“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell

Our tiny family of three has had our fair share of growing pains throughout the years.

Ten years ago, we learned how to be a single parent family, how to miraculously stretch an almost non-existent budget, and how to become a transplant in a new state without knowing anything other than it was the right thing to do for my kids.   With those changes came the self-taught lessons on how to raise two boys, how to provide for my family, and how to… well… survive.

The boys have learned how to endure life with me as a mom.  All in all, I’d say it was a pretty equal exchange of learning experiences – they’ll tell you though that they had the harder task.  Sadly, they’d probably be right.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself.  Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” – Wayne Dyer

Hate, I was raised to understand, is a strong word, one that should never be used.  Yet, I really do just hate change.  My boys are not really fans of change either.  It’s possible (just maybe a little bit) that like their love of disco, fascination with new age woo-woo stuffs, or an uncanny attraction to the art of sarcasm – their dislike of change might have been influenced by my own. Yet, as I reflect on times gone by, it is impossible to ignore the fact that change has become a commonplace word, feeling, and way of life for us.

For the first time last year, both boys went to separate schools, with different schedules, and new individual identities outside of brothers.  Over the summer, Dominic’s voice changed, Justin’s belief in all things fictional and fictitious was altered, and I adjusted to living life comfortably albeit awkwardly without them over the summer.

“A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”  – Tennessee Williams

We have been by no means graceful in our changes.  Dominic faltered as a baby freshman.  Profoundly.  He fell into the first year trap of “so many kids, so few eyes on me”… and in playing hide and seek with his homework, and responsibilities he almost didn’t pass his first year as a high school student.

Justin learned the hard way about motivation, and how it fuels doing the right thing for the right reasons, versus doing something for recognition purposes only.  The understanding of commitment and keeping his word was a bitter pill for him to swallow.

I learned that I am nowhere near as patient or tolerant as I used to pride myself on.  Feelings have been hurt, friendships have been bruised, and not just once or twice I’ve overstepped that invisible line between being right and righteous.

“There are no victims in this classroom” – Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Minds

Last year when I dropped Dominic off on his first day of school, I told him that this was literally the only time he would have to do it.  Never again would he have to have another first day as a high school freshman.  He stole my breath last Monday when he got out of the car, turned, smiled, and said, “well, here we go again, but this time better.”

Justin has always known there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, but this year, he knows, and has already promised, he will do his chores to help the house as a whole – not to be rewarded with play time; he will do his work to “be smarter”, not just to get a certificate.

I have recently begun going to therapy.  Please understand, I am nowhere near a diagnosis of cured, better, or even healthy.  I can however admit now I have a touch of OCD, and an addict.  I can see, hear, and acknowledge how I am reacting to situations that before I would have been blind to.

“Don’t let the past steal your present” – Cherralea Morgen

Dominic is only two years away from being a legal adult.  He is six inches taller than I am, and by no means the four year old who once sat on my lap and promised he would never grow another inch if I traded his baby brother for a new puppy.  He has his own opinions, and has no problem voicing them in his new deep voice.  He spends as much if not more time with his friend’s house than his own, and heaven help me, has yet to find a woman he hasn’t found attractive… long gone are the days of cooties.

Justin may have been born old, but he learning to find his place in the world around him.  I watch him some days and realize that this is his life, and I’m just visiting.  He has questions, and insights, and an open mind unlike some adults I know… I miss the baby boy who used to sing Otis Redding to me when he thought I needed naptime.

Ten years ago I hid in my house, physically bruised, mentally scarred, and afraid to face life outside my apartment.  Today I can voice my opinion, admit my faults, share my unconventional parenting skills with the world, and shoot for the stars.  The change from victim to survivor to just plain me was an empowering one to make.

 “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” – Unknown

Every day new history is forged.  Be it through pictures, memories, or stories told, my life has changed over the last ten years… and it has been one hell of a ride.  For the first time, I am not afraid to wonder… what’s next…?

 Wendy Syler

Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16.   Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year.