Friends, meet Kelli Martinelli. She is a bright, innovative soul who I asked to write a guest post for you. Kelli has a unique parenting and partnering style that defies social norms, and works for her family. Something that I love about Kelli is her willingness to put everything out there. She never pretends that things are perfect or easy, but there is an inspiring warmth in her tone and outlook. I’m excited to share this with you. While it is always easy to throw stones, especially when we don’t fully understand or agree, I encourage you to open your hearts and minds to Kelli’s story. She’s found a way to make her family and her life work and is brave enough to put it all out there. Honestly. Click here for Part One and Part Three of her story.
From this divorce a community of guardians arose, which is as epic as it sounds. My kids have multiple grown-ups in whom they trust, and I have multiple grown-ups who I trust want the best for my children. So whenever I battle the stabbing gut feeling that hits me when I watch my kids get picked up from school by someone else, even though I’m right next door, or when my daughter comes home with an un-approved haircut, or when another parent at school assumes I’m my own children’s babysitter and not their biological mother, I try to remember the epic guardians and take stock in that. When I miss my kids on the 4th of July and wince with bittersweet fondness as the families around me snuggle with their own little ones in front of the fireworks, I try to remember the epic guardians who are giving them 4th of July memories that they’ll hold with them for their lifetimes, and I am overcome with gratitude. Plus then I get to hear their stories when they return! They’ll point to all their bruises and use flailing gestures and overtalking to convey to me the grandness of their adventures. And then when they’re with me, I’ll give them other adventures that complement the ones with Mr. Swayze, not compete against them. This practice of sharing and appreciating is the quickest balm to that stabbing gut feeling.
True to my non-impulsive, measured and cautious self that I dream I might one day be, I entered in to a new relationship before a half a year had elapsed on my divorce.
I fell for Mr. Tennant, clever and funny and possessing a brain so puckered with information I often felt like a drooling toddler with a crayon in my teeth by contrast. I introduced Mr. Tennant to the kids a few months in, not as a boyfriend, but as a friend of mine. Mr. Tennant and I were still discovering each other, and I was still discovering life as a single mom. And you know what? That shit’s hard. Take that roller coaster in a hurricane and remove the guard rail across your lap, upside down and holding on with all your strength – that’s single parenting. With time I was Mr. Tennant’s Rose. We were partnered and then shacked up a couple years in. My kids had inherited another epic guardian, someone to introduce them to things that I never could, nor never would have thought to teach them. Like Minecraft. Or Weird Al. But all the polka music and video games and Lego mini-figs in the world don’t point to unending and unchanging perceptions of happiness.
Mr. Tennant and I were honest with each other. For 3 ½ years we struggled in the face of incompatibility. We knew it early on, but dammit, we liked each other. We saw value in each other. We were friends. But we always felt like two strong magnets on swivels, pushing together then pulling apart, pushing together then pulling apart. The truth is I didn’t celebrate him the way he deserved to be celebrated, and he couldn’t do the same for me. So despite fear of a new openness, we released our grip, and instead reached out for worlds that were true and consistently magnetic to each of us. I had to allow myself to be pulled fiercely by a life lived honestly, instead of being pulled intermittently by someone. We waited a month after making the decision before we told the kids. One night after dinner I told them they could go to the pantry and get down the horrifyingly huge jar of leftover holiday candy and pick out a few pieces. Not one! A few. As they delightedly separated the Nerds from the Sweet Tarts, I took a deep breath and let the kids know that Mr. Tennant and I would no longer be boyfriend and girlfriend. But, Mr. Tennant would always be our friend, and in fact, would continue to be our roommate for awhile. My daughter’s lip quivered and she asked “But … will you still cook him food?” I answered that I would if he wanted to join us, and that seemed to satisfy her, and thus the candy consuming continued. Amidst a sugar-buzzed semi-sadness, Mr. Tennant and I toasted teacups and glanced at each other with a shared thought “Well that went as well as possible.”
We still do eat together sometimes. Sometimes we watch a movie or hike together. My daughter still gets sad at the thought of him not living with us come fall, and she cries. She loves Mr. Tennant, her other epic guardian. It’s not like we’re all starry eyed and tie-dyed and know no feeling but effervescent bliss. But we’re being honest. And it’s hard to feel bitter when you know all are being honest in word and emotion. I’ve watched already as Mr. Tennant has re-gained some important pieces of himself that he lost in partnership with me. I’m finding pieces of my own. If a relationship isn’t working, no matter if it’s romantic or friendly or biologically related, and you’ve tried and tried and tried but you’re still kinda treading water in an increasingly murky pool with that person, it’s time to swim to a new part of your waters. Head toward that openness.