Pre-K graduation. Precious little event. Parents—most much younger than me—flocked to the daycare playground to get a front row seat. I ended up 3 seats in front the row, 2nd row behind the concrete slab that was to serve as the stage. I sank oh-so-eloquently into the chair that was 3 centimeters off the ground and pretended to look comfortable as my knees hit my chin. The chairs, designed for wee ones, were not conducive to non-wee ones so it took a bit of adjusting to get all of my derriere on the seat and not hanging off the seat. I cursed my decision to wear a short skirt and prayed that some precious little twerp in the front row didn’t point and scream, “I see her panties” when the festivities started. My black sweater which looked oh-so-audrey-hepburn at home now seemed like a really, really bad idea. The chairs were hot and center in the rays of the morning sun. Having been warned that seats and parking were limited I had a good 30 minutes to bake…err…wait in the glorious conditions.
2 by 2 they flocked in– The parents that is. It was like Noah’s freakin’ ark; everyone was paired and partnered. They sat all around me. These young, perky, paired parents had obviously attended a few more school functions then I had because they were chatting and smiling and conversing like old friends. I knew nary a soul. Around me I heard, “….public or private….WE’VE spend a lot of time talking about that….” Or “…WE are headed to Florida for a quick get-away….” Or “…WE have our house up for sale…better school district….WE….”. Everything was WE…I sat there as ME and listened. Beside me sat an empty chair.
My sunglasses are oversized—thank goodness. I slipped them on and pretended to NOT wipe the bead off sweat off my neck. I read the program….four times…I fidgeted in my seat in an attempt to dislodge the flesh that was melting into the hot plastic chair. I fiddled in my purse pretending to look for something. I tried to hum a song in my head to drown out the WE conversations all around me but all I could think of was “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” which did NOTHING to improve my condition. Especially since the chair beside me remained empty.
In desperation I brought out my phone. I am almost over my data for the month so I am trying to be careful about whipping out the iphone…you know…the adult pacifier. Desperate times call for desperate measures though so I gave in and used my phone to call a lifeline. My tribe. Within seconds I had responses. I felt better and hoped I looked less alone now that was so importantly typing away on my phone.
The program started and though parents were standing 3 deep all along the ‘stage’ no one came to sit in the empty chair beside me. And although it was sad and embarrassing it was also slightly nice because at this stage of the game I STUNK. The outdoorsy smell had definitely kicked in.
My cutie-patootie came on ‘stage’ so I tried to ignore the empty chair and focus on her cute little face as she proudly recited poems and sang her little songs. Midway thru the song she quit gazing in my direction and looked to the right. Her face lit up. In the middle of her little graduation poem she made the “ROCK-N-ROLL” sign with her little hand while gazing off into the crowd—away from where I sat with my empty chair. She spent the rest of the program looking off to my right flashing symbols like she was at an ACDC concert.
After the event she went running out of site. I didn’t get the first hug. I sat, my arse hanging off the too little chair, my knees almost to my chin and tried not to look pitiful. Eventually she came to me. I hugged her with all my might. She was so adorable and so proud! I wanted a picture of us to savor the moment. I didn’t know anyone to ask. I didn’t have anyone there to grab a shot. We took a selfie-my precious little bug and I. I got another quick hug and then she was off.
The hardest part of being a single mom, for me, isn’t the responsibility of being the only one to make dinner or to give baths or to shuttle from one place to another. The hardest part of being a single mom, for me, is that damn empty chair. It’s the empty chair you have to talk to when you are trying to make decisions on your child’s behalf. It’s that empty chair at the softball games, the graduations and the honors nights. It’s the selfies, not the pictures that you have to take because there is no one else there to grab that snapshot when your little one launches herself into your arms at the end of the program. The stupid, empty chair and all the conversations that only include the word ME not WE; that’s the hardest part of parenting alone. That stupid empty chair that makes a little one have to scan the crowd to find 2 faces and then having to choose which one to look at.