- 'us against the world'. At times, that was how I felt. But, she had me - and I had her. We were a powerful duo. A song by Helen Reddy just sprang to my mind - 'You and Me Against The World'. I can hear the lyrics so vividly in my mind - so appropo.
My daughter always did well in school - and I never had to worry about her grades. There was, however, an incident, when she was in kindergarten - her teacher, Ms. Boone, I'll never forget the name - called me up and said we had a problem and that we needed to have a conference together. The problem was, she advised me, that my daughter was chasing the other children in the classroom with the blackboard sponge. She said if I didn't deal with it then, I would have discipline problems with her later on. And, although we probably should have taken it a little more seriously, my (ex) husband and I couldn't help but find it amusing at the time. After all, I had been all geared up beforehand worried sick about what this urgent problem was, so you can imagine - upon hearing about the blackboard sponge situation, it kind of hit the funny bone.
I never had a problem with drugs or promiscuity with my daughter, either. She had guy friends but never stayed with one for so long a period that I would have to be concerned. I was always grateful for that. I always made sure she had a beautiful dress for all her school dances - she always looked like she stepped out of a fashion magazine as she left the house. I might not have been able to give her the big luxuries, but I was hell bent on making sure she had the smaller ones. Even more importantly, I was there for her during her growing up years - like the time her little heart had been crushed by a guy she cared for - I sat with her as she lay in bed teary eyed and we talked it out until she was able to calm down and fall asleep. Thankfully, she was the type of child who might be down one day, but in a day or so she would always bounce right back. For the most part, as she grew older, she was the one who left the trail of broken hearts. She was always very popular at school, and she always had a wealth of friends.
She and I did a lot of things together - shopping, of course, was one of our favorite past times, when money would allow. We also had this little song that we would sing - we would skip and sing "we are pals - and pals stick together". No matter how big she got, I always did this little skip dance with her as we walked.
I will never forget the time I got a call at work from my daughter's school, telling me she had not shown up for school that day. She was around maybe fourteen at the time. I quickly ran from my desk - shouted to my boss down the hall that I had to leave on an emergency, and I raced home. This was already late in the afternoon - and she had left early that morning, on the bus to school, or so I thought. I called the police. When the officer showed up, by this time, I was frantic. He asked me to give him a description of my daughter - as I started to go into detail, my eye caught sight of a girl walking towards the house from around the corner - as I looked closer, I heaved a sigh of relief - it was my daughter!! she had decided to play hooky that day - and go down to the beach. The officer insisted on having a word with her - out of my earshot. I never knew what he said to her, but I guess he put the fear of God into her. I don't recall her doing that again - if she did, I certainly didn't find out about it.
Together we went through some rough times - the divorce from her father; me having to work two jobs a lot of the time. For years that was the way it was, like it or not. I had to keep the roof over our heads and food on the table, besides wanting to give my daughter as much as I possibly could - on one salary. I did not realize it at the time because she was not the type of child to open up with her feelings, but I know now that it had a profound effect on her - my not being able to always be home for her. I did not have much help or communication from relatives on that score, and in my daughter's teen years, my parents had moved out of state. For a number of years, however, my daughter was fortunate enough to have her paternal grandparents nearby.
Unfortunately, that was the way it was for a lot of other divorced mothers that I knew as well - the problem was, though, that most of them had two or more children, who could keep each other company while their mother was gone from the house. I had hired a nice girl who lived down the block from us to stay with my daughter until I was able to get home from work.
I was always grateful to God that he blessed me with my daughter. I could not imagine my life without her in it. The day she came into this world has always been the happiest day of my life. My whole world was my daughter from the minute she was born. We also went through some good times - United Skates of America (my daughter will understand this), dancing classes twice a week, gymnastics. But, suddenly, it seems, they are grown, and there is such a void that just cannot be filled, at least I find this to be true, and I think it's especially true when you have only had one child. There is a song by Neil Sedaka that comes to my mind entitled, "I Miss the Hungry Years", that I guess best sums up my feelings.
This year, with many changes in my life, it has been a time of reflection for me - and I guess that's not a bad thing, but it can really tug at the heart strings. Be advised that you will need to keep a box of kleenex handy, should you happen to want to go down memory lane. Things can get pretty mushy at times.
My daughter moved away to Indiana with her fiance when she was around twenty-one. She has been gone over a decade (I don't want to give away her age). She's a married woman now. You would think that as time went by, it would get easier, but it doesn't. It's like an open wound - that never heals, sitting there as a reminder of the life you once had, with your daughter very much in it on a day-to-day basis. After all, she was my whole world. Oops, I did it again (sorry to sound like Britney Spears) - that just got to me - had to pull out the kleenex for a second there.
Maybe one of the ways to best describe my feelings is that, at times, it feels like someone else is reaping the fruits of my labor - the labor of love that I gave throughout those years, and while that may sound selfish - yes, I guess you could say I am, but then, maybe that's okay because, I am, after all -- Mother, and I'm reserving that right.