I would like to challenge all single mothers and single fathers whose children are grown to remember the days when you were struggling to be the breadwinner, the nurturer, the disciplinarian, the head chef, the nurse (and the list goes on) – all by yourself. Now that you remember how difficult it could be, I ask that you look around you - in your neighborhood, your church, your workplace – and find a single mom or dad that embodies those same struggles. They will not be hard to find; they are everywhere.
Now I am going to ask that you make the offer to do for them some of the same things that you would have liked to have benefited from when your children were young. Watch their kids so they can go to the grocery store without children dropping things in the shopping cart or constantly whining, “I want….” Fix an easy, ready-to-serve dinner and take it to them in the middle of the week so that they don’t have to worry how to feed the kids after a hard day at work. Offer to take their children to the park on a Saturday so they can run errands. Provide them with a free babysitter for an evening out with their own friends.
My girls are grown and have lives of their own now. They still need me, but they do not need my every waking moment. I am, however, surrounded by single mothers and fathers who spend every moment planning how best to meet the needs of their children. One night earlier this week, I mildly chastised one in regards to their chosen method of time-out. I could really go off on the lack of wisdom in my approach (or the fact that I did approach), but even worse than this was the fact that I offered no solutions to this young woman. She was exhausted after a long day at work, confronted by trouble at school as soon as she picked up her children, and frazzled over how to feed them dinner, help with homework and get a moment’s peace. The last thing she needed was a temper tantrum from one of her children and an attitude from me. But the words were out of my mouth before I knew what I was doing and it was only when I was back in my own kitchen that I realized that I had done absolutely nothing to help. This mother is my neighbor! I was quite less than neighborly to her.
This morning I left her a hand-written note on her door offering my services to her to watch her children if she needed to run errands, having an evening “off”, or simple some peace and quiet. I hope that she will take me up on my offer, for I meant it sincerely. My apology will come when we can be face-to-face again.
No parent is perfect. Raising children is trial and error. Not to mention the fact that just because you figure it out with one does not mean that the same methods will work with the next. We have all made our share of mistakes. We all get tired, have a bad day, or lose our tempers. We say things in the heat of the moment that we wish we had not said, especially to our children. I well remember times when I felt that if I did not put some distance between myself and one or the other of my daughters I might well blow a gasket.
However, what we really must do, instead of simply commenting on the problem, is work together to remedy it. Single parent support groups abound; however, sometimes they cannot give us what we really need – time and/or “peace and quiet”. Many single parents will not ask for what they need, so it is the responsibility of those single parents who have raised our children already to offer. True, perhaps no one offered to help us, but think of how wonderful we would have felt if they had.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannakuh, Ramadan, Yule, Kwanzaa, or St. Lucia’s Day, this season is about gifts of love, unity, and peace. Find a single parent in need and offer your services. You will receive as much as you give.