Thursday, May 16, 2013

Being Game

When you are a single mother by choice, you do the work of both a mother and father. You wear two hats, and you are keenly aware of it every single day. If you weren't already familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, full-time single motherhood will rapidly make them very apparent to you. I guarantee it!

I have many failings when it comes to performing this gargantuan two-headed job: I am woefully not domestic, and I am also not mechanical. And that's just for starters. So please don't ask me to bake an apple pie or put together Ikea furniture. (For the record, I have done the latter, but that was during a period in my life when I had a great deal of time, patience, and no distractions from children.)

However, one characteristic I do have as a parent and that I am quite proud of is "being game." I think of it as being adventurous, fun, or a little crazy or quirky in a good way. It's a quality that doesn't get discussed much in SMC circles, but I think it should be. Much more attention is paid to such practical subjects as financial stability, nurturing issues, the daddy question, support-network relationships, etc. and rightfully so.

But I feel that if a woman is going to choose to have a child or children on her own, she also ought to make an attempt to provide a happy experience for them beyond the "routine." Routine, in this case, I mean as the status quo of childhood leisure time -- sports clinics, teams, lessons; Disney vacations; beach visits; and the like. All of these non-school activities are fantastic for the child. Don't get me wrong. My boys have partaken in them for years -- with the exception of Disneyworld, which we still haven't visited.

In a traditional family, often one parent is more game than the other, and that is okay. The pressure is off the less game parent because the more game parent can pick up the slack. As a result, the child or children of this couple benefit because they do have a game parent. However, when there is just one parent in the family, the onus is on that one parent to be game because she or he doesn't have a partner who can provide that quality to the offspring.

I try to be game, but I find it fairly easy to be game because I already am game. Granted, not all the time and not in every circumstance. For example, I am not game to voluntarily drive a long distance through a snowstorm -- even to go skiing, which I love. I am not game to allow one son to take sailing lessons before I feel comfortable with his swimming ability. And I am not game (at least for now) to give my other son live chickens for Christmas. In these instances, issues of safety, responsibility overload, and/or cost take precedence.

Exactly what do I mean by being game? Being game can take many forms. As an example, this week I entered my first-ever eating contest. Yes, you read that right. Eating contest! What on earth possessed me to do such an odd thing? You must wonder. Did I think I was Takeru Kobayashi downing hot dogs on Coney Island? Hardly! This just seemed like a wild thing to do. It's called "Walk the Plank," aka The Captain Hook's Pizza Challenge. A pizza place we love in a neighboring community would award a tee shirt and free large pizza with three toppings to anyone who could eat said pizza in thirty minutes flat.

Game on!

Did I believe I could accomplish it? No, but I was game to try. I don't binge eat, and I don't pick at my food either. I have a healthy appetite. Still, I could only stomach one quarter of the pie. Lettuce and extra tomato sauce were good choices for toppings, but extra cheese most certainly was not, I quickly discovered. Too heavy and too filling!

My boys were amused to watch and content to be eating their own small pepperoni pizza at another table (because there wasn't room at mine). At one point, I had an audience of about eight people including two ladies who delayed their return trip home to Ossipee, NH, to see if I could succeed. 

My timekeeper -- a cheerful, bespectacled restaurant employee named Al -- called my attempt "valiant." I'll take it! Only two other people (teenage boys) had entered the contest, and they both quit after consuming half a pizza. I was glad I gave it a shot, even after learning the next day that I'd put on almost two and a half pounds for the week. (For the record, I don't believe all of it was pizza weight, but some of it definitely was!)

But the point is: I was willing to go outside my comfort zone and possibly (or probably) look foolish just to have a good time. My sons got a kick out of it -- my large, football-playing third grader wants to make his own attempt -- and we made a goofy memory together that we will recall years in the future. I can just hear my sons now: "Mom, do you remember the time you tried to eat a giant lettuce-covered pizza all by yourself? That was so funny!"

Being game can also mean agreeing to camp with the kids in the backyard, allowing a group of teenage boys to partially bury a willing younger son in the sand under a mom's watchful eye, taking an older son down an expert ski slope when he is ready and the snow is just right, etc.

It's about being up for the unexpected, being spontaneous, being in the moment, and being open to new and offbeat experiences. As a parent, I personally think it's the only way to be because it models for the child an approach to life that is fun, positive, and adaptable to the circumstances. The alternative is, well, being an old fuddy-duddy.

And who wants to be that?

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