We had a snowstorm the other day, and I didn’t get my daily run in. The next day I was up early and woke my husband to tell him I was going out for my usual Saturday 4-miler. He told me the roads weren’t clear enough and I should not go.
The roads were clear enough, and I had to go. I am one of those people who have to run. Running gives me endorphins. I am addicted to that shit. When Mama skips a run, nobody wins. So I had to run (it was breathtaking by the way).
I knew what he was afraid of. He was afraid something might happen to me and maybe I wouldn’t come home. We have talked about what we would do if something were to happen to one (or both) of us while our kids are still dependents, but the conversation doesn’t go beyond who would raise them, life insurance policies, or where we want our ashes spread.
We are both very involved, but because I stay at home, I deal with the kids more. I see more, I handle more, simply because I am the one who is here. On that run, I was deep in thought about the things I had to tell him if I go first—things I have never discussed with him. Things that are more important than life insurance policies and where I want my ashes to be spread. Things like:
1. Have lots of talks about sex/drugs/drinking with the kids.
I know it is uncomfortable for you. It isn’t for me, which is why I just handle it, but it is too important. I know we have already covered lots of stuff with them, but it should be an ongoing process.
This may be hard for you to hear, but your daughter might someday be just as interested in sex as any teenage boy out there. I know this because once upon a time I was said girl. So talk to them all, all of the time. Tell them the difference between valuing someone and desiring them. Talk about respecting their bodies as well as others. And protection—don’t forget about protection. Remind them how to treat someone they are intimate with. Tell them what it is to be responsible and true to themselves. To listen to their inner voice, always.
Let them know they can come to you even when they screw up—that you are a safe place to land no matter what. Remind them constantly. Be persistent. They will tell you they already know. I don’t care. Tell them again.
2. Don’t let our kids act like assholes.
I know we both feel like we have pretty good kids. That doesn’t mean they won’t act like assholes sometimes. If another parent or a teacher tells you they are acting like an asshole, it is because they are. Make them fix it. Don’t do it for them, and don’t dismiss it. Make them right the situation.
3. Start snooping.
I know you don’t do this, but I do. I snoop in their rooms. I look at their history on their phones. I check their pockets. Don’t feel bad about invading their privacy. If they are doing something that is not right or is illegal, hurting themselves or someone else, putting a stop to that overrides their privacy. Don’t worry about being the bad guy. Don’t let them think they have a free pass because they have been through something hard.
4. Don’t bring home a floozy.
I understand you may need to have a night (or a few) for yourself after some time (please wait at least a year). If that time involves meeting up with a floozy in some seedy hotel so you can clean out your pipes, fine. I understand and will not haunt you (that much). Just don’t bring her home to our kids. Wait until you meet someone who is almost as fabulous as I am. She can not be more fabulous, just a touch less fabulous—got it? If and when you bring her home, make sure she is nice to our babies. They are gifts and should be treated as such.
5. Don’t be afraid to get rid of my stuff.
Please don’t feel like you need to keep anything of mine. It will be important for you to move on, and I believe this will help, especially when you find Little Miss Less Fabulous. She will not like seeing all of my things strewn about. Also, you will probably come across some stuff you didn’t know I purchased—mostly boots, jewelry, and such. Don’t be mad. I can assure you everything you find was on sale.
6. Don’t second-guess your parenting decisions.
Go with your gut. Just because I am not here doesn’t mean you don’t know what to do. You have been a parent just as long as I have, and you know just as much. I know there have been times when I have taken over because you have been busy with work and it was just easier. The kids know what you expect from them, so make sure that never changes.
7. You count, too.
I want you to remember not to put yourself last. Don’t stop doing the things that you love. When I have done this, everyone suffers (and I have you as a partner). As a single parent, it will be harder yet more important than ever. Keep sailing, keep golfing, keep feeding your soul, and be good to yourself.
8. Don’t let your friendships slip away.
You have some amazing friends. They will be more important than ever. Make time for them, and don’t feel guilty about it. After all, you have known some of them longer than you have known me. There are strong bonds between you guys. Lean on them.
9. Keep having fun.
Think of all the times we have danced, jumped on the furniture, stuffed our faces at our favorite restaurants, hiked, sang, and hurt ourselves trying to impress our kids. Please don’t stop doing these things. Start new traditions if that is what feels right, but above all else, make sure you and the kids keep having fun.
I want you to carry bits and pieces of our life together around with you, but don’t carry so much that you don’t have room for anything new.
Oh, and about my funeral: Don’t put me in a casket in a church with flowers and sad music. Wine and cake in our backyard will do.
Just please make sure it is chocolate.
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