I was driving into work this morning, running late, wondering what I was going to tell my boss. I have a new boss and while he is very nice and I am sure we are going to get along fine, you still want to be careful with the “new” boss. I reminded myself that honesty is always the best policy. That being said, my “excuse” sounded something like this: “I am so sorry that I am running late this morning, but I have a cat with a dislocated tail, one daughter with a soccer injury, one with design issues on the film she is producing, a sister who needed encouragement in her job search, heavy traffic, and an insufficient balance in my checking account that I had to rush to the bank to cover.” And that is all before 8:00 am!
As I drove, I realized that we single parents are incredible! We are plumbers, electricians, landscapers, handymen/women, veterinarians, nurses, healers, counselors, advisors, teachers, students, negotiators, mediators, maid, chefs, private investigators, fashion consultants…and the list is just way too long to include here! I am not referring to our vocations; I am referring to all the jobs that we must become proficient in just to run our families! And we do it all, without a partner, completely on our own. (Okay, perhaps not completely alone - the man down at Lowe’s has been extremely helpful to me from time to time when I ask stupid questions.)
I was very impressed during one shopping trip with my daughters by a single father who patiently sat in a chair outside the dressing room while his daughter tried on every prom dress in the store. He really didn’t want to be there, but this was his little girl’s prom and she had honored him by asking him to join her in her shopping spree. (I am very sure that the fact that his wallet contained the funds for the dress had nothing to do with the invitation.) He was a saint. He had something nice to say about every dress that girl tried on and I am sure that sometimes he had to truly search for those positive words. He encouraged; he commented; he smiled, ooh’d and aaah’d as she twirled before him. I can guarantee you that there were a million places he would rather have been. In the end, the two of them picked an absolutely beautiful dress. And I saw the wisdom of his ways. Since he had said nothing negative, when the daughter narrowed it down to three dresses, she asked him for his opinion. She decided upon the dress he selected. Now, I do realize that it has taken years of conditioning based on the use of these tactics with his daughter, but he found a way that works that keeps them both happy. When he handed her his credit card and she happily made her way to the sales clerk, I had to take moment to tell him that he was a very good dad. He smiled and replied, “It takes a lot of hard work. But it is worth it.” My hero.
When we moved into our house, only two days had passed when I looked out my back window to find that I had a fountain in the back yard where the cap on the water/sewer line used to be. The line was backed up and everything was spewing all over the yard…and I do mean everything. I had no money for a plumber; I had spent every dime getting into the house. After talking to my brother-in-law (whom I still have never forgiven for not coming to help me), I began calling around to various rental stores to rent an electric plumber’s snake. I picked it up, carried it home, figured out how to use it, and unclogged my water/sewer line. I was grungy and smelled disgusting, but I was so proud. Not to mention the fact that the rental fee was only about one-fourth of what I would have spent on the plumber. Since then, I have learned how to change out toilet guts, seal tile and tubs, crawl under the house to replace pipe segments, and a huge list of other tasks that I would never have thought of attempting if I wasn’t on my own.
The truth be known, I believe that the resourcefulness we develop as single parents is good for our children and us. We have the amazing opportunity to show them that just because you are alone doesn’t mean that you have to function at a loss. You can be strong, capable, intelligent, and resourceful. We have the opportunity to dispel gender roles in our children. We have the opportunity to encourage them to not view anything in life as impossible. We have the opportunity to teach them - by example - that they are not at the mercy of others, but can take their destiny into their own hands.
To all of you single parents, I raise my glass and shout, “Three cheers for you, your children, the failures we learn from, and the victories in which we rejoice!” Be proud, be strong, be a good parent.