Our Story Begins:
What I’ve Learned As A Single Dad
It would be a complete lie to tell you that I was fully prepared to be a parent when my oldest child was born. I was young, inexperienced, broke, and quite frankly scared to death.
Obviously, I managed to neither kill nor emotionally scar my daughter, in fact she became one of the highlights of nearly every day.
Four years ago those fears manifested again when my wife, their mother, passed away unexpectedly.
Fear is a great driving force, though to be honest, at a certain point it turned to self-preservation, too. My father had a line that was perfect: “you need to be the one in charge, otherwise you’re just the tallest person in the room.” How right he was.
To begin, I have to say, strength is paramount. By this, I don’t mean you have to actually be strong, you just have to give your children the appearance of it. I think this applies whether you are widowed or divorced. I fell apart on a regular basis, I just never let the kids see it. That wasn’t because of my ego. They’re scared, worried, and don’t know what is happening as their world has fallen apart. Yet when they look at their Dad…he’s standing up and even catching them when they fall. They just don’t see that I’ve anchored myself to the floor to stop myself from falling.
Kids are dirty. When there’s only one of you, it seems almost doubly so. The corollary to that is that girls are not any neater than boys. In fact, I think mine are messier. Feel free to disagree…you’ll be wrong.
Laundry never ends. It seemed like my wife had a line on the laundry and we didn’t run the machines near as much. Yes, she did the laundry because every time I did it I shrunk some new pair of pants down to something my toddler would wear. I know California is in a drought but I am running my washer every night.
I cook and bake out of self-preservation. It doesn’t take that much longer as you spend time and gasoline going to pick up food. Plus, for some reason, my kids are far less hyper with my food than bought foods.
Your kids may never, ever, ever, ever be ready for you to date again. You also learn to tell them to get over it. It’s going to happen. Particularly when they start telling you about “the guy they like” and expect you to be okay with it. You hold that moment in reserve just so you can bring it up when it’s your turn.
You miss having your wife around. That’s on two fronts, too. When your son is sick at school and you’re 50 miles away for work…there’s no spouse to pick him up. When your daughter’s boyfriend decides to break up with her via text just weeks after she lost her Mom you need that woman to explain to her that it’s the first of a string of bad decisions, but you’ll make the right one eventually. You also wish you had them there so when, after the 100th argument with your hormonal constantly-battling and depressed teenager, you can feel her arms around you, just for that one moment, the warmth radiating into you. You want the soft, loving feeling and a calm voice to tell you that not everyone in your house is fighting your every decision. That never comes and it hurts.
So you feign strength all over again. It’s also why running, exercising, or in my case – beating incessantly on your guitar – become popular, I think.
There are more . . . far more . . . but I’d be writing forever with lessons I never thought I’d have to learn.
What about you? Are there things about being a parent you never thought you’d learn?