Single Mom Slice of Life:
Did This Child Come With A Handbook?
I am 100% positive that there are two reasons there is no book that holds all of the answers to parenting. The first is because there are just too many variables to account for. Younger parents are different than older parents. Only children are raised differently than groups of siblings. Older children are treated differently than younger children. Single parents have a different structure than two parent homes… and so on, and so forth, again and some more and… well, you see where I’m going with this.
My handbook would have been of the single mom raising two teenage boys on a low income after having survived domestic violence before moving to a new state without knowing another soul. My sense of guilt at not being able to provide for my children meant I sometimes acted more as a friend than a parent. I spent the majority of my children’s lives knowing full well that I was about to provide fascinating case studies for hoards of therapists to come.
Nick, my oldest, will be 20 this year. Over the years I have shared many stories about him. Not all of them were good. It was pointed out once that I often shared only the worst stories about him. Shadowing him at school, almost giving up hope and calling in a life coach, and actually giving up hope when telling him that he was no longer welcome in my home.
Though, I don’t see it as only sharing bad stories about him. These were the stories that consumed my life during those times. I was a young single mom trying to raise men. Those stories were insights into my life, my world, my day to day adventures in parenting.
The other reason there is no end-all be-all guide to parenthood is because it is ever changing.
Not that long ago, my stories were filled with anger, frustration and fear of my oldest and his lack of responsibility or concern where his schooling was concerned. I was positive that I had lost control somewhere and that his adult life would be much harder than it needed to be because I had not been a better parent while he was younger.
It turns out – I really didn’t have that much say in it. Having begun his training for a future as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Nick has become a changed man. Yup, man, not boy, not child, not student. There is not enough space for me to count the ways my oldest boy has grown up in seven short months.
But for as much as my oldest son has changed, so has my zen, quiet, Benjamin Button-esq youngest son. Turns out, the homework-hating, back-talking, debating-everything gene wasn’t something that I can control. Just as the terrible-twos hit every child at some point… so does high school.
He has been asked not to be compared to his older brother, and in certain aspects, Justin is still Nick’s polar opposite. In some ways, I take comfort in that… it means the next four years will be soooo much easier than the last four. On the other hand… well… there is really only the one hand. Years of stressing and fighting worrying lead to nothing. It was the teaching Nick the difference between right and wrong, and giving him the security to come to me when he needed help and guidance that turned him into the man he is.
Those lessons are the same lessons I’ve instilled in Justin. So though he may be more zen, more confident within his own skin, the basics are the same. I’m not saying they’re free of future therapist bills, but they’re going to be just fine.
And every book – even books about parenting – deserve an ending where everyone has a fighting chance for a happily ever after.