The best gifts come unadorned and completely unexpected.
As a divorced mom of two sons, I’ve probably aged more rapidly in the years since my divorce than I did during the years my marriage was failing. The stress I left behind in the form of what had become an unhealthy relationship was replaced with the stress of financially supporting my family without child support.
This will be no “poor me” story, I promise. Instead, hopefully a bit of bright light in your day.
My boys are not full of flowery speeches and pep talks. They’re—well—boys. They’ve been raised by a mother who works long hours and isn’t a fan of complaining or belly-aching. And they like to banter with and tease me more often than not.
My sisters used to tell me, when I worried about the kind of men they’d grow up to be, that my example would stick. I doubted that and told them so. “You don’t even realize what you’re building right now,” one sister told me. “In hindsight, they’ll see who you were and that will color who they become.”
While I fervently wished for her to be right, I really did doubt it. Boys tend to take after their fathers. And if that meant mine were math whizzes I was all for it but some of the other traits—not so much. I had learned the hard way and didn’t want them to make some woman do the same years into the future.
As we approach National Single Parents Day this weekend, I feel like my boys have given me the uplift every single parent needs. They did it without knowing about this “holiday.” And they did it from the heart, without fanfare. If you’re raising kids on your own and you’re doubting that they see you or learn from you, I’m living proof—they do.
My eldest is primarily a man of action but he does love to talk to me at length sometimes—as if he’s making up for lost time. We were talking about myriad things when the conversation came around to his intolerance for people who make excuses. And then out it came, a beautiful nugget I’ll treasure forever. “Look at you, Mom. You were in a bad situation. But you didn’t make excuses. You did what you had to do and got out of a marriage to save all of us.” I reminded him that I had done so at great cost, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. And that he’d been horrible to me for a period of time during my divorce. Basically, I reminded him that it’s not easy and we should cut people some slack on whatever they’re going through.
“Yeah,” he said, “I get that. But you did the hard thing. You figured it out even though you were scared. I don’t know many moms who could have done that.”
And then he went on to tease me mercilessly about using my mobile phone’s microphone to text and listening to ‘80s music. Back to normalcy. But for a brief blip, I caught a glimpse. I saw that he had taken in more than I realized—and come to his own conclusions. That while he loves both of his parents, he admired what I did and realized it had to be done. This is the boy who proudly displays a sticker on his laptop emblazoned with, “No weak shit.” While I’m not crazy about the profanity, it’s a mantra that suits him.
As if they were channeling the same vibe (which rarely happens), my youngest approached me in the kitchen during his lunch break from virtual classes. From the time he was quite young, he has always spoken like a wise old man. This was no exception. “I heard you on your call this morning, Mom. And I know you’re trying not to work this weekend. Do you see that you’re a rare breed of woman? I don’t think I always knew that. I thought most moms were like you, but most of my friends’ moms aren’t. You own your own business. You financially support a family without help. And you still were always a mom. You’re pretty amazing, Mom. I just wanted you to know.”
And then he wrapped me in a big hug, having to bend down to do it because my former little boy is now so much taller than I am.
Wow. Just, wow. He had recently told me he remembered being a little guy. I would read to him and tuck him in—and then he’d see my office light go on as his bedroom light went off. He copped to sneaking to the window sometimes to see the moon and peer at the light from my window cascading into the yard below. He said he always felt safe. Never worried we wouldn’t have enough. Always felt loved.
Jesus. It’s enough to bring a single mom to her knees in thanks. Somehow, they didn’t feel my anxiety about finances or the cookies for the class party or how to teach them to be a better man even though I’m a woman.
I don’t know what prompted both of them to pay me the highest compliment, but I’ll take it. Whatever it was.
All parents deserve credit for what can the hardest—and most rewarding—job on earth. But if you’re doing this while running your own household, working, raising young humans to be decent and kind—I am sending you the largest virtual hug you can stand this weekend. Doing it solo can be oh so lonely. Keep going. Just keep going. And be good to yourself along the way.
They may not tell you. You may not see it in their eyes. But your example—your beautiful, gorgeous strength and love and persistence and stamina—all of this is shining through. I hope someday that you, like me, get to hear it from them.
Single parenting is a job that truly changes the world because it changes the people in it. If we get it right, in the very best way.