By Mahlia Lindquist
Indeed, for years the dynamic between us was akin to a yard with an electronic doggie fence, which kept me in and distractions out. I am on the high side of social without an obvious sort of maternal bent and the girls charming and seemingly easygoing, so most people who know us were unaware of the invisible fence. Even I was only subconsciously aware of the electrified barrier surrounding our happy home. But it was there.
Dylan and Zoe have always had a way of silently communicating to me their disapproval over a person or situation. They have been at, at best, indifferent to any man I have dated. I had a law practice for a few years, but their pointed silence when I was unavailable to them because of work made me feel the neglectful parent and hesitant to work more than part-time.
Undoubtedly, as with most prisons, mine was mostly of my own construct. The truth is that I didn’t like practicing law, and after divorcing didn’t have the stomach for a long term relationship. The kids were a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with my own s****. My daughters are smart, funny, irreverent, kind, travel well, and delightful company, all of which I find to be high value attributes, and so I mostly didn’t miss having a satisfying career or partner. Ignoring the possibility that we may have been codependent, the electric fence actually served all three of us fairly well. At least it seemed to until recently.
Now, the girls routinely point out men who might make good “step-daddies.” The step-daddy reference has been a longstanding joke between us, but now they mention it so often I actually think they are serious. They also keep asking me what I am going to do. It could be my imagination, but I have detected a note of fear in their inquiries—fear of having a needy mom.
As someone who sees herself as active, independent and competent with varied interests and a network of awesome friends, I hope that my imagination is wrong. But then I recall things I’ve said that could give cause for a needy person alert. Encouraging the girls to promise since they could barely talk that the three of us would live together forever, ever and ever sounds potentially needy. Musing that with so many cool women in the world it’s a shame I am not gay, and fantasizing aloud about being a sister-wife to my favorite straight couple, I must admit sounds just plain weird in retrospect. So, I just want to clarify: I was joking.
Nevertheless, given our current circumstances, what I am going to do with the rest of my life is a fair question. Dylan is in college, Zoe in high school, and I recently closed my law practice in Boulder. Zoe and I recently finished a yearlong visit to Mexico and moved back to my hometown of Miami, a place I left in a huff 13 years ago.
When asked, I refer to my time in Mexico as a sabbatical, though the term sabbatical is more of a euphemism for “an exploration of the ecstasy and the agony of drinking too much tequila too often.” Besides drinking tequila, I kept busy there with logistics: school for Zoe, housing, figuring out where to buy tofu and peanut butter without sugar and where to do yoga, and learning how to ask the housekeeper in Spanish not to run the dishwasher with just two coffee cups. All first world problems, I realize, but they kept me occupied.
Not having to deal with the logistics of being an expat has freed up a lot of time. My Miami friends are professionals with actual jobs and so can’t drink tequila with me on a regular basis. Besides, even tequila gets old after awhile and it’s just not the same when not in Mexico. Suggestions that I practice law in Miami triggers in me an involuntary gag reflex, so I have decided to listen to my body for once and have nixed going back to law.
A few friends suggested I start a blog or write a book. They may as well have said, Mahlia, other then being a lawyer, you have no tangible skills — which is true. I have no idea what I might write about that someone besides my mom will want to read, but I am going to try.
As a first step, with this first blog entry under my belt, when someone asks me what I do, I am going to say, “I’m a writer.” It sounds almost as legit as “I’m on sabbatical” and will hopefully help ease the minds of my children.