I have opted out one too many times of redundant appointments with pediatricians, of hosting children’s parties, of school plays, of fetes and fund-raisers. Dinners with my daughter, when not at diners, are frozen. Play dates have always been planned and arranged by my daughter including planning her drop-off and pick-up rides. And I fill in only as the last resort, as an absolute must. Single parenthood, as I see it, and live it, is not about yin and yang coalescing into one. It's about one of the two. Make your pick and live with it. For myself, I have picked the side of adjustments, many tiny adjustments, to allow for broken promises, for missed appointments, and sometimes for mix-and-match appointments -- sick visits to the doctors should include an overall health check; a school visit for progress report card ought to cover complaints, concerns, conducts. As a single mother the choices boiled down to just two: one-visit-fits-most or one-size-dress-will-have-to-fit-both. The latter being the default deal that life, I feared, would hand down to me if I did not get the former model working. Yin or yang. As a computer professional, I didn’t have many options to cherry-pick from anyway, and once I became a single mother, life, it seemed, simply made the choices on our behalf. With personal- and work-life crisscrossing in such asymmetrical patterns that there was no telling where one started and the other stopped, where was the time to read bedtime stories to my then-one-year-old daughter? Work or personal, life zeroed down to must-dos. Those must-dos, hard, real world, hitting-right-at-your-gut choices like running to the emergency at 2:00 a.m. with my child pooping and vomiting, and less than twenty dollars in my purse and without a credit or a debit card; watching as the child was taken away by Child Protective Agency (CPA) at 4 a.m. only to be given back in the Family Court later that day; to live through multiple reconstructive surgeries she endured at birth due to, let’s just say, someone’s negligence had defined my life as a parent for far too long that many years had to be spent simply neutralizing the effect of it all. In between, there’s no telling how many Christmases and birthdays came and went? And who had the time to count those. I nurtured my child without bling, with a third-world-like harshness. It was about making the child yearn and earn from meals to rewards. Babysitters, when hired, were not good enough just being good, they had to be cheap as well, because what I earned doing overtime could not exceed what I ended up paying out. And then to save even that bit, often I carted my child in her stroller to my office with her diaper bag, cereals, snacks, milk, blankets and hoped that while I patted her to sleep with one hand, with the other I could scroll down through the lines and lines of code to find enough bugs, issues and defects to be able to build my place in the corporate world over another’s fall. In our world, you grow the fastest, and go the farthest, by stifling others. “Why don’t you have friends?” My child, now in her teens, asks me often. “Because they don’t serve our purpose, yours or mine.” My daughter, like most teens are, is still sensitive to the virtue of selfishness as though it is far too imperfect to be virtuous. “Selfishness if looked inversely is selflessness towards oneself, an unapologetic love for you and me. Just as people without money save money, we save time.” She is only half-humored. But I have never provided more context than necessary because half-answers are like a half-empty stomach: you are never quite satiated, content, languid. My answers have always opened their own set of questions, and not the right versus wrong but the right or wrong that the child sees in me. I welcome those judgmental questions, too. Did I say that in single-parent home, the child got to grow at the rate of three for every one year? “Why are we so stingy, still?” “So that we stay true to the number where it all started.” And starting out at ten-fifteen dollars in my purse and a 1-year-old in tow, just like the stuff of movies, those numbers have grown stratospherically since. If computer as a career took too much from me, it, in turn, paid me back handsomely with promotions, with bonuses, with stock options. And single parenthood was not going to be an excuse for un-living or under-living my life. That meant that the child’s tomorrow had to be worked around my career; her sickness had to make room for my well-being; her growth had to spare enough energy for me. Ultimately what served me and my daughter as individuals served us best together. Single parenthood doesn't cut much slack for mutually exclusive aspirations or for those fuzzy Facebook ideas on parenting. My daughter, as we computer professionals like to say, will soon be “ready to go-live.” Simply put, go-live is about putting out to the world that which you have coded. Once out of your hands do not expect sympathy or tenderness. It will be plain brute force to break that which another person has created. And that’s what I have banked on in raising my daughter: her umbilical cords, I didn’t leave it to others to snap it; I did it myself.
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