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We rarely do anything alone
This is an ode to Acknowledgments.
More often than not, when I start a new book, I’ll flip to the Acknowledgments and read them first. It’s my favorite way to get to know an author—to get a taste of the kind of person they are, the people they surround themselves with, and the way they express their gratitude.
Best of all, it’s a reminder that nothing happens in a vacuum. A novel may have just one author’s name on the cover, but it took an entire crew of people to make that book happen.
When you think about it, most things are that way. We rarely do anything alone.
This past weekend marked my first experience of solo parenting for several days in a row. Billy was out of town at a music festival—playing his first in-person performances since March 2020!—and I was home with our almost-2-year-old, juggling parenting, housework, and work work for four days.
Before Billy even hit the road, I began lining up various bits of childcare help here and there. It was immediately obvious that if I wanted to accomplish everything I needed to do while he was gone, non-negotiable things like feeding my toddler and meeting writing deadlines, I would need extra assistance.
My first solo parenting day wasn’t much of a solo day at all. Billy’s mom, Dee Dee, spent most of the day with us, going above and beyond to help things stay afloat in her son’s absence. While I took my daughter to the dentist, she waited at the house for an appliance delivery. Later, she entertained Cass while I attended a virtual meeting, then splashed with her during bath time as I cleaned the kitchen. We were a unit, getting everything done—together.
That night, after Dee Dee was gone and Cass was asleep, I settled down with a new book and flipped to the Acknowledgments section. The Acknowledgments of this particular book were pretty straightforward: the author thanked the publishing house team, her editor and agent, various friends and writing partners, and her son.
“This book is the work of many hands,” the author began. “And I only hope I can remember to thank them all.”
I thought about Dee Dee, and how much she’d helped that day. Did I properly thank her enough? I could only hope.
As time goes on, and as I learn about how unrewarding publishing can be, I’ve become less and less interested in writing a book. In the past, I used to daydream about publishing a memoir or book of essays. These days, this newsletter scratches my writing itch.
Still, I daydream about what my Acknowledgments would look like. Who would I name? How would I properly thank them? The practice of expressing gratitude—documented in writing, for other people to read—just seems so lovely to me.
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The long weekend was a fun one. My daughter and I went on walks together, celebrated two friends’ birthdays, made pancakes, and enjoyed lots of quality reading and snuggling time. I managed to feed both of us, get us places on time, and keep the house tidy. I was even able to meet all my work deadlines—though it did require working until late, after Cass finally fell asleep.
A friend of mine described solo parenting stints like a hard hike. “I think it’s fun to know what you’re capable of,” she said. “But I don’t want to do it indefinitely.”
She’s right. I was proud of my ability to juggle and multitask all the things; I’d crawl into bed each night feeling a satisfied sort of exhausted. But I was also counting down the days until Billy’s return, when I’d have an extra pair of hands to help around the house. Throughout it all, I kept thinking about and wondering how single parents managed this reality all the time. What’s a fun challenge in the short-term can easily become a daily slog.
Dee Dee spent most of her time raising Billy as a single parent. On Sunday night, when she was back at our house for dinner, I told her I had no idea how she managed it.
“Oh, I had lots of help,” she said, and began listing various family members and friends whose support she remembered all these years later. It was her version of parenting Acknowledgments, and it was a sweet thing to hear.
Looking for—and noting—all the different forms of help I received over the weekend kept me feeling grounded and happy. Practicing gratitude tends to do that. Instead of resenting the ways I didn’t have support, I was keenly aware of all the help that existed. Each day, I kept a mental list of all the people to thank, a running reminder that my solo parenting was anything but solo.
And now, if you’ll indulge me, here’s my opportunity to thank them.
I wondered for a long time what my first stint of solo parenting would be like. And, just like that, it’s over. I survived it. My child survived it. One might go as far to say that we even thrived a little!
But we didn’t do it alone. I want to thank Dee Dee, who spent her precious time off from work with us, being a wonderful grandmother. Big thanks also to Janet and Karen, who made playtime so much fun that Cass is still talking about it, days later.
Thank you to Daniel Tiger, for entertaining my daughter while I got a few uninterrupted moments to do things like make coffee and clean the kitchen. You’re the best. Ugga mugga!
Thank you to Leila, who turned 3, and Kari, who turned 40, for having parties on the same day at different times. Your celebrations provided food, fun, and a few glorious opportunities for me to chat with other adults.
Becca, thank you for playing with Cass and giving me a chance to sit down and eat dinner. You looked awfully cute in those sparkly cat ears.
Thank you to the Calm app for the daily 10-minute meditations that kept me sane. To the plumber who arrived quickly to fix a water-line issue. To the random charity that sent stickers in the mail—those colorful little fish provided some key moments of toddler focus.
To Lauren, my Sunshines, and the Squeal, thank you for being there over texts and Zoom. There’s a special camaraderie that moms share, and I’m so grateful to have so many incredible women to lean on.
Cass, thank you for being you. I loved our special weekend together, even if it was exhausting at times. Thank you for being so funny and smart and sweet and curious. Good on you for choosing this weekend to be the first time you said, “I love you.” Very smartly played.
And Billy, thank you for going out of town. I missed the act of missing you! Thank you also for returning. I’m very glad you’re home.