When I was younger my Mom wouldn't let me charge more than $1.00 an hour to babysit. Period. Even when I was 15 and 16 years old- she would only let me charge one dollar per hour.
She said, at the time, that going out and paying for dinner and a movie was expensive enough - and having to come home and shell out $40 on a babysitter was too much and she refused to me do it.... so - $1.00 it was.
My first "real job" was at Pizza Hut. I went down the day I turned 16 to the only Pizza Hut in a 60 mile radius and was hired on the spot, skipping the seven blocks home with my grey pencil skirt, red pin-stripped shirt, grey blow-tie and visor in my hands. I did well - customers liked me and the tips were good... I was certainly making for than $1 an hour! lolol
That summer I made friends with a waitress, she had three kids all under the age of four. She was this beautiful woman, tall with blonde hair. They lived in the trailer court in our (very) small town. She was working several jobs and having a hard time keeping a babysitter who they could afford.... so one day I offered to watch the kids on my day off.
She was pleased.... and me.....? I totally fell in love.
All three kids had blonde curls that flopped and fell as they ran around the small living room, they were polite and well-mannered and so freaking adorable. It wasn't long before I was going there every day after school and working for them instead of waiting tables.... I hunted down a car seat at the Goodwill (even *then* I was a car seat whore....)- and I started using my tip money from my weekend shifts to take the kids places.... still only charging their Mom my standard $1.00 per hour.
I loved it. Every, Single. Second. I loved it - and.... I knew that not only was I getting payed to play with children (how stupid is *that*?!?!?), but I knew that I was helping their Mom get their family to a better place financially because instead of working just to cover bills and childcare - she was actually making forward progress and paying off bills and gathering a savings.
Eventually, when she had saved enough, they moved back to Florida. I was gutted... but thrilled she was moving back home to her parents place. Shortly after.... I found another family to start working for every day after school. They had a fantastic Billy Joel collection of LP's - and I would sit and listen to them for hours.
Right out of high school I found a nanny job.... little Lauren. I potty trained her in three days (booyah!) and .... broke her of her screaming/hitting tantrums and helped her lose 6 pounds (her last nanny waaaay over fed her - so I would take her to the Lindale Mall and make her little tiny two year old legs walk the mile circle every day..... everyone at the mall just adored her.)
I moved to London and soon realized that *there* I would be making $65K a year PLUS a car with all expenses paid if I worked as a nanny.... so it wasn't long before I was full time with a family in Maida Vale.
I don't know ... honestly... if I love kids or photography more... it's a push.
Oh... and kids....? Kids LOVE me. Adults.... sometimes not so much - but kids- *all* kids love me. In the 17 years I've been working I've only had TWO kids bail on a session where we didn't get anything I felt was "good" enough to constitute a session and getting paid.
Kids seems to understand that I'm am a bullshit free zone. Period. Kids like that... sometimes, like I said - adults, not so much. lololol
When I thought I wasn't going to be able to have kids of my own.... while I *should* have been hysterical - I wasn't. I had El Capitan, who I adored, so I thought it would be ok if we didn't have kids. We were happy together... just us.
We weren't using protection... actually - and this it *totally TMI* - but the one and only time in my *entire* life that I did not use "protection".... I got pregnant. Which... that in itself is crazy - BUT - when you take into account that I was told I would never get pregnant or stay pregnant.... it was nothing short of a miracle.
From day one - from that first Sunday morning when those two pink lines appeared.... I was smitten. I would lay awake for hours dreaming of what my child would be like... I couldn't wait for him or her to come out and start playing, start cooing and crying and just.... being.
I really, couldn't wait.
The Boy was born and El Capitan and I were soooo proud. We were so happy - The Boy quite literally never hit the floor or a bed - we held him all the time. We held him while he slept, we held him while we played... we were totally infatuated with him.
Now.... 7 years later... I'm *still* infatuated with him. He's .... amazing. He is kind and thoughtful and introspective. He looks at the world and see's a problem and starts to think about compassionate and appropriate solutions. He doesn't see color... he thinks God is a African-American woman named Whoopi, he knows that kids can have two daddies or two mommies and he doesn't seem to "understand" that that's "different".... he just see's a family where other people see a political statement. He doesn't avoid his classmates who are 'on the spectrum'... he seeks them out, draws them into the general play. He is kind and funny.... oh - he is so damn funny.
One of the highlights of "school" for The Boy is putting on these little comedy skits he comes up with. Usually they are seasonal - so Christmas themed or whatever... and he sets up a stage and get up in front of the class and does his schtick - which, he makes up completely on the fly. It's not the usual "poopy diapers" types jokes... it's like totally legitimate conversational humor. HE creates funny stories an scenarios and tells them in various voices - and the kids (and teachers) love him.
With his comedy skillz.... I have endeavored to teach him *timing* - that there is a time and a place and that a good comedian doesn't take over a classroom, but waits patiently for his turn to shine. The teachers *swear* to me that he isn't a distraction and that his shows are so "popular" with the kids, they are usually asking for them at the last 5 minutes of class.
He's .... unique and silly .... and better than anything I could have dreamed of.
I *want* to say that I have completely shielded him from everything.... kept him in the dark about what goes on between his Dad and I .... but I haven't. Sometimes I have tried and failed and sometimes... it's just *there* and he knows it - he can feel it and see it without my saying anything.
I worry constantly about the affects of everything on him...... I thought he would be sad to leave our home - and he was.... but he loves living where we are. He, like his mother, is always making the best of things.... which stuns me. Well.... *he* stuns me.
He's polite and a little bit loud (how could he *not* be - he's my kid... hahaha) - he's a little quirky... and he believes in things like magic and Santa and The Elf on The Shelf. Oh... our Elf is big sh*t around here - he spend alllll day worried that the Elf might fall or someone might touch him... he really bought into that one hook, line and sinker.....
He's a believer.... and for some reason... he still believes in me. Which - it better than being loved. You can love someone and not trust them, believe in them - or even like them..... so, having his trust and his belief in me means more than anything else....
That's why I have to just keep getting the f*ck up when things are hard..... I can't get caught up reading into things like - El Capitan did this stupid thing or *that* stupid thing - things that other women who have walked in my shoes say things like, "Oh, you should take him to court over that...." or - you know.. the kind of 'usual' back and forth getting divorced thing that often happens.
I can't do that stuff because (unless something is happening that would actually harm my children, not just be annoying to me) I know that my son trusts me to make the right choices for *him*. That means I can't allow my anger or frustration with El Capitan to encraoach on that.... sometimes I want it to. Truly.
There are days when I want to say - screw this and just stop. When I'm calling El Capitan and he doesn't answer for days on end.... and I hear El Capitan and Yoga Girl were enjoying pancakes at a local breakfast place (but seriously... what do you expect - marathon tantric sex must require some carbs......right?) it makes me freakin' pissed because El Capitan *should* be spending that Sunday with his children since he hadn't seen them for over a week.....
But these things - these bits of knowledge are *mine* to be angry about. They are *mine* to blog about and talk about and even to yell at El Capitan about... but, all yelling aside.... I have to suck it up and set up their next visitation because that is what my son is trusting me to do.
It's total b.s. that I'm the one in charge of things.... El Capitan get to destroy me, decimate me, ruin me as a person... leaving me to feel as though no other man on the plane will ever want me... because if you're own husband - who has picked his nose, his ass and his nut sac in front of you -... is willing to leave that trust and that level of love behind.... well, let's just say that it doesn't feel like too many men are going to line up to take this chic to dinner.
And that's ok... because the *one* little man who needs me is already here - already apart of my 'forever' and now instead of me living my own "Happily Ever After".... I'm in charge of making sure *he* get's one... and his baby sister too..... and it's just b.s. that I didn't *do* anything to get here- and now I have to fight my own anger and feelings just to try and keep a status quo for the benefit of the children.... and El Capitan.
sigh. That's the lot of every single Mom out there. It's totally unfair.
While I'm not at all grateful for the position we're all in..... I *am* grateful that I have The Boy and The Girl who keep me grounded, who keep me tethered to reality - so then when I'm in my fog.... I can find my way out of it by using them as my guide. I don't *always* do it - or do it right... but I am always trying to get sh*t right so that they come out of this with the least amount of emotional damage possible...
I'm grateful for the snuggles and the laughter... for the love and the kisses, for the fights over Little People and watching The Bee Movie for the billionth time.... I'm grateful for the fact that The Boy knows what Twilight is... and has assessed that it's very important to me... as in, "No, [The Girl], don't play with Mommy's Twilight blanket, you don't want to rip it...." lololololol
I am so grateful to be a Mom. I'm certainly not as good of a Mom as I want to be... and not nearly as good of a Mom as many others I know.... but I'm *always* trying. Always.
Just a few weeks ago when we were at The Great Wolf Lodge were sitting in the outdoor hot tub which the children LOVE.... (little Elle secret: I love hot tubs. There is just something magical about sitting in the warmth of the water watching the vapor crystallize in the cold weather at night... i just love it.) So we were all out there and another Mom was there with her kids and she asked me if I was there alone, which I told her I was... she thought that that was hilarious - and went on and on about how there was *no way* she could ever take her two kids to a place like this alone because she didn't think she could handle it - and how she'd need a bottle of wine a day just to cope with the stress.... and blah blah blah - laughing the whole time she was talking.....
I sat there, first thinking that you don't *really* know what you can do until you're actually having to do it... and second.. that I was sure as sh*t glad she wasn't my Mom... lololol. good grief.
Perhaps she was just trying to be extra nice to me.... but, she doesn't need to. Being a single Mom isn't nearly as hard as dealing with the betrayal and lies as an ex-wife... *that* is brutal and (if I did drink wine) would certainly require a bottle a day to deal with the stress.... but ... alas, I can't do that either because The Boy is trusting me to *do this* to handle this - on *their* terms.... not mine.
That is a lot more responsibility then handling the children on my own at Disneyland or The Great Wolf Lodge.... the two things just don't compare.
So on this final day of five days of gratitude, I'm grateful to be a Mom. I'm grateful that The Boy trusts me with his heart and his emotions and his future.... and I'm grateful for The Girl - and her silly smiles and sweet kisses and.... most importantly, I'm grateful for my Grandma who taught that were are *worse* things happening to people all the time.
My Grandma who taught me that life is for the living..... and what I know now - 9 months into this new journey - is that living through my children's eyes, looking at problems and solving them not as an angry ex-wife, but as my kids' Mom..... is the only way we'll truly be living in happiness and wholeness again, even as one family in two houses.....
I am grateful that my world is full of people - big and small - who patiently wait for me to figure things out and move us forward.... most importantly: The Boy and The Girl... without them, I have no direction.