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Single Mom Slice of Life: 2 Kids, 1 Mom.. How I Solved The Attention Deficit

Mother with her two sons looking happy and smiling

Single Mom Slice of Life:
2 Kids, 1 Mom.. How I Solved The Attention Deficit

Okay, let’s recap my life for a moment: Nick just turned 18. Nick has been having trouble in school. Nick is having trouble figuring out what he wants to do after he graduates. Nick tore his ACL. Nick has to have surgery over Christmas break… but I have two kids. What about Justin?

I’m glad you asked. He is one of those rare, selfless kids who is actually very content in the background. More often than not, when asked a preference he will answer with a shoulder shrug and “It doesn’t matter. Whatever is easiest.” This is done so often that as a parent, it tends to highlight my faults more than my accomplishments.

As an example Justin was recently in an awards ceremony where he won three awards: Perfect Attendance, Character Counts, and Honor Roll. I learned about it three days later. What? How is that possible? It’s one of those awards ceremonies that parents are encouraged to attend. Pictures are taken, candy is given, balloons grace the doorways of the school. Instead, my kid said: “You’ve been missing work because of Nick, I didn’t want you to miss it for me too.”

Oh crap.

Related: 10 From GEM: 10 Ways To Teach Your Kids Compassion

Not long after, I received an email from the school reminding me that the annual Parent-Child Turkey lunch. Again, Justin had known about it for a week, and hadn’t bothered to tell me. So when I showed up at the school for a turkey lunch (at 10 in the morning), the look of shock, surprise, and joy that crossed his features is one I will never forget.

We ate our turkey. I got caught up on all the best gossip the 8th grade had to offer. I got my kiss on the cheek and a “thanks for coming. I hope you have a good rest of the day.” I had done my part. I had shown up, surprised my son, and brought a smile to his face.

It wasn’t enough.

I found myself walking to the front office and signing him out of school.  Now, keep in mind, it was a 50/50 shot as to whether or not this as a good idea.  Justin has turned down a chance to sign out of school for visiting family – it would not have surprised me if he would have turned and walked the other way for the sake of his studies.

Instead, he ran, he hugged, he said, “Please bust me out of here for today”… and our day of hooky began. There were pancakes (which yeah, was odd, after turkey), we were the only two people in the theater to see Thor 2 at 11 am (mmmm… half naked Norse Gods…), we had frozen yogurt (on a cold rainy day – not my best idea).

I had a purpose for this day. There were so many things I wanted to talk to him about, but how do you explain to a 13-year-old that you see him even in the middle of chaos? How do you explain that when a parent has two kids, polar opposite in temperament and attitude, that there is a difference between treating them equitably versus equally? How do you tell a totally zen kid that even the best of parents (and I think we’ve established, I am not) sometimes forget to say “Thank you for good behavior” in the midst of all the lectures for bad behavior? How do you explain that the next time the kid makes the decision not to tell the mom about something important like an awards ceremony, he will be sold on eBay?

Related: The GEM Debate: Is THIS How We Prepare Kids For Life?

Yeah, I didn’t know either. Yet somehow, between the turkey breakfast and the pot roast dinner, I had done just that. I let him know that just because Nick was currently holding the record for amount of attention, medical appointments, and whining didn’t mean Justin needed to fade into the background. That as the parent, I get to decide what school events I go to, not him. That sometimes, as scary as it may sound, I have to be the adult in the relationship.

It was a communication breakdown, and one that I am fully responsible for. I have no idea when I fell victim to the squeaky wheel standard of parenting, but I’m ashamed, and I have a lot of work to do to make it up to Justin, even though he is more than happy to do his own thing.

Geez, this parenting thing is hard… and after 18 years it doesn’t seem to get any easier.

What about you? Do you have a kid that is so well behaved that they just kind of quietly raised themselves? When did you realize it? What did you do about it?


Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.


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