Back off, Martha Stewart.
And you too, Real Simple magazine, with your deceptively “simple” crafts, recipes and organizing projects for my home.
Where is the magazine for single parents?
You know, the one that would never THINK of telling you that planning your recipes for the week is not only essential, but easy. The one that would never assume your schedule will actually remain as it is supposed to for the next five to seven days. The one that knows you probably still have bits of last week’s planned but not executed dinners on your refrigerator shelves—and they may be growing fuzz.
Where the hell is THAT magazine?
You may be wondering what has prompted this fit of impassioned rhetoric.
Frickin’ Halloween, that’s what.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Halloween. Each year, since my children were babies, we’ve decorated, chosen and carved the pumpkins, made a special Halloween treat.
Not this year.
You know why?
You guessed it. Single parent.
Working—a lot. Dealing with a teen and a precocious nine-year-old. Handling a mortgage and all the requisite bills that come with being moderately successful but—damn—not a trust fund kid. I won’t go through the laundry list because no one likes a “poor me” story. But I’ve learned. Oh, how I’ve learned.
It’s different on your own.
This year, I didn’t even broach pumpkin shopping, let alone carving, with my kids. I did not carefully sift through a file of recipes to determine whether the Rice Krispy ghost treats or the zombie cupcakes would be a better match.
We did get the spooky gravestones put in the yard. And our large, hairy black spider on the front porch.
And that was good enough.
“Good enough” is a concept I’ve never been comfortable with—until now.
In days gone by, I had a picture in my head of how the holiday “should” be. Whether Christmas, Easter or Halloween, there was a “way” it was going to be done.
This year, that all went out the window. My divorce was finalized late last year and I’ve been working my tail off to keep us happy, healthy and secure.
So, no Easter egg hunt this year. And no sleeping in the suburbs, only to breakfast out with hundreds of mother/father/2.1 children scenarios. We headed downtown. Mass at the cathedral. Overnight at a hotel. Brunch at a hip restaurant.
Halloween may have been pumpkin-free, but I volunteered at the school dance and got to see my son live it up a bit. I took several adorable purple minions out from house to house and watched them trade candy afterward—happily, I might add.
They ate frozen pizza and too much chocolate—but it was all good.
Not one commented on a lack of jack-o-lanterns or lamented because there were no zombie cupcakes.
It was not perfect. Not up to Martha’s high standards.
But it was good enough.
To all of my fellow newbie single parents out there, a shout-out. For catching the last 10 minutes of your child’s basketball game or lacrosse match. For making scrambled eggs for dinner sound exciting and like you’re breaking the rules (“Breakfast for dinner? That’s crazy, kids. We can’t do that. Well, OK—if you insist.”). For realizing that it’s only you that tastes the difference between homemade Christmas sugar cookies and the buy-and-bake version.
I may not be able to show my children the “perfect” holiday right now but I can show them resilience, ingenuity and a sense of humor. So what if the Starbucks and McDonald’s drive-through attendants know me now? At least my children got an egg sandwich on the way to school. (And doesn’t the fruit in their lunch win me brownie points?)
My kids will hopefully look back and remember happy times. Which are rarely perfect.
Just like me.