As the days begin to get shorter and the sounds of children playing begin to quiet – it can only mean one thing – school is back in session.
I know this time of year can bring about anxiety and stress for so many families and kiddos. I wish I could say I had it all figured out – but I don’t. I have been working out the kinks though.
Fortunately we don’t suffer from the “I don’t want summer to end blues”. Both Bella and Colton are ready to return to the books and their friends.
What we do suffer from is closed mindedness. You see in our family there is no “Dad” and that is somewhat unacceptable in the community where we live. The facts that I am intelligent, that I work really hard, that I take amazing care of my kids (even the furry one), and that I support my local community are all lost on the one fact that I also happen to be doing it alone.
Now, I don’t deserve a prize or a new kitten or anything. Life just dealt me a hand and I’m playing it the best I can. The “Dad” suffers from bipolar disorder and it isn’t safe for him to be around us – so he’s not. That leaves me and my support system.
The thing is most of the time it is just me, some of that is by circumstance and some is by choice. So on days like the first day of school it’s me, and me alone that shows up. I prefer it this way – I don’t want to feel obligated to feel differently than I do.
The first day of school is a series of cringeworthy questions. One after another – it literally starts off with an awkward exchange:
Teacher: Hi Mrs. Starr – I’m Mrs. Whatever
Me: It’s Ms. – never been married
Teacher: Oh sorry (fumbles)
It automatically reminds me that I am nearly 40 and still unmarried – yes my Nanny is rolling her eyes in heaven at me.
Then the look – left and then to the right at the three of us. I literally want to scream “Yes, it’s just us!” I don’t of course. I have learned it’s easiest to offer up the remaining information. The “Dad” is sick. No, you won’t ever see him. Yes, I have full custody and the parenting plan is at the office. No, it’s not recent. Yes, the kids are fine.
I fight back tears as I do this twice, year after year. Side note: Colton has the same teacher that Bella had last year. This is such a blessing because #1 he’s an awesome teacher and Bella had the best school year to date and #2 I don’t have to explain anything to him because he already gets it and is super cool about it. Small victories.
The first couple of years I full expected that I would meet someone and I wouldn’t be alone in this every year – that was 6 years ago. I mean don’t get me wrong I’m not waiting for anyone to come save me or take care of me or anything like that. I just imagined a tall, handsome man giving my hand a little squeeze in these awkward moments. Like a reminder to breath.
Good God Rachel, breath!
I wish I could tell you these awkward exchanges were limited to the first day of school but they aren’t. We literally went to dinner at a local restaurant the other night and not only did the hostess and waitress ask if I we were waiting for my husband – so did the manager as he asked for our drink order. No husband. No Dad. I must look married – whatever that looks like.
What I am trying to say is that just because there isn’t a husband or a Dad – a man – doesn’t mean the Starr family is less. We aren’t! I have more than one friend that is in a bad marriage. They are unhappy, miserable, and they feel stuck. I can honestly say that I don’t feel any of those things.
I am living my best life. I am happy. My kids are happy. We have a beautiful life filled with memory making moments. So, here’s to surviving another school year, to the hope that the hand squeezer shows up next year, to being enough just the way I am, and to awkward moments that teach us we are capable of anything.