Facing Father's Day as a Single Parent: Building Support One Choice at a Time
As single parents, we face either Mother's Day or Father's Day alone. Our kids trot to school and make cards, paint projects, and wrap love with all their might around the gifts they bring home. What do we do when the other parent isn't around?
My daughter and I built a routine to help her shop for a gift (my son still makes his at school). I bring her to a store; give her some money so she can buy something; she shops "on her own" with me hovering near yet far enough away to give her space. This year, she couldn't decide on anything. In the middle of Target, my younger child ran out of patience. He was done shopping and let the whole store know about it. My daughter welled up in tears, afraid she'd have no gift to give.
"I want to give you something!" she said near tears.
All days are Mother's Day with my two kids. Yes, it sounds cliché, yet we laugh, fall, get up again, and triumph almost every day. I receive these baskets of bounty such as my son hopping through the long jump at a track meet, or my daughter telling me the story of how she sat with the lonely girl during lunch. When the older child helps the younger without being asked, well, that's a blessing. When the younger puts his shoes away instead of throwing them across the room, oh my, time for an all-out victory dance.
Parents leave children in all sorts of ways: a father walks out; a mother does drugs; another has an affair; others check out emotionally; some are never there to begin with. Thus the new modern family was born. Where do we fill in the gaps? When my daughter disagrees with me, she needs a place to bounce off her thoughts. Who does that? My son needs a support system to flourish. A single parent must reinvent the parenting paradigm.
I've found my "other" parent in community. Friends, family, school, afterschool activities....these are all voices, ideas, and souls that can help the needs of children lacking a second parent. I consider the bus driver, the coach, the teachers, and our extended family a communal parent for my children. Aunts and uncles step in to listen to stories, make dinners, and go for ice cream. These actions serve as a force of unity, creating the spirit of guidance and support.
Father's Day, Mother's Day - it's about giving kids a chance to pause and notice their mother, father, their community. It's not easy for me to take a thank you, though I've learned to slow down and listen. My daughter found the perfect gift for Mother's Day at Target that day. We raced to the jewelry department, my son silenced, laughing in glee at bouncing from the speed of the cart.
"This is perfect," I said. We moved quickly to the checkout lane. The next day, she handed me my gift. I unwrapped it, acting like I'd never seen it before. We both know it was just a gesture, yet we both knew it was important. The bracelet had a small saying engraved in it, a tiny star hung from the words: Dreams become reality one choice at a time.
What makes a real parent for special kids, for any kid? Day after day, hour after hour, from one minute to the next, it is the community, the home, the effort, and the choices we make to raise our villages together, to nurture the next, very special generation, together.