It is, without a doubt, a truism that when you become a single parent you become reliant on others.
Others may have to pick up your kids a a moment’s notice, particularly if you’re more than an hour away and they’re sitting in the nurse’s office at school.
Others will have to show your daughter how to do makeup because you are a guy. It’s just true.
Your oldest daughter, who had the benefit of having a mother around when she had her first period, will have to show your middle daughter all the mechanics of menstruation. For the Moms out there, you roll your eyes at this, I am sure, but for single Dads . . . having to talk in gynecological terms about how to insert a tampon or clean your underwear or when to change out your maxi pad . . . those are all things that are foreign to us. Having to learn about this isn’t the first thing, it’s talking to your daughter about them without getting “eww, Dad, why are you even able to talk about this?!”
Your daughters will become reliant on you . . . when they run out of tampons and panty liners . . . even though they are more mortified than you are when they ask you for them.
Your kids will rely on Dad making lunches, dinner, snacks, stocking the cupboard, doing laundry, all of it.
As a single parent, though, we become very reliant on our own children as they grow old enough to do more around the house. When my wife, Andrea, passed away in 2011, my oldest daughter was just about to take her driver’s test. I relied on her grandparents to help with getting her to and from the DMV and to help teach her the rest of her driving skills. That girl was the designated taxi driver for her siblings for the hour or so before I got home. It wasn’t a lot…but I miss it like crazy now that she’s in college.
I rely on my sons to do the dishes. I have to yell, scream, holler, and berate them sometimes to get them done . . . but it still gets done.
More than her sister ever did, my middle daughter is the babysitter and responsible person in the home until I arrive after the end of my work day. It’s a lot of responsibility to shoulder, I do know this. She’s still a kid, I know this, too.
Still, my daughter gets rewarded for that responsibility, too. She got to go to a comic book convention over the weekend. She sees movies with her friends, goes out on weekends with her friends – with oversight from their parents – and does more and gets more freedom than her sister ever had.
Still, she stumbles. When she left too early without asking me for a youth group meeting I had to inform her that the time we settle on is the time we follow. It’s not to be mean or forgetting she’s still a teenager. It’s reminding her that we all have more responsibilities now. She doesn’t do dishes or fold laundry because she is in charge while I’m not home.
I am responsible for reminding myself that she’s still a teenager. Brilliant as she is, she’s not an adult.
The lesson in responsibility that we all have gotten over the last few years is that parenting isn’t done by a guidebook. There isn’t a right answer that fits everything. We’re geared up to have two people watching these little human beings. When you lose one of them you lose that second brain, that second set of eyes, arms and legs. You lose some emotional context.
Still, it’s our responsibility to adapt, too, something my kids have helped me do with abundance.
What about you? Do you follow the idea that there’s responsibility that’s shared? Do you have a “village” helping you or are you trying to do it all alone?