Love Cubed

(Love to the Third Degree)        


Lane Dooling

© Copyright 2012 by Lane Dooling

 

 

Photo of a baby on its mother's shoulder.


I wanted to write this article to bring to the surface the many dimensions of parenting--since being a parent requires so much more than most of us think...without enough hours in the day.  We all have our doubts, bad days, tough times and worry...but through it all--parenting is truly a gift since it can be a truly selfless act and yet the rewards are priceless.

Of course it was love at first sight when my son was born and then two and half years later my daughter was born. Yet, over the years that followed, I realized that there are many dimensions to love. It is easy to look at a sweet baby sleeping in their crib and have love wash over you the way fireworks paint the sky in bright magnetic colors and then drip down into the darkness. Yet, love is experienced differently as you try to be patient and nurturing when you are exhausted, stressed and the demands are great. I call this “love cubed” because it is not just a one dimensional love. For me, it is a love and protective energy that comes from deep inside that allows somewhat important things (including adult needs and interests) to be reshuffled to the bottom of the list without hardly noticing so that there is enough time, patience and nurturing for me to take care of my children.


Growing up, I never had a specific plan about my grown-up life, but I had an outline of how I might want things to go. After college, I would get a job, have an apartment with friends, travel and then meet a nice guy I would like to marry and have children. Since I started working in the mid ‘80’s, there was a lot of encouragement for women to be career-oriented and I did ponder what happened when these career women had kids – how does it all work? I came up with a tentative plan that might work best for me - work three days and have two days to do the kid/household stuff such as homework, playdates and volunteering at school.

Flash forward about 10 years from this private conversation with myself. I did graduate from college, had an apartment with friends, had a few jobs, traveled, met a man to marry and had two children. And then the original path took unexpected and unfortunate turns and forked in the middle of the road. After years of challenges, the marriage ended and I became a single parent of a kindergartner and preschooler. I was underemployed working in a full-time job that did not offer flexibility or any opportunities…but, it was a job. Six months after the separation, my ex-husband had emergency surgery with a six week recovery. Wow – things had been tough in terms of scheduling and financially, but now I was “it” for most of the summer. This was love cubed. It was probably about this time (which is now 10 years ago) I probably started to think about love and parenting and how different it feels sometimes. I have looked at my children sleeping, laughing and playing and a warm glowing feeling takes over and I thank my lucky starts I have been blessed with the honor of being their mom. Yet, at times I have felt that our daily stretched lifestyle presented me with the knowledge of a different type of love. Perhaps it was the strength I needed to persevere, be patient, hold onto my job or not cry in front of the kids. It fortified the reality that I would do whatever it took to provide, protect and guide my children – no matter what I had to sacrifice personally.

It has been helpful - maybe even therapeutic – that I have been more conscious of this different love especially since we continued to ride different size waves in our daily life. As time moved on, our lives revolved around school, sports/activities and volunteering, and a full-time job. Despite the lack of time, I felt it was very important to model giving back to my children. I will be forever grateful for their teachers along with the after school program, and felt the only way to thank them was to help out when I could along with the occasional plates of baked goods. And, this would be even more acknowledged when my son was in fifth and my daughter was in second grade.

The phone woke me up at 1:30am mid November about seven years ago. Of course I had a hard time actually believing the emergency nurse. She was telling me that my ex-husband had been brought in by ambulance and was “very bad off…not sure if he will make it.” I found myself countering her statements telling her he told me he had the flu. Unfortunately, she was correct. I got up (now wide awake) and sat on the couch for over three hours waiting to hear if my children’s father would survive. Would they see him again? Would they see him at their graduations. Before a school dance? At their college graduations? As I sat in the dark, I did what I do pretty well – I started planning …just in case. The thought of my children losing a parent was unbearable – how could they recover from that? I thought about my son’s friends – which of their Dads would be willing to let my son hang out with them? They would both need a Big Brother and Big Sister and counseling. I was once again grateful that my son was in Boy Scouts at the time and my daughter was going to start Girl Scouts.

Finally, as the darkness yielded to dawn, I called the ER and they let me know they had been able to stop the bleeding, he had been given 10 units of blood, and was in ICU. The non-cancerous cyst on his liver would need to be removed (to insure no future internal bleeding) but it he would have to recover first. The recovery, 5+ hour surgery and additional recovery took about four months. Our daily schedule changed to include me getting off work early, getting the kids from school (bless the daycare director for allowing me to take the kids out for the rest of the year and hold our place) and drive to the hospital. The visits were only about 20-30 minutes or so but enough for the kids to feel some connection and know their Dad was getting better. I remember a few parent friends commenting that it was really nice of me to bring the kids to the hospital (I guess considering we were divorced). But, this wasn’t about what I was doing for him, this is what I was doing for my children. Love cubed. The day after Thanksgiving will always be rather disheartening for me because it was during this time, I not only took the kids to visit their dad but before that regular trip, we stopped at a different hospital to visit an elderly friend of mine that lay dying of cancer. She was so thrilled to see us and I felt that seeing the kids somehow gave her some sort of hope and peace. I also noticed at how adapted the kids were to their current situation – visiting two hospitals the day after Thanksgiving didn’t seem weird to them. I remember words from the counselor I took them to as a check-in to see how they were handling their father’s situation. After talking to the kids, she talked to me privately and said she thought me keeping the kids on the same schedule with school, friends and families helped them, along with the hospital visits. I was happy and relieved to hear this because when you are alone, feel that you have fed the kids way too much Mac & Cheese, know that you can’t really be both mom and dad, know they miss their dad, aren’t always patient because you are tired beyond belief…you just don’t know if you are doing a good job.

And, like before, after four months, life went back to our normal. Since then, the demands of school, sports and activities have increased with middle school and high school, along with a bad economy and companies that continue to be inflexible making it challenging for employees to feel good about both their work and family responsibilities. But, we continue to acknowledge our blessings and we have much to be grateful for. My hope is that change is always able to happen if we persevere and have a solid faith that things can improve. I will forever be grateful for finding out long ago that that there is such a thing as love cubed. It has been a gift of sorts to know that despite times when it didn’t feel like there was “anything” left inside, there actually was – a special energy that moves us from day to day or hour to hour…sometimes even minute to minute. It has been a special journey discovering what love truly is and I am left almost breathless sometimes when I look at my children and see this gift shining across their smiling faces.

Lane E. Dooling is a freelance writer and former special events and marketing professional.  To have more flexibility to care for her two children and blended family she now works as caretaker and virtual assistant in her local community.  Lane and her family live in Marin County in Northern California.


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