Curled into circles, some bouncing toddlers on their hips, mothers dot the school parking lot at pickup time, laughing and talking together. I wave hello to a mom I met at a meet-and-greet the week before. She looks past me and continues with her conversation. I wonder, Does she recognize me? Maybe not. We’ve only met once. Or maybe she didn’t see me. Feeling awkward and vaguely rejected, I retreat to a spot near the school entrance and wait for my son to emerge.
No doubt, it’s scary being a parent in today’s high-tech, competitive and often violent world. “We hear stories of abductions and kids getting harmed physically and sexually,” says psychotherapist Mari Jo Rapini. “We feel a need to protect our children.” Long gone are the carefree days like when Rapini grew up in a small town, prior to cell phones, the Internet and the idea that something catastrophic could happen if she was off her parents’ radar screen. There was no feeling that if she wasn’t constantly busy with piano or soccer, she would fall behind. “My parents saw their role as providing a secure home life, plenty of sleep, good food and help with homework,” says Rapini.
In desperation, I entrusted my car keys to an approachable onlooker, offering a quick explanation before bolting through traffic on foot. It was a holiday and a beautiful morning for a parade. As daughters of a firefighter, my sisters and I always had a great love of parades – we wax nostalgic over privileged seating in the cab of the fire trucks, smiling, waving and sometimes throwing candy to onlookers. (Regulations later prohibited anyone but firefighters from riding in the cabs of the trucks.) This particular morning, however, my father lay dying at Hospice. With the parade route blocking my sole access to him, I barely noticed everyone’s smiling faces. I cannot recall ever feeling so hindered.
Becoming a single parent typically happens through life circumstance or choice. Yet such instances or events aren’t limited to the years between your children’s birth and the day they turn 18. While divorce rates are declining overall, divorce rates for seniors are rising. Typically having spent a life preparing to retire together often these parents, or even grandparents, find themselves financially much worse off than if their divorce had occurred years or even decades before.
Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2017 Calgary’s Child