On the Perils and Pitfalls of Single Parenting

I have very recently been informed that what I am doing is vitally important, and should count as, if not a career, then a respectable detour. I’m still unconvinced I genuinely believe this (I certainly don’t grok it, but I’ve had confidence and perception issues for decades), but whether I do or not, this isn’t truly the issue.

What’s going on right now is that I’ve spent two days fighting with my children instead of writing. I JUST NOW spent nearly an hour building Lego instead of writing this post. Because the noise and wails when only one had a motorcycle.

I’m slowly coming to the realization that anything I want undamaged, anything from which I don’t want pieces missing must be cryosealed and buried, to be opened only after the last one has been unceremoniously ejected from all the Spaces That Are Mine.

“Dave,” I hear you saying, “wait, what? The writing thing?” Yeah, hold on: I’m getting there. Let me uncork a little more. Two days of constant struggle isn’t much, I hear you say, and you’re right. Those of you who deal with this on a daily basis for years have my utmost respect. Especially if your offspring are still alive. As are mine, just in case anybody was wondering.

Aside: I don’t know how this was done in the days before video chat. I know it was, but I can’t wrap my mind around how.

Anyway. I’m not just struggling with them;  I’m also fighting with the black dog. What about, you ask? Thank you, I see that hand.  What do I always flagellate myself over? Two things: parenting (see above) and writing. I owe a short. I’m about 24 hours overdue, and I’ve been staring at about a thousand words for about two weeks. All the usual stuff. Not good enough, everybody else can manage this, somebody else has it worse and still writes, etc. All those scourges with which we beat ourselves to justify not writing.

Wait, what?


Now, I’m really not talking about genuine obstacles. I spend half an hour trying to convince my daughter I have to write this post, and that’s another half hour delay. So far as I can tell, I cannot avoid that. I’m specifically talking about the demons of thought we allow into our heads that prevent us from creating.

Stop it. Or I’ll bury you alive in a box.

The Apostle Paul says he “takes every thought captive,” and that’s what I’d like to propose to you. I suggest you get yourself in a good headspace. Run a hot bath, add something smelly, grab a glass (or bottle) of wine. Or blast some metal while you lift, and wash down your protein shake with a glass of whiskey. However you do it, get some endorphins going to give yourself a buffer.

Then, make a list of the thoughts that really get you down. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. Nobody likes my writing. Nobody reads my work (especially if that’s true *fistbump*). Who am I kidding with this? I’m a poseur who only repackages other people’s ideas and can’t do anything original. (Like that last is a bad thing? Throw some heart into it. Rip yours out, smear it on the work, and release it into the wild. Not literally, obviously…) Write them all down somewhere, so you can recognize your enemy when he rears his ugly head.

Then, and this is the hard part, learn to realize what’s going on when you have those thoughts, and (crucial, this next) TAKE THEM CAPTIVE. Every time one of them floats through your head on the way to your heart to drop its payload of soul poison, you reject it. Out loud, if necessary.

Get out of the habit of beating yourself up. “Don’t should on yourself,” as the Irreverend tells me. (Frequently) Instill in yourself more positive habits of thought. Ask your friends what they think of you, and conform your thought patterns to that. (Assuming, always, that you have friends and not “friends,” in which case find better friends.)

Finally, if you read this and none of it applies, I’m envious, and will track you down and whip you with a wet noodle later. I’m mostly talking to myself, but I know I’m not *only* talking to myself. We can be better to ourselves, guys.


  1. You are going to miss playing with that Leggo, and sooner than you think. The real live person in front of you is much more important than anything else. Hang the blog, play with the kid.

  2. It does get better, or at least different, long before they’re ejected from your spaces. 🙂

    But let me tell you about those days when I’d take my kids to the beach and sit *seething* at the woman a bit down who had children old enough not to be actively trying to drown themselves who had the GALL to relax and read a book!

    1. Or, not go to the beach and have to put up with the a-holes that make me feel like a failure as a Dad because the beach is “RIGHT THERE!” and “FREE”(ish) and they take their kids all the time, but I don’t… Because there are TWO of them, and ONE of me, and they tend to LOSE THEIR DAMN MINDS when at the beach. One time, just ONE TIME of one running one way up the beach, and the other running the other way down the beach, and BOTH of them acting like they can swim better than Aquaman (never mind neither of them has ever been very talented in the water), and nope! NO WAY! They only get to the beach when I have a friend with me that is willing/able to keep up with one kid while I keep up with the other. Not to mention a friend that I TRUST enough to take care of one of my kids.

      1. LOL. I had two and a baby and went to a beach with a friend who had one. She scolded me (very mildly) for trying to keep them so close and not letting them play. But one running one way and the other running the other is WAY different than her just keeping her eye on her boy no matter where he ran.

  3. Talking to yourself is only a problem when you start answering.
    Conversations are right out.

    1. “Wait, what?”
      “Did you hear what that guy said?”
      “No, no, that can’t be right. He’s not taking into account verbal processors.”
      “Right, like Jordan Peterson said! Most people don’t know what they think, until they have to articulate it!”
      “You don’t articulate it. You give it a protagonist, and antagonist, an unrelated bystander, and a world built on it.”
      “Right, so I articulate it on a page, in multiple viewpoints and variations. That’s superior!”
      “No, that’s author. Superior is a lake, a nasty one with waves so high it can break a bow on the bottom when a ship gets caught in a trough.”
      “Not everywhere on the lake. The Edmund Fitzgerald sunk low enough they couldn’t check for years that it wasn’t an unsecured hatch…”
      “Good on Gordon Lightfoot to change the lyrics, and bring peace to the surviving family, when they proved that one.”
      “When the winds of November come stealing…”
      “What do they steal?”
      “That’s not the meaning and you know it.”
      “But if winds could steal lives…”
      “Fantasy. You write scifi.”
      “Not if we’re talking arctic fronts or haboobs. Those steal lives sure enough without magic, along with northern gales on Superior…”
      “Rogue waves come stealing, too.”
      “And whiteouts.”
      “And Chinooks. Drive you crazy, come stealing your sanity…”
      “Mmm, too Raymond Chandler. Or Corb Lund.”
      “All’s I know is God here comes that ol’ west wind again…”
      “Isn’t Peterson Albertan, too, like Lund?”
      “Let her blow, let her blow. Whisper me things that I don’t know. Let her blow away illusion like she melts the drifting snow…”

      1. Talking to yourself? Sometimes you need expert advice.
        Answering? Well, sometimes you need an intelligent conversation.
        Arguing? That might be problematic. MIGHT, mind.
        The MadScientistLaugh? Even when called for, it can make others Rather Nervous.

        1. I love the Mad Scientist laugh. I practice mine in the mirror.

          I used to have Vincent Price’s laugh from Thriller as my ring tone.

            1. Self employment is wonderful sometimes, eh? When you’re The Boss nobody can bitch about your stupid ringtone. ~:D

    2. Or talking to yourself in a language that is not your mother tongue. And not because you don’t want other people to know what it is that you just absolutely have to say or you will do something potentially rude.

  4. People always say that raising kids is important and of course it is, but what is said less often is that raising kids well, takes intellectual work. My mother used to say it was the hardest mental labor around. (so we are clear on this she put herself through college in 1938 — she was smart) You have to outwit your kids in order to keep them safe, happy, and growing. They spend every moment of the day studying you to figure out how to get what they think they need. You have to spend some time on the opposite side of that coin.

    Case in point. When my son had cancer as a 7 year old he had to take a certain medicine daily. It was a 45 minute struggle every day for four weeks. I wasn’t going to survive a year of that nor was he. Then the light bulb went on. He simply had to have the 45 minutes from me. The only question was how we were going to spend it. So I said if he took the meds he could have the time and I would sit with him for those 45 minutes or read or play a game. Done. Way easier. And when my husband wouldn’t make the deal my son fought all the way through those 45 minutes so he got the time anyway.

    You are the only one who can figure out what your kids are up to, trying to get what they need. You can do it. And be kind to yourself also.

  5. My Dragonette is old enough to be in the house alone while I’m working in Baga Yaga’s Shed, but I remember the days when there was no “me” time unless I was in the city at work or in bed asleep (and even then I’d often wake up with her lying on top of me). And while I neither resent nor regret those days, I feel absolutely no guilt at not missing them either.

    Capturing the negative thoughts? Oh yes. I know them – the old ones and the new ones – and I hear them whispering in my ear even now. I write them on a tissue, then blow my nose and throw them away. This is more gratifying if you exist in a constant state of low-level sinus issues (due to living in Florida, the land of grass and pollen), so you may need to find a different use for those tissues. But use them and toss them.

  6. “I’m not good enough. Nobody likes my writing. Nobody reads my work”

    If I had a nickel for every time these line came into my brain (came in uninvited, settled down and made themselves right at home) I wouldn’t need to be a 40 hour wage slave.

  7. learn to realize what’s going on when you have those thoughts

    The Forum people (an EST offshoot) call this “already always listening.” The responses are prepackaged in your subconscious. Recognizing them – even if after the fact – and making the response conscious is a skill that can be learned. It gets easier over time and after a while the prepackaged responses become what you want them to be, not just whatever formed them originally.

    For example, when I’m challenged I had two of these. With strangers, I’d be “nice” and generally just smile and end the conversation(1). With people I know, I’d get defensive(2). I’ve mostly broken both of those and calmly respond from my point of view. (Yes, I’m not on Twitter; how can you tell?)

    It’s pretty amazing how much our brains do on auto-pilot and how hard they are to reprogram.

    (1) Probably from changing schools a lot as a child; got to get along with the new classmates.
    (2) Probably from a big, loud family; if you didn’t fight for yourself, you were overrun.

    1. A guy named Wetherill, back a hundred or so years ago, called them “distortions of logic.” He tried to explain it in metaphors of telephone switchboards. It works pretty well when translated into basic programming.

      Basically, he said, they happen when you ovverride your logical faculties to satisfy an overwhelming desire. For example, you’re sick and tired of doing something, and you end up persuading yourself that, say, “Even if it works, what good does it do me?”

      Fine. Only you didn’t just settle *that* argument with yourself. You *overrode your logical faculties.” Whether you meant to or not, you set a precedent. And the next time you get into a situation that resembles this one in the right way (and you *might not consciously spot the resemblance*), then you stop thinking. Because your logical faculties have been reprogrammed.

      IF (the following emotional/logical situation) THEN
      GOSUB “Even if it works, what good does it do me?”

      And you never realize that you didn’t really think about it. You followed all the logical steps.

      So, he said, a major part of the business of sanity is finding those distortions of logic and consciously rejecting them. Easier said than done, I say, sighing.

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