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Being Thankful as a Single Parent

There are so many hardships that people worldwide have endured this past year. Natural disasters, terrorism, war, and disease have all made history on a grand scale. Personal tragedies abound, too – there is not a day that goes by that there is not a news story that illustrates the personal tragedies of individuals in everyday lives.

I have no doubt that none of my readers have experienced a picture-perfect year. It is hard to be a single parent. It is even harder to be a single parent in today’s world where non-stop action is a demand of the average life. We work, take care of children in a number of ways, tend to our homes, try to better our lives and the lives of our young ones, maintain family relationships, entertain friends, and find some times just for ourselves. “There are only 24 hours in a day.” How often have you said that to yourself?

As hectic and as frustrating as life is, we still need to make time to realize how thankful we should be. We have the opportunity to work in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on our tables. We may not all have the job we want, but we have a job that allows us to pay the bills. We may not have the most appreciative boss or the most cooperative co-workers; we may not do a task that keeps us feeling fulfilled. We may not be able to afford the house we want or the best car or be able to shop at the best stores, but if we can keep our children sheltered, clothed and fed, then we need to be thankful. There are parents here in this country who live with their children in shelters, on the street, or have had their children taken away from them because circumstances have left them in a position where they could not provide shelter, clothing and food. Some put their children to bed with hungry tummies. Some resole shoes with cardboard to keep out the cold. Be thankful if you have not faced that situation in the past year. Be thankful for that job – no matter how “bad” it is – that helps you to provide for your children.

Speaking of those children, have you stopped to think today of what they add to your life? Yes, I do know that the toddlers are impossible to keep up with and they are getting into everything. They climb where they shouldn’t; they never stay put; they put things in their mouths that should never go there; they want to play with all the breakables – and you are forever having to tell them “No!” The preschoolers are beginning to get sneaky – drawing on anything but the paper you gave them and then grinning at you when you find their artwork; stealing a toy from their sister and then looking deceptively innocent when caught in the act. And the questions – nonstop questions that defy explanation. Thought-provoking questions that insist upon answers! The elementary school age children come with their own challenges - learning to read, developing social skills, being away from parents on a daily basis for the first time, dealing with new authority figures…the list is endless. Then comes tweenagers! Not quite kids anymore, not quite teens – and full of questions, new ideas, exploring independence. They are a challenge, but only a prelude to the real challenge of teenagers. Here is a delicate situation indeed. I always thought that the infant through six year olds would be the hardest group to deal with as a parent. Teenagers need just as much attention as small children, only in a different manner!

But despite all the challenges, the hard work, the aggravation – would you honestly trade one moment of your time with your children? I know that I wouldn’t. Even in the bad times, I find that I always learn something from my children or achieve a satisfaction in something they learn from me or a new phase of our relationship that we develop. I have watched my girls grow from those tiny little hands and feet that learn to crawl and walk and grasp for the first times, to interesting young women who have developed minds of their own and are growing in vastly different ways. It has been an amazing journey!

While family takes work to maintain, as a single parent we all know that they are a life-line at times, helping us through the tough patches so that we do not have to walk that path alone. Grandparents babysit, siblings lend an understanding ear and a helpful hand, and we learn that the “cement” that holds a family together is love, understanding, hope and faith. We may not always “have time” to keep in touch with our family, but when we start to feel that way, we need to remind ourselves of where we would be without them – and make that call anyway. Tell them that you are thankful for them – even if the event in mind is one from the past. It is never too late to say, “Thank you!”

Friends are vitally important, too. If we do not take care of ourselves, then we cannot take care of our responsibilities in life. Friends are important to our own well-being. We need interaction outside of the kids, work, and family to remind us that we are still people in our own right. We are individuals – not just parents, co-workers, or family members. We have wants, needs, hopes and dreams of our own. We have disappointments and fears. And we must be able to address these aspects of our lives on our own personal level in order to be really good parents, co-workers, and family members. Individuals are a package deal. We must learn to cater to every aspect of ourselves if we want to be the best we can be in any area of our lives. Friends help us to keep those dreams alive and help us to give in to the human part of ourselves.

Whatever tragedy that has befallen you this past year, there is a balance toward the opposite direction that has also taken place in your life. Find that balance, embrace it, celebrate it and allow it to help heal the pain. Start by being thankful for the goodness you have experienced and the love you have felt. Start there and you will be able to find what you need to help you heal from the tragedies that befall you.

Single parenting is never easy. I will never tell you that it is. However, I will tell you that it is never impossible! Single parents are the strongest parents in the world. Ask your children…they will tell you. After all, you have raised them, haven’t you?

May your Thanksgiving be bountiful and precious. May your blessings be plentiful and obvious. May love live and grow in your hearts and between you and your children! Happy Thanksgiving!

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