Someone asked me tonight how long ago my STBX (soon to be ex) and I have been separated. I thought about it for a moment and realized that it was about this time last year. Then I realized that I knew how to find out the exact date. When my STBX and I decided to separate I wrote my first “Dear Toby”. It was a couple of months later I started my first blog. However, it was in that first “Dear Toby” that I realized that blogging/ writing out my thoughts and feelings could be something that I could do and should do.
The first “Dear Toby” is something that I never thought I would share with anyone other than Toby. However, I reread that first “Dear Toby” and realized that as my readers, friends and family you have read post after post about me being a single dad, the lessons learned from being a parent, have traveled with me through angst and circumstances. For that I am eternally grateful. The comments and support have been amazing. I am always caught off guard when someone comes up and says “hey I liked your last post” or “I enjoy reading your blog”. I’ve always imagined this post to be a reflection of me and who I am. To keep in line with that; the following is the first “Dear Toby”:
Dear Toby, (1/22/13)
Today I’m pretty sad. I would hope that my first entry to you would not be a bad one but a joyful one. However, as most human beings I find myself contemplative in times of distress. Your mother and I last night decided to separate with the intent of getting divorced. I want to let you know that this separation is not because of you or that you are the cause of it. Even the beginning of that last statement is a complex. We are separating and you have a big part in it. We are currently not happy. We love each other but we are not friends. We don’t hang out and we don’t want to do things with each other. We both understand that wanting to be with each other should be a huge part of a marriage. With that said we also understand that we could push through this and try and maintain our previous course. The consequences of that would be huge. We would be rolling the dice on developing resentment and anger toward one another. Even if one of us is unhappy, the effect that it would have on our family as a whole would be devastating, more importantly the effect it would have on you would be devastating. We both love you too much to risk putting you through that. One thing that I have learned through my job is that parents cannot hide their issues from their kids and if they try then it makes things worse for the kids. In the end if your mom and I are happy in our lives then we will be better parents to you. If we are unhappy then the chances of us passing that on to you becomes great. Again, we love you too much to do that to you. I love you son. You are an amazing person and have enormous potential.
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” Martin Luther King Jr.
This quote stands out to me because of one simple reason, Toby Pebbles. For those of you who don’t know, Toby is tri-racial. He is half Korean, a quarter Caucasian and a quarter African-American. As someone who grew up Korean in a mostly white and black culture I faced a million questions from my eyes to my ability to play the violin (which is exactly zero). The questions had nothing to do with my character or who I was as a person but simply based on the color of my skin, the shape of my eyes, and my overall appearance. I know that Toby will face a million more questions that I have or will. I know that he will face racism from three sides. He will have Asians look down at him because he is mixed, he will have both blacks and whites look down upon him because he is mixed. My prayer is that he will be strong enough to endure the questions, the criticisms, the stereo types and the racism. If he endures all this, then the one area they will not have to question is his character.
Tag, you are it! Simple game. You tag someone and then they chase everyone until they can tag someone. The person who is tagged is now “it”. It’s a game that has been played in school yards for years. It will probably be played for years to come. No materials needed, just fun loving kids.
I was on a mini-vacation and saw friends that I haven’t seen in for awhile. Being the concerned friends that they are, the following question was asked quite a few times “how are you doing with everything?” Basically asking how am I doing being essentially a single dad. As the week or so went on my answer became more and more refined. I had time to think about the question and form a formidable answer.
The most difficult thing is that I have no one to tag. In a “normal” setting there is a mom and dad that can take turns. In my situation it’s just me. There are no other options.
When things start melt down then it is nice to be able to tag someone and make them “it”. The “it” being the person who is now watching the precious creation you made. The “it” being the one to change the poopie diaper. The “it” being able to take the crying child away while you relax and regroup.
Instead what happens is that I’m “it” all of the time. Just like in the game it gets tiring. In the game you are constantly chasing the other kids. No breaks, no time to regroup, you are “it”. That’s what it’s like being a single parent.
It’s easy for those that see their kid for one day, maybe two to be “it”. Try doubling that to four nights a week, then add a solid 24-48hrs of the weekend of being “it”. No time outs, no regroup. You have to chase everyone. No matter how many times you tag someone else, you are “it”.
Typically if you are playing tag and you are “it” all of the time you will eventually just quit. Or get too tired to even play. The problem is that as a single parent you can’t quit. That when your kid is melting down because he missed his nap, there isn’t anyone to tag, there isn’t a way out. It’s just you and the situation, you are “it”. That’s probably the suckiest part of being a single parent. You are “it” all of the time.
Ever forget something? Maybe it’s one of those situations where you just can’t remember a name, maybe a place or a misplaced object. You keep thinking and thinking. You retrace your steps. Or maybe you ask a friend, giving them clues as to what you are trying to remember. Then as if out of the blue, someone says something or you see something that just clicks. Someplace in our computer like minds the memory is recalled and you blurt out a name or you rush to your drawer to find what you left there. One of the challenges of my job and even in life is remembering there are good people out there.
It’s easy for me to get bogged down in negativity at work. I read stories of terrible parents doing terrible things to their kids. I talk to kids who confess nearly unspeakable things. These things just compound in my mind. It can get to the point where you think that every parent, every family, every person is a terrible person. It’s hard to see the light when you are buried in piles of atrocities.
The Toby can be wearing. I get buried in the same routine over and over. Come home from work, pick up Toby, dinner, dishes, watch shows, play, bedtime, clean up toys, watch tv, bed, work… Then repeat… Close to 5 days a week. Some parents are thinking to themselves that this is just life, and it is for a parent. The difference is that chances are you have someone to help. To tag out with. To give you a break. Most of time it’s just Toby and I staring down each other with no option C. Honestly it wears and grinds on you.
As I fly back from Nashville to Pittsburgh I do this knowing full well that I’ll be returning to a world full of atrocities, aka work, and retiring to the grind of being essentially a single dad. This trip though has stood as a reminder that there is much more than what just happens in my world. It’s a reminder that there are great people in the world. That there are great parents like Jeremy and Amber. That there is more to life than the grind of the same routine and that surprises do happen, like surprise proposals. That people will go out of their way to help pull off amazing moments, like my friend Bennett.
Not that this visit will change anything at work or will break up my routine at home but it helps to remember these things. The thing is if we forget, like completely forget these type of things we can start to lose hope. Start to spiral down little by little. Just like not remembering a name, a place or where you put your care keys can drive you crazy.