Our Story Begins:
A few weeks ago I wrote about a Pew Research Study that showed single fathers in America had increased ninefold since the 1960’s. That’s a huge increase. I wrote this to show that fathers can be loving, compassionate, faithful and as involved in their kids’ lives as their Moms. No . . . I didn’t carry my four children for nine months and it’s true I don’t have the connection their mother did with them. It’s also true that their mother didn’t have the connection I do.
I had friends and colleagues who gave me articles referencing the same study after that. They all had the information in the study right, but many of them called the situation of single fatherhood, “increasingly normal.”
By no means was my column meant to “normalize” the situation. I am both parents to my kids, by necessity, but by no means do I consider it “normal.” Nor should it be “normal” for a woman to parent alone, either.
So let me say one very clear thing here: there’s nothing normal about being a single parent.
Is it a “new normal” (God, I hate that term!)? Yes. I suppose you could say that.
But normal . . . it’s just not, particularly if you had two parents and are suddenly left with one.
Exactly three years, four months and one day ago my wife, Andrea, passed away. That left my four children with only their Dad to take care of them. This also meant that everything they’d known for their entire life up to this point was now changed. I had to come up with a way to be a parent that was totally different than the way we had been living up to this point.
Normal, for us, was their mother asking to keep the kids up, just a little longer, so she could hold them. Normal, for us, was when my daughter wasn’t doing well at school and having a long discussion, together, a united front, to get her back on track. Normal was agreeing that taking the door off my 10-year-old’s room to teach her not to slam it in anger at her parents. Normal was having amazing decorations for the holidays with that perfect “Mom” touch to them. Normal was having two people that you could count on . . . so if Dad worked late Mom was home from work or vice versa.
We went from a monarchy to a dictatorship. In the beginning I tried to be inclusive and when my kids couldn’t make a decision – even if it was what to have for dinner – it fell on my shoulders. So when the finances are tight, which is often, my kids also know that we tighten our belts a little. I have failed, miserably at times. I have also seen success when, with far fewer presents under the tree and completely different ways of handling holidays . . . my kids smile. I make all the decisions and it took almost a year for me to be okay with that.
So . . . “increasingly normal” bothers me. There’s nothing “normal” about being a single parent. We just adjust, which was what we’ve done from the beginning. Will it seem “normal” to my kids now three years, four months and a day into it? I certainly hope so . . . but it will never feel “normal” to me.
What about you? Do you see it this way? Can you imagine parenting alone . . . and would you ever think you wouldn’t if circumstances came to it?