I was talking with my husband of two years last night, and was voicing my frustration with parenting and raising my two kids primarily alone over the past twelve years. He patiently listened while I recounted experiences to him (that he’s heard no less than one hundred times before), and I expressed my amazement and surprise that my kids were doing so well with everything they have gone through in life. Once I finally finished with a huff, my husband finally got a word in. He looked at me and said, “Babe. They are doing so well because you haven’t been doing this alone. You had the best co-parent the past 12 years for your kids. Your parents. You can be proud of who your kids are becoming because of your hard work AND theirs. Every hard thing you have been through with your kids, your parents were right there and in it with you.”
I am always telling people how amazing my parents are. I appreciate them and will tell just about anyone, “My parents are the best!” any chance I get. But my husband’s comment made me speechless, which is almost impossible to do. I’ve always viewed them as MY parents, but, I’ve come to realize, they have also been co-parenting with me.
A Couple Pink Lines Changed My World
I was a 19-year-old wrapping up my freshman year of college, and a couple pink lines changed my world. I was almost 30 weeks pregnant (I had NO idea. It was a complete shock…but that is story for another day) and the plans I made for my future needed to be redirected quickly. My parents loved, supported, and walked along side me through what was one of the most confusing and challenging times of my life.
I got married, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, went back to school full time (online), and took on a part time job. During that first year, we moved into my parents finished basement so we could save every penny and hopefully both get through another year of college. At that time, my parents were still working full time in their careers. They managed to also support us so that we could get our degrees to set ourselves up for success in the future. That year they made us dinner, took the baby a few hours each night so I could study or rest, and helped in a thousand different ways.
After a year of living with my parents, we were finally able to get our own apartment and stretch our wings. My children’s father got his degree and start working full time. When I was 22 and in my Junior year, we decided to try for one more, and I got pregnant right away. During my pregnancy I was diagnosed with hyperemesis along with my daughter’s diagnosis of severe Symmetrical IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction), which meant my daughter was not growing properly and under the 3rd percentile. My mom was there when I was laying on the bathroom floor puking my guts out, to holding my hand while I had an amniocentesis, and everything in between. I lost over 30lbs and was in and out of the hospital about 4 days a week my entire pregnancy. Between my parents and my in-laws, I made it to every doctor’s appointment (I was unable to drive due to dizziness and constant vomiting), my 3 year old was supervised and well-loved while I was on bedrest, my house was clean, laundry done, and meals cooked for nine months.
My daughter was born at just 4lbs, but was miraculously perfectly healthy. My mom was there for all 23 hours of labor and my parents were there meeting her just a few minutes after she was born. Five days after her birth, we discovered my 3-year-old son was infected with chicken pox. My daughter and I quarantined at my parents until day 17 when she developed spots. I survived recovering from a traumatic pregnancy, a birth, quarantining away from my then husband and son, and endured a 12-day hospital stay because of my mom and dad’s support. They spent nights in the hospital with me, brought me clothes and snacks, hugged me while I wept, and held my hand when I had to make medical decisions. They did this for every bronchitis stay (we had 3 in one year), rotavirus admission (10 days long), and even the basic ER visits like a head wound that needed glued shut for my son (because boys are wild). My mom was there when my daughter was dehydrated from a virus and wiped my tears when I had to watch 21 attempts at getting an IV in her before they were able to get one to work. When I was hospitalized numerous times within a few months with asthma, my dad came to the hospital to encourage me while my mom took care of my kids and getting them to and from school until I was better.
I graduated with my Bachelors Degree because of my parents support. They spent countless hours watching my kids so I could study, write papers, and work. I’m still convinced the only reason I passed my Statistics class in college was because of my dad’s tutoring each night at the kitchen table trying to teach me everything I didn’t understand from class earlier that day.
No judgement. No questions.
When I knew that I needed to file for divorce immediately, my first call was to my parents. At the time I was living over 2 hours away. I called my parents and filled them in on the recent situation and they said, “Do you need to come home? The three of you can stay as long as you need, and we can figure things out together.” I was back in my childhood home 3 days after that call. I left a seven year marriage with $37 in my bank account and two young kids dependent on me. My parents babysat while I interviewed for jobs and gave me space when I needed it. They helped me find a house to rent and unpack my things. Curtains were hung, beds were built, and boxes unpacked in a day. The first night we slept at our new home the kids had their rooms completely decorated and not a single box was left for me to have to unpack.
My parents received my tearful phone calls when I missed my kids when they were at their dads for their first weekend away. They were there the day the divorce was finalized. Both my mom and dad sat with me in the courtroom while my marriage officially ended, took me out to coffee, picked up my kids from school so I could have some time to myself, and then took all 3 of us out to dinner where we clinked, “Cheers, to new beginnings!” that evening. My parents have been there each time I’ve received calls from Children Services when something happened while my kids were at a visit and kept me somewhat calm until my babies were back in my arms safe, and home sleeping in their beds. My parents have sat through countless lawyer meetings and courtroom negotiations. They have offered advice, support, and a different perspective while being safe and healthy adults for my kids to talk to when they want or need.
Fully Fed and Squeaky Clean
Days I have been stuck in work meetings, they have taken my kids to dentist appointments and picked up prescriptions from the store so I could come home and be with my kids and have one less errand to run. On wedding weekends when I would work a 12+ hour day, they would keep their grandkids for a sleepover and bring them back the next day after I woke up. My kids were occupied with frozen yogurt, laughter, and fun. Books were read, movies watched, excursions were had. I always got them back fully fed and squeaky clean fresh from the tub.
Now I’m happily re-married, my kids are thriving, and I have 5 step kids that I absolutely adore. Life is full, but it is so wonderful. As you guessed, my parents have supported our blended family relationship since the very beginning, offer advice whenever we ask, and have welcomed 5 new kids into their life as grandparents. Guess who saved the day during COVID19 and all 7 kids had virtual school five days a week? My mom. She is a retired educator, and came over every single day to homeschool the kids, pick up the house, make lunch, and love on the kids so that both my husband and I could continue to work full time and our paychecks were uninterrupted. Again, in August, when school announced they were doing a hybrid schedule of virtual learning three days a week and in-person learning for two, guess who is teaching 7 kids in grades 2nd-freshman year on their virtual days? My mom. Seeing her walk up my driveway each morning with a smile on her face to homeschool my kids is an unbelievable gift I will forever appreciate.
Mimi and Papa John
Life has settled significantly now that I have a great career, partner at home, and daily routine. However, my parents are still always making themselves available to support and love the kids. They are there for the dance recitals and football games, the summer cookouts and snows days when school is cancelled. There when my kids are mad at me and need a trip to get ice cream. They manage to bring them back with a soft serve in hand along with a softened heart ready to apologize. And occasionally, on a wedding weekend even now, they will step in as the babysitter so that my husband can get some one-on-one time with his kids and my kids get an overnight at Mimi and Papa Johns house, because having grandparents living so close by, really is the best.
I look at my 12 year old son and 8 year old daughter and am so proud of the kids they are and the people they are becoming. I made countless sacrifices, shed many tears, and prayed every single day for them. Even though most of their life, when I felt like I was parenting alone, I wasn’t. My parents were there for the big and small moments, walking along side of me, carrying part of the load so it wasn’t so heavy for me. They made the hard days easier. They made the tears end sooner. And when I recall memories of my kids, every single time, without fail, my story includes my parents. They were there. They were present. They were right there, in it with me. They loved unconditionally, endlessly, and with zero strings attached. My parents have been my partner, my co-parent this entire time, and I am so thankful for them.