I am knocking on the door of 45 years old. By the time you read this, I am probably already there and even older. My wild days are behind me for the most part. Don’t worry, I had a lot of fun.
When I was 27, I lived in Australia as a Rotary scholar for a year being paid to take classes, travel the country and meet new people. During my twenties, I jump out of two airplanes deliberately, climbed mountains and did many impetuous things that I will never admit in writing. In my thirties, I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for ten days alone just to take tango lessons. Many a wild single girl night was had by me. It was fun, but most of it was never as fun as it lives in my memory.
Let me confess now. Staying up late and drinking in bars never really appealed to me, not now and not in my 20s and 30s. Yes, I did it since my friends were doing it, but honestly, I have a lot more fun now. It’s just my kind of fun and when you hit your forties, you learn that you don’t have to pretend to have everyone else’s kind of fun anymore. My fun consists of hiking in the woods on a beautiful day, chasing my son around a park while he is laughing non-stop, sitting across a table from a great friend with a nice glass of wine and having a real conversation. That is fun and I get to go to bed by 10pm which is always a plus.
But, I have my moments where I want to enjoy some fun. I am silly by nature, organized, a planner yet silly. Nothing cracks me up more than myself. Single parenthood especially with the serious lack of sleep has brought out some crazy experiences in my life. My childless friends may not think of my wild moments as fun, but in my world, they are hysterical.
Being a single parent, the sole provider of this helpless being makes your narrow your focus solely on their well being. Parents are bombarded with messages about how to be a good parent. For instance, you should research everything that touches your child, you should feel ashamed if you give your child formula, you may be a bad mom if you put your child in daycare before he is one years old, the list goes on and on. I remember sitting in a tot totter meeting listening to an educator talk quickly about how all of the infant wearing devices worked. On all sides of me were fellow parents, armed with gear and many of them wearing their child. I was the only person in the room who carried my son in his infant carrier. Eyes everywhere were glancing at my son’s carrying case. You would have thought that I was a eating a hamburger at a vegan meeting.
You have to make the decision at some point regarding what parts of the story you plan to ingest and what parts of your story you plan to trust your gut and go with it. You will have heaps of people around making lots of suggestions about what you should do, but at the end of the day, it’s you who makes the final decisions. As a person who was thrusted into new parenthood quickly, I found a strange comfort in following the directions that retailers and other parents around me. I told myself that I probably don’t know what to do and that it’s best that I follow others to make sure my son is OK.
Then, you wake up. You realize that some suggestions work for you and others just don’t make sense. Yes, I gave my son both breast milk during the first two months. It was shared with us by people I knew. Then, we moved to formula and I never regretted a moment of it. Yep, breast feeding is beautiful, natural and wonderful for the baby, but formula has been around for quite a while. I was fed formula and I am pretty awesome.
What about those products out there that retailers try to convince you to buy to be a good mother. I remember going to two different stores to find that special laundry detergent that you had to use to clean your infant’s clothes. There were two piles in front of my washer - his clothes for his special detergent and my clothes using the whatever-was-on-sale brand that promises no perfumes. Wow, I bought this for weeks. Then, someone asked me this question - Do you wash your clothes in it as well? I mean the baby spends most of the day leaning against your shoulder sleeping so I suspect that you use it too. Big dummy. I felt betrayed and yet, empowered at the same time. It was time to wake up and start questioning the other things that I was doing for my son and learn how to trust my gut more. Yep, you need examples to understand what I mean.
I purchased my first diaper bag while standing behind a stranger’s minivan in front of a Target early one evening. A friend of a friend of a friend told her that I was waiting to adopt and she was hoping to unload some stuff. So, I agreed to meet this stranger in front of Target to wheel and deal for baby supplies before she submitted them to a consignment sale for her church.
She parked in the back of the parking lot to avoid others watching us. Several times she would pull out things and I literally did not know what they were. It was like taking a crash course in baby supplies. It seemed a bit wild but in the end, I secured my son’s first infant carrier/car seat combination, stroller, diaper bag and other assorted things. She handed me the car seat parts and I did not know how they worked. Instead, I just put them in my trunk and handed them a year and a half later to a fire fighter at 11:30pm at night to install them in my car. I remember holding my breath while he looked at the parts holding that I was not swindled into buying something that was not what it seemed.
This may be lame to you, wild to the single parent. Most new parents read and study consumer reports before buying their children’s car carriers, but not me. I had this blind trust in this friend of a friend of a friend.
To Diaper Bag or Not to Diaper Bag
The diaper bag that I bought from the lady in front of Target was brown and green, matching the colors of my nursery, but I hated that dang bag from the first moment I used it. Diaper bags sold at the average retail store are completely useless to me. They are never big enough and awkward. When you need something quick, you end up having to remove all of the contents to find what you need, but everyone carries one.
Every new parent overpacks the diaper bag like you are going into battle the first 50 times you leave the house with the baby. If you have an issue during an outing and you didn’t have what you needed, you immediately add that thing to the bag when you get home so that you have it again. After a couple of trips, your diaper bag can’t close and it overflowing with stuff.
Quietly and without warning, I started to rebel against the diaper bag. It started by accident. It was early one morning and I was trying to get out the door to Target before we had to be somewhere one random Saturday morning. I live one mile from a Target so in my head, I was thinking, I will be right back. So my son was placed in his infant carrier and I grabbed my purse and off we went to Target. We were there 3 minutes when I realized that I was without a diaper bag. At first, I gasped, no diapers. What would I do? Then, I felt free, wild even. No diaper bag. How freeing!
My new mission in life was to figure out ways to travel without that dang bag. My purse now secures two diapers and a small package of wipes. I keep snacks in the car just in case. When I think about it, I have spare clothes in the car. Sometimes we encounter situations where I would need something that would be in a diaper bag, but we always survive. His bum is clean and food goes in his mouth, so we are clear. Milk is sold everywhere. Clothes get dirty, he’s a toddler. There is little chance that during his outing that he will encounter his first job interview.
When I was a single gal, being wild involved staying out late, maybe kissing a stranger, drinking more than I should and saying things that I shouldn’t have said. When you are a single gal with kid, your definition of wild changes. It centers around how others around you define parenthood and set expectations for you. They can play on your worry about being a bad parent and make you doubt your gut instinct. Play the game for a while when you need to, but eventually I hope you do wake up and trust yourself. As long as the kid is safe and happy and you are doing what feels right, that’s the best kind of wild there is.