17 June 2009

The Swing Set

First, let me begin by saying this plain and simple. I hate going to the park. I guess this makes me a monstrous jerk mommy, but I really hate it. I hate the crowds at the good parks with all the big kids (who I am not above snapping at when they are being pushy or obnoxious or too rough around little kids). I hate the ten thousand places to loose a toddler, because nothing is more terrifying then that. I hate the cigarette buts and beer bottles and teenagers (or worse yet transients) at the neighborhood parks. This being Alaska, I hate standing around freezing for half an hour while my temperature impervious child wants to play. I hate the fit about it being time to leave the park. I am sort of uncomfortable with her making random friends at the park.

Most of all, I really dislike the other mothers and the fact that I am there all alone.

The first summer that NotMarsha was old enough (1 1/2) to want to go to parks was the summer when I was a 25 year old, single, working, mother nearing the end of a year long divorce. I was living for the summer in the guest bedroom of some incredibly kind friends' house. The more or less took me in because my parents wouldn't let me stay with them. It was not a good time.

We went to the park on Friday nights, after work and dinner and before the strange bedroom nighttime battle. The whole thing was exhausting. It was, by far, the worst year (or two) of my entire life. I was basically a failure as a mother and there was not much chance of that changing. I was in a painful and exhausting parenting situation with my ex, the nanny, and the grandparents, it was a scene. I was in a job that I took out of desperation, that I could have been really good at, but in that case had really missed the mark.

It felt like every other parent that we encountered at the park could see right through all of that.

Young mother? Check.

Still wearing office clothes? Check.

No ring? Check.

Low patience threshold? Check.

I got pregnant, after having been married two years I was married, at 23. NotMarsha was born just after my 24th birthday. Her father and I separated six months later. It wasn't until that summer at the park on Friday nights that I ever felt like a "Young Mother". I don't feel like I look particularly young anymore, but I look at the one or two pictures I have from when NotMarsha was born and I look like such a baby myself. I had no idea.

I got the message loud and clear that summer at the park. Totally overwhelmed. Totally isolated. Totally at a loss for how to make anything right in the long run.

Its gotten better over time. The divorce was finalized and then revised once we were able to work together better.

Everyone has moved on and is happy in their personal lives. I had already met and was basically involved with NotMike that summer, but it was long distance and not-public.

Last summer, NotMike, NotMarsha, and I all lived together for the first time in a little apartment in the town where NotMike and I met. It was a horribly rainy summer and the parks weren't really even an option, so everyday we went to the pool. (Yes, I get why it is funny that we avoided the rain by swimming in the local pool). The pool atmosphere was mostly like the park, not quite as harsh, but unless you bring a friend with you there are the inevitable impenetrable cliques.

I really commend Young Mothers who were more aware of it at the time. Who moved passed it and found their stride and can take on the world. Like this one. That post was such a wake up call to me.

So inspiring, but so totally out of my league.

Which leads pretty directly to this.

One of the most important things for me when we were shopping for a new house was to find one with as absolutely much yard as possible. I wanted it to be big, fenced, and ready to go. I wanted it to be safe and free of cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. I wanted it to be a place where NotMarsha and a dog could play and be safe and have fun. Where I could relax and not feel like I had to be the right kind of mother, just HER mother. Genuinely enjoying my time with HER.

Slightly agoraphobic? Perhaps.

Totally extravagant? Probably.

Totally worth it in the mental health kickbacks? Abso#*(%#lutly.

Last weekend we had a BBQ with her Dad, Step-mom, Brothers, Cousin, and Paternal Grandparents in our new yard with the 1/3 finished Swing Set. The picnic table part was up. The kids ran around in the yard and my niece hung from the structure like a monkey in a tree. It was just exactly what I had always wanted us to be able to do and made the huge price tag and the two solid weeks of construction totally worth everything. And the thing isn't even fully constructed yet.

NotMarsha wants us to get a sign for the yard that says "NotMarsha's Park". We have a little park bench too.

I'll post a photo set when we can show the whole process. Its been two weeks of construction. Pretty much more time then it takes to build a Habitat for Humanity House where people actually live. 

The yard, after much effort and 62 bags of crap needs some work, but is clean.

The house, a whole separate series of DIY before and after posts, is coming along.

We really are settling in to a life. Slowly and painfully and awkwardly. But deservedly and with hope for the future, which didn't really exist around here for a very long time.

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