There are many new experiences that we go through in the wake of a divorce. The feeling of sleeping alone in a bed bought for two, the sudden realization that you have to find a plus one for your friend’s wedding and even figuring out what to do on Sundays once football season starts.
But as a single mom, these experiences go deeper than just the realization that you’re single – you’re also now a single parent. All the dreams and moments you once shared as parents are now split, fractured into two separate experiences had by two separate people for kids that are both yours.
I have been divorced for almost three years and thought I had worked through the sadness of birthdays as a single parent, and lost teeth without someone to share it with, but recently I had a reminder that I’m going at this alone, and it hit home in a big way.
This past Sunday, my son had T-ball practice, and as we approached the field, my son looked at me excitedly and said, “You’ll be coming on the field to help, right, Mom?”
Standing there in my sparkly sandals and cute jeans, I had not factored this into the plan of taking my son to experience one of the most sacred rights of passage for young boys – team sports. I assumed I would hang out in the stands, chatting with the other moms, shouting “Woo hoo!” whenever my son did something like run for a ball (even if he didn’t catch it), or had his turn at bat even if he struck out.
Cheering-For-No-Reason Mom is a role I’m great at; Catching-A-Ball-Flying-At-My-Face Mom, I am not. Or didn’t think I was. But then I realized I had no choice. My son deserved to have this experience, my son deserved to have his parent standing on that field helping out the coach – who, by the way, amazed me with his ability to make it through an hour and half with twenty 5 and 6 year olds, balls flying and kids running, without a black eye or a skinned knee on the bunch. Masterful, actually.
So as we approached the field and my son was brimming with excitement, I said “Of course I will” and away we went to the baseball field, dirt covering my perfectly painted toenails and my bracelets jingling as I took out a ball out of my handbag. (Because all moms carry T-balls in our handbags, right?)
He stood ready for the prerequisite game of catch to warm up and I took a moment to look around. Sure enough, I was the only mom on the field. I felt suddenly awkward, out of place, like I had somehow entered the no girl zone. And then, sad.
Sad that I couldn’t play the role, I thought I should be playing, that of “mom in the stands.” Sad that I couldn’t look on proudly as my son and his dad bonded in that dad-son ritual of playing catch. Sad that I had never learned how to throw a baseball, mostly because I figured it wasn’t my part in the parenting paradigm I had imagined. But now it is. Now it will be my job to play ball, build Legos and play good guys and bad guys and as he grows, teach him to shave and wear deodorant and all those other things little boys who become big boys need to learn.
I accepted that this was the new paradigm for me and one that wasn’t all to unfamiliar these days, in fact, I was actually surprised I was the only mom on that field.
My son threw me the ball and of course it whizzed by my head. A dad behind us caught it and handed it to me, saying, “Kid’s got a good arm.” I smiled proudly. “Yes, yes he does,” I thought. Now all I have to do is learn to catch and get some tennis shoes. Sparkly ones, of course.