Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Confessions from a Single Mom

I was not a great mom last Thursday night.

Both kids got out of their extracurricular activities at the same time – 5:00pm – but on opposite sides of town. Grant was late coming out of his choir rehearsal, which meant that Audrey had to sit in the lobby at her school for 25 minutes after Rock Band was over. I was fighting rush hour traffic, battling the rain and the darkness, and fielding frequent phone calls from Audrey asking why I still wasn't there.

It was one of those moments when I felt like a very, very single mom. Buddy is a willing and good father but unfortunately he is in another hemisphere and I can't call him when I need help with pick-ups. Or when there's a snow day. Or when Audrey needs supplies for her science project from Office Max. Or when I'm sick.

Finally I got to Audrey and we started the trek back across town to her ice skating lesson, which was starting in five minutes. That's when Grant told me that we needed to go get a drink because his class was having a Super Bowl party with snacks the next day and they could bring drinks and he needed a Powerade. Homemade lemonade in a water bottle was not going to do. It needed to be a sports drink. And he needed to know RIGHT NOW when we were going to go buy it.

And that is when I snapped. I yelled. I don't remember exactly what I yelled, but it was something about being grateful for what you have, and lemonade, and electrolytes being a bunch of marketing hype. And how it's only me around here, I am the only adult and I can't do every single thing.

And then the car went silent. Isn't it crazy how you can almost drown in one 20-ounce bottle of Powerade?

At a stop light at the intersection of West End and Murphy Road, I leaned my head back against the headrest and looked blankly at the night sky. And that's when I found myself face to face with the most beautiful moon I've seen in months. It was so bright and close, I felt like I could punch through the windshield and caress it. And it was full. A full moon. Finally, the moon was full again.

It's time for a Full Moon Dinner,” I said softly under my breath. “A Full Moon Dinner. We need one of those.”

The Full Moon Dinner tradition started a few months ago when Grant came to me and said, “Remember in China how we used to celebrate the full moon every month?” I laughed and hugged him and said, “No, because we didn't....” The Chinese do celebrate the Moon Festival once a year in the fall but there is no monthly celebration.

But the three of us were trying to establish our new family traditions, defining what our new “family” looks like after the divorce. And I had just taken Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (thank you Betsy!) and had developed a monthly budget that included one restaurant meal per month. So I said to Grant, “What if we start celebrating the full moon every month by going for dinner together?” And the tradition was born.

Here's the deal with Full Moon Dinners. The kids agree to be on their best behavior and use impeccable manners and I agree not to yell at them. We're generous with ourselves for this one monthly outing - we order appetizers and entrees and dessert and Sprite. And amazingly, for at least that one evening a month, we all keep it together. The kids are fun and well-behaved and all-around awesome and I am funny and happy and laid back. We laugh and linger over our meal and give each other our new spy names for the month. For security reasons I can't tell you what they are.

And for one night a month, things are easy and fun.

We keep a Full Moon Dinner journal, where we record where we ate and what we ordered and we rate our server on a scale of 1-5. We even have a Full Moon Dinner logo, which Audrey designed.

Gazing out my front windshield at the moon I marveled at how beautiful she was. So full and luminous and calming. It makes me feel better to know that even the moon isn't that way all the time though. There are nights when she can only bring half of her lustre to bear. There are nights when only a thin sliver of her brilliance makes it through the darkness. There are even nights when she doesn't appear to be there at all. When the sky is yards and yards of ebony velvet and she is absent. Perhaps she's soaking in a bubble bath. Maybe on her computer. Maybe out for a walk.

But when she shows up in all her brilliance, God is she beautiful.

And when I think of the moon, that's the way I remember her. I remember her as full and bright and close. I remember her moments of awesome beauty.

The way she is when she's at her very best.

And I pray that that's the way my kids will remember me one day - the way I was at a Full Moon Dinner. Full and bright and close. My moments of awesome beauty.

The way I was when I was at my very best.

P.S.: Some of you might read this and worry about me but I hope you can see that while there is pain in this post, there's beauty too. In this post and in my life. It is healing for me to share these thoughts with you in my blog. Thank you for loving me through this process.  

P.P.S.: In the comments section, will you tell me what you thought about when you last saw the moon?  I would love to hear that.


Anonymous said...

I loved reading this Melanie! You are a beautiful person & I am so glad you are my friend.. Did I mention what a good writer you are! I love how you express what you feel!

xo ~
Shayna :)

Anonymous said...

Ok, you brought me to tears. I'm not easily led there. Beautiful! - Steph gamse

Melanie Gao said...

Thanks Shayna! It's kinda scary to put my feelings out there on the internet but somehow I think it's the right thing to do right now. Thanks for that affirmation. See you tomorrow at yoga!

And thank you Steph. I made myself cry with this post too. Happy and sad and bittersweet and tired and grateful tears.

Nancy Kleinert said...

Tears-yes. But you're right, this was a beautiful story, and a full moon is beautiful to remember. I thank God for the bright light at night He provides when the moon is full. Night time sometimes scares me (when I'm out), but the moon helps:)
I"m hoping that if we are our best at least 50% of the time, that's what our kids will remember.

Full Moon Dinner sounds fun!

Anonymous said...

A very touching story. Things are hectic for a lot of us these days. Even with 3 kids and two active parents it is tough working the schedules down to the wire. There will be times when the unavoidable things happen like traffic, car troubles, work deadlines. Stay strong, love on your kids daily and let them know they are loved.

Family traditions are important to remain close, in future years those memories will be treasured!!!

Kenny Franks

Melanie Gao said...

Nancy maybe one day you will paint me a picture of the moon for my gallery. :)

Kenny thanks for that reminder that all families face these issues I'm facing. And you're so right about loving on our kids and keeping the family traditions strong.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! When I saw the full moon last, I thought, "oh, that's why my kids are so wild today." (Old teachers' tale- kids are wilder on the full moon). I'll have to be more appreciate of her in the future.


Melanie Gao said...

Jenny a nurse told me once that the ER is much more busy on a full moon. The ER that she worked in even added additional staff for full moon nights. So I believe a classroom full of kids could be more wild at the full moon!

Jennifer Belissent said...

I share your awe of the moon, in all its forms. I sense in you the need to knit. With Jaina in Germany and me in France we might have a hard time getting together. But I will "knit" with you in spirit tonight by the light of the moon.

Happy thoughts and hugs are coming your way.

Anonymous said...

So proud to call you sister - you are beautiful, terrific, radiant, shining, glorious, graceful, authentic, gorgeous, generous.

Melanie Gao said...

Jennifer you are so right - I do need to knit! When is the last time I had a stiff drink? I can't even remember... Will see if I can hook up with Dilshad and Julie on my next trip to the Bay Area. Thank you for the hugs.

I am so proud to call you sister too! I'm trying to guess which one of them you are... My money is on Caro.

Anonymous said...

I love full moon and I was born in a full moon night, my parents gave me my previous beautiful name meaning “bright moon light”. I also love the time when the moon is so slim that it’s barely visible though. The different states of the moon are only nature, the moon is still very beautiful, just in different states. I guess the same is true for us.

I love my parents dearly, for all that they have done for us three kids, for all their strengths and “weaknesses”. One time me and my brother were fighting (physically) for something (I forgot what we were fighting for), my mom had to pick up a wood stick to stop us, she didn’t punish us with the stick though, she threw it away and I saw tears in her eyes. To me that weak moment of her is not weakness at all, I remembered her tears to this day, and me and my brother never fought each other again. My mom rarely snaps, but the very few times she did, made me understand her feelings and love her more. Audrey and Grant are fantastic kids, they will understand and appreciate what you’ve done for them, it’s only a matter a time if not now.

You are a great Mom, we all know that.


Melanie Gao said...

Xiang Xiang, these sentences brought me to tears - "The different states of the moon are only nature, the moon is still very beautiful, just in different states. I guess the same is true for us."

Thank you for sharing that. 祝你春季快乐!

Anonymous said...

春节快乐 to you and your family too!May 2013 brings you and your family lots of peace, love, and fun!


Isa said...

Melanie, I had not gone to your blog for so long. I guess we moved out of China too and have been busy dealing with our own new challenges.
I was sorry to read about your divorce. But I found such inner strength in your note - this full moon tradition, and in all its details, is really beautiful and fun. I admire you for been so creative and positive in such tiring times!

Melanie Gao said...

Thank you Isa! I'm glad our lives intersected in Beijing if only for a little while.

Pepper Tan said...

Oh, that moved me to tears. Blogging seems cathartic for you. That's good. There's so much beauty in pain.

I don't remember when I last looked at the moon... I'll try to do that tonight.

Melanie Gao said...

I'm so glad you're here Pepper! And you're so right, beauty in pain. I heard this lyric in a song yesterday - "I'll take thorns with my roses, I'll take joy with my pain." Loved that.

Carter said...

I don't remember anything about full moon, I could be a werewolf! :) Just joking!

I didn't get to see the full moon in Lantern Festival this year probably because people set off too many firecrackers. But I do remember the night when I was at QingHai lake, the moon and the stars are the only lights I can see at night, so beautiful and peaceful. Nature is the most beautiful thing. We stayed in the city for too long and sometimes forget how dark it can be at night.

It's great to read these blogs and get to know different aspects of you.



Melanie Gao said...

So glad to have you here Carter! You're right, this is a side of me you did not see when I was your manager's manager... :) I hope your new year is getting off to an awesome start!

- Mel

Dalton said...

Beautiful post Mel! I'm sure people will only remember you as the full moon you are. I'm a shouter so I hope Niamh remembers my full moon moments instead of the clouds. :)

Melanie Gao said...

I think I could out-shout you, Dalton. Maybe one day our daughters will be in group therapy together, talking about their brilliantly crazy mothers. :)

Betsy, short for Elizabeth, formally known as Esther said...

I snap pretty much daily. We try to incorporate family traditions and this one is a wonderful one. I love the diary idea.

How is the budget going??

Melanie Gao said...

Betsy thanks so much for being real. :)

The budget is going great. Thank you so much for introducing me to FPU. When you told me about it I never dreamed I would one day be the single head of my household, responsible for the financial well-being of myself and my kids. I had no idea how much I would need solid, practical, no-nonsense advice. But when I needed all of that, I thought of you and your endorsement of FPU. And the next step was easy. :)

Anonymous said...

Love this, Melanie. Thanks for sharing your struggle. You've inspired me today.