Having grown up the oldest child in a single parent household, I was given a handful of responsibility at the wise old age of 8! As the oldest child, I spent many mornings getting myself and my sister ready for school, walking together to catch the bus at the friend of the family’s house, and making sure that as we left the bus, that my sister had what she needed. School was easy, for both of us, then home to await the return of our mother…never leaving the house or yard until she returned. We weren’t unsafe in our ultra-rural town, and our neighbors watched over us. We stayed inside, cleaned the living room, made sure the kitchen wasn’t a wreck, and that our laundry was downstairs. But I was 8!
I’m thinking, in the scheme of things, that 8 is where this all started. “This all” is a high level of accountability, responsibility, expectations, and a stubborn streak that never allows me to give up. “This all” has been the biggest positive and negative in my life. “This all” to which I hold myself each day makes me someone people can count on, come to for help, depend on, and rely on. “This all” has made motivation and drive second nature for me, and introduced me to lots of people with those same goals; and to lots more without those goals. “This all” has been helpful most of my life…my mother is proud of me, a strong young woman, educated, well spoken, well respected, a good mother who holds her children to those expectations. My father things I’m the coolest, smartest, most talented woman to come down the pike since his own mother…and believe me, that is a huge compliment!!
Notice that “this all” doesn’t speak to the emotions, feelings, love. Granted, the love for my friends and family is a given, comes naturally, is like breathing air. But having grown up the oldest child in a single parent household, I never saw the model of a relationship, and that is where “This All” has become a hindrance in my world. I’ve been married for almost 23 years, to a single child of a single parent household…no sharing space, no sharing time or toys, no sharing of morning routines or after school rituals, just him…no expectations, no need to be motivated, no push to drive or excel but only to exist. To me, this is very sad…on a number of levels. He said it wasn’t overly lonely and that he was ok to just “settle” as it was what seemed to work in his house. SETTLE…red flag.
On my side of the window, “this all” serves me well in getting it all done – full time job, household managed, chores complete, meals cooked, one kiddo graduated and the other within a year of completion. His side of the window – he works part time which is more than enough. K is doing her job, I’m just going to rest for 12 hours here on the couch and flip through the television channels. On my side, there’s no excuse for 12 hours on a couch unless you’re dead or really sick (and by sick, I mean a small child who is tucked in his blankets and wants to watch cartoons and movies with mom/dad). His side – Snoring now. My side – anger because there is still so much to do and accomplish and get done. His side – he twitches in his sleep. I continue the quest; keep working on laundry, dishes, whatever needs completion. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…almost done, almost there…His side – he awakens “I’m really hungry.” My side – REALLY??? I mean “I’m going to start cooking momentarily” through a rage that nearly kills me to stifle.
This weekend, THIS ALL got the best of me and blew through my household like a dam blown apart during a tsunami. THIS ALL took hold of my voice and cut loose, very calm and honest, straightforward and with direction, clear of what changes had to evolve for anything to go any further in “our” life. It’s on me now to manage the hold that THIS ALL has over my life. It’s on me to stand by my convictions for the first time in ages. It’s on me to hold true to who I am and what I want. It’s on me if this all sounds selfish but I am married with two boys, not the single mother of three. While I cannot undo damage already inflicted, I can move into the future making better choices for myself and my children. THIS ALL, while it may be the undoing of my marriage, may reestablish the beginning of my life…at 42…the oldest daughter of a single parent household.