WHERE WAS THAT DAMN CHECKLIST WHEN I NEEDED IT?

Was I the only female in her 20s who didn’t have that all-important
checklist of necessary traits for a husband? You know, traits like: good with
children; an education higher than ninth grade; doesn’t think 401K is a
freeway, or Good Pay with Benefits is the name of a horse to bet on. The only
relationship advice I remember getting while growing up was from my
grandmother. “It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor man,” she’d
reiterate every chance she got. It fell upon deaf ears, because what I got was
a sporadically employed, debt-ridden, non-checkbook-balancing, “I didn’t know
this site would bill me $300 for watching porn” man-boy. And I have no one to
blame but myself.

Sure, there was a point in the relationship when I told
myself to get out. I believe the words were: “Get the f**k away from this man. What
is the matter with you?” But I didn’t. I’m still not sure why. Surely multiple
orgasms couldn’t cloud my vision THAT much. Even another single mom friend of
mine confided, “Before my ex, I always dated men with good jobs and an
education—men who treated me like a queen. I don’t know what happened.”

Had I initially chosen the right man to divorce, I too might
be enjoying the perks of being an ex, such as child support payments and every
other weekend off to get my groove on.

Instead of feeling anger toward my ex for not being able to
step up to the plate and be a responsible father to our nine-year-old son, I
feel a tremendous amount of anger toward myself over having chosen the mate
that I did. Now my son doesn’t have 2 stable parents in his life, and the guilt
I feel is enormous. Since I can’t take responsibility for another’s actions, namely
my ex’s, I choose to beat myself up constantly for my poor decision-making
ability. My son shouldn’t have to suffer because of my inability to foresee
past behavior as an indicator for future behavior of a dubious nature. “With a
little guidance he’ll change,” I told my friends. “He just needs someone to
show him the right way to do things.” (Yeah, I know – believe it or not, I
actually completed four years of college.)

The point is to learn from our mistakes. If we’re conscious
enough, we don’t repeat them. When we mistakenly choose the wrong partner and
have children with them, well … that mistake doesn’t go away, unless they
decide to drop out of the picture for good, or are sentenced to life in prison.
And even then, they sometimes return like genital warts.

I believe a child flourishes in a two-parent household. It’s a balance of two energies— yin-yang
of sorts—where both energies are required to properly round out a developing
child. I only have feminine energy. Our counselor says I have to provide both
for my son – be both mother and father. How in the hell do I do that when I was
raised a girl? I didn’t grow up with brothers or male cousins. I hung out with
“the guys” as a teenager on the streets of Brooklyn, but they were all
high-school drop-outs who cursed and spit on the sidewalk. Hardly the behavior
I wanted to adopt.

How am I supposed to teach him to shave? Obviously I haven’t
succeeded at teaching him to effectively aim his urine stream into the bowl.
Recently, he pointed to a cartoon picture of a girl in a bikini in his Pokemon
DSI game. “Boobs!” he giggled. What would a dad do? I wondered. So I playfully
slapped him on the back, equally enthused. “Yeah, boobs!” What would a mom do?
“Son, the proper word is breasts. And we don’t objectify women in this house.”

I don’t have a significant other to show him the
male ropes, his teachers are all female; coaches can only do so much. No
Grandpa as a role model, no uncles … just other dads of friends who flit in and
out of our lives, occasionally attempting to take my son under their wing by
teaching him the correct way to dive or hold a bat. We recently went to a
batting cage with a friend’s husband who tossed some balls to him so he could hit
them. I watched sadly, thinking about J’s father. “You should be the one here throwing baseballs to your son, you
SOB.” All I could do was smile and cheer J on. And pray he wasn’t thinking the
same thing.

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