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August 30, 2010

…Friday afternoon, driving off to secret hunting spot with handmade Yew bow, a dozen sharpened arrows, ten bacon sandwiches, 5 chocolate bars, 8 ounces elk urine, and this special keepsake from one five year old boy:

It says: "Daddy shoot elk, Daddy skin elk, Daddy eat elk." Apparently we don't mince words around here.

And despite the above forlorn face, we’re faring just fine, me and the kids. We’re actually having a grand time, even though several times a day I feel like I’m a participant in a one-person self-help group, repeating to myself: “I am a good enough mother. I am a good enough mother. I am a good enough mother.”

Because, when Dan’s around and Col’s exploding over us not letting him sleep with the decomposing snakeskin he found in Diane’s backyard, Dan and I can roll our eyes conspiratorially like “get a load of that kid.” But when it’s just me steering the ship, I start to feel this weighty, lopsided responsibility for my children’s happiness that I’m pretty sure is endemic to privileged, 3rd world parents. And when I’m second guessing myself because of some small person’s protest, I whip out the handy refrain: I am a good enough mother, and if you put the snakeskin in a bag, you may sleep with it.

I’ve been noticing how I expect the kids and I to be this cohesive little tribe, because we all love chickens! and riding bikes! and exploring nature! Plus we’re kin! And some moments are like that and others are like walking through a maze of thumbtacks, blindfolded and barefoot. I’m looking for giggles and cohesiveness and inside jokes and instead I get stealth poops in the bath and such sibling meanness, that for any other two people, I’d recommend couples counseling. But the worst is when I tell myself “it’s supposed to be different. This moment is supposed to be different.”

My friend Claire is a single mom of two and on one particularly shitty day she told me “I wanted to throw in the towel! And then I realized I DON’T HAVE A TOWEL!”  Perhaps laughter and acceptance are more powerful medicine than chasing perfect moments.

Claire, warrior-Mama; she has no towel.

*****

Enough about me. What’s that hunter Daddy doing out there in the dark, shadowy timber? I guess cell phone reception’s pretty spotty at 10,265 feet. No biggie. There’s a certain romance in imagining a solo hunter sneaking along the game trails, his yew bow tucked under his arm.

Did I tell you that Dan hunts with a homemade bow? Homemade, as in, he cuts down the tree, dries the wood for months, and performs a series of voodoo operations with hand tools to produce this:

The bow he’s hunting with this year came from one of the yew trees that Dan stalked while we lived in Ashland, Oregon during the winter of ’08/’09  (chasing sea level living for Col’s compromised lungs).

It came from one of these pieces that we hauled from Oregon to Colorado.

Hunting with a primitive bow in 2010 is only slightly different than it was for the Anasazi Indians who once inhabited this land, which is to say, it’s damn challenging. Dan hasn’t yet killed an animal with his bow. Our meat has come during rifle season, and given Dan’s superstitious nature around these events, I will add: for which we are infinitely grateful and we’re always open to a primitive bow being the swift, vehicle of death.

I’m not sure what’s harder, being a single parent or primitive archery.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2010 6:52 am

    Sounds like your fairng just fine hun!!! When Hubby leaves for a trip all hell brakes loose, I just ride the waves baby!!!

    ~Samantha

  2. August 30, 2010 8:04 am

    I just realized what a striking resemblance Col has to Dan, wow! And thumbtacks in the dark …..yes yes! I’ve spent nearly fifteen years just sliding my feet to avoid stepping on them….. and of course the many, many inside jokes… tasteless or not among solo mama and the littles always make that single ride a little smoother.
    Claire, my best pal is in the same boat as you…. she is my hero….. you women rock :)
    (ps – even we had a towel, we’d end up tie dying it or repurposing it for chicken clothing before we ever threw it in!) ha!

  3. August 30, 2010 8:10 am

    I love Col and his sign. I love your honesty in reflecting on the single parent schtick. And your description of feeling like it should be different when it’s just you and the kids. I do that too. We may not have towels but we have hoppy beer and thick wine. Dan is totally a badass, no? That’s some perfect pack list for days in the wild. Romance in the imagination, yes. Thanks for letting us play along. xo

  4. Ami permalink
    August 30, 2010 9:39 am

    Just think – someday, Dan will likely be off hunting WITH the kids, and WHAT THEN!!??? :)
    At any rate – as ever, your posts bring me such happiness. A shining beacon of light amongst the wretched Americana I see everywhere else….
    I’ve got to say, making your own bow is truly bad-ass… I mean, I strive to be a do-it-yourselfer, and so do many other mamas… but so rarely do we see the men taking it on (at least that’s what I’ve noticed)!? I’ve thought about hitting up some of those primitive skills gatherings. Have you guys ever been? I’m assuming Dan learned his skills somewhere!?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 30, 2010 12:41 pm

      Dan, in typical Dan-fashion, learned entirely from books.

  5. Melissa permalink
    August 30, 2010 10:09 am

    Damn girl. You are also a badass. Loved the line about couples counseling–hilarious!

    Can you believe I am actually giving up coffee for a bit?? I say that because when I think of the survival skills of single parenting, coffee is way up on the list . . . so I hope you are having your afternoon cup and that Dan gets home soon. He’s a badass, too.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 31, 2010 8:45 am

      Melissa, Giving up coffee and going back to work? Be careful. Sending you Mama-warrior powers!

  6. woowoomama permalink
    August 30, 2010 11:44 am

    my husband travels for work and when he is gone everything seems to just shift to a slightly different universe. we are kind of used to it now but i know what you mean about the good enough mantra.

    one day this spring we were sitting on the front porch and it was fairly warm and all i could hear was the kids fighting it out over who got to sit on which “rock rock” and i wanted to rip my hair out and cry at them – “it is sunny! this is supposed to be the perfect day! why can’t you cooperate?!”

    then i realized.
    there is no perfect day.
    there is just what is right now.

    it really took the pressure off.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 30, 2010 12:46 pm

      “…A slightly different universe.” Exactly! I was thinking that same thing when I fed the kids granola for dinner last night with chocolate milk as a bedtime snack.

      And, yes, there is no perfect day.

      • Barb permalink
        September 1, 2010 8:47 pm

        just for the record, granola for dinner with choc milk as a nightcap sounds pretty perfect to me….

  7. August 30, 2010 9:42 pm

    you are so amazing! thanks for that. my solo week with the kids was solid blindfold-thumbtack-maze, but you say it so well! col’s first week of kindergarten AND hunting season? you need lots of beer and chocolate! xoxo

  8. August 30, 2010 11:09 pm

    Wow. Some days I feel like I don’t have a towel. What a great line. Might have to use that in the play I’m working on.

    How cool is the bow drawing? Daddy must be so proud. I hope that goes to Kindergarten as Show and Tell.

    xoxo

  9. August 31, 2010 7:04 am

    10 bacon sandwiches? Maybe I need to get into hunting!

    And LOL about the towel. I’ve often looked for one too, but can’t seem to find it.

  10. August 31, 2010 9:19 am

    This is an awesome post! Love the line about rolling your eyes conspiratorially like “get a load of that kid.”
    Totally have done that. :-)

  11. August 31, 2010 10:37 am

    I don’t have a towel, either.

    I can’t wait to hear how Dan’s trip goes!

  12. August 31, 2010 11:19 am

    In the meantime, you’ve taken down a fine piece of writing.

  13. August 31, 2010 1:50 pm

    That’s a hard question. Single parenting or primitive archery. Hmmm… One requires precision, the other involves aiming and shooting in the dark, hoping it would stick.

    I guess it depends on the bow. Hard to imagine one better than Dan’s homemade one. Wow.

  14. September 4, 2010 2:24 pm

    luckily for both of you, there’s the rifle season and the dual parenting universe.

    my man’s out trapping theatre rehearsals right now. it puts as much food on the table as bow-hunting, and i broke down crying at least three times yesterday. so it’s nice to read this now. i am so grateful to be in it together.

    i’m thinking of doing some little embroideries of “this too shall pass” and putting them up, y’know, all over the house…

  15. September 4, 2010 10:47 pm

    I am a good enough mother. The chant I forget to say when I most should. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. September 6, 2010 10:39 pm

    this post. i just love it all. the entire post -and it is soon happening here.. just a few days and he is off to the woods.

    good luck to our hunter/gatherers

    thinking of you..

    xoxox from montana

  17. September 14, 2010 10:24 pm

    So much goodness here, as always. But I often forget how skilled you are at making me laugh-spit my beverage (tonight a Mothership Organic Vit by New Belg) all over my keyboard when you say things like, “and instead, I get stealth poops in the bath.”

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