Our Story Begins:
Advice for a Single Father’s Day
I have had cause recently to look back on the last five years and see just how much things have changed. Obviously, they’ve changed a lot or I wouldn’t be writing about it now.
As it’s Fathers Day I think I can safely give some advice to the newly single dads . . . and even moms, as much of the lessons I’ve learned apply across the board. I can see a myriad of things that I either have done or should have done in the wake of caring for four kids alone. The fact that I have two girls and two boys gives me even more perspective on things. I mostly picture myself five years ago and wish I’d heard some of these things:
- Learn to listen: Guys, we like to fix things. When our kids are hurt, injured, sad, whatever, we want to make it better. When that guy breaks up with your daughter (or girl breaks up with your son) you want to do something about it. Really, though, you need to simply let them get it out and tell you what’s making them sad or angry. A good ear or a good shoulder for them to cry on can go farther. It’s hard to realize when this is the case, but you’ll know it when the time comes.
- Get some cookbooks! I was lucky. My mother taught me how to cook. I should also qualify this by saying my mom FORCED me to learn how to cook and I’m glad she did. I know how to add to a recipe, make a meal, comfort food, even do a full spread for the holidays. I bake regularly. I get that this is unusual, or people may think it’s unusual. Realistically, though, your kids get the comfort of a home-cooked meal, so they still feel the comfort of family. You eat together and you hear all that is going on in their lives, too. But anybody can cook if you have a cookbook. Get some basics, like the Better Homes and Gardens one or The Cookie Book and you’ll be a rock star.
- It’s okay to keep doing your “guy” things: I was just on vacation with my kids in the Midwest. We were washing that Austin Healey up there (that’s the car, just in case you wondered) and I asked the kids to go grab the chamois for me. I got nothing but dead stares. From three of the four of them. They had no idea what I was talking about. I realized they needed some more of that hands-on education for things I just did all the time. They marveled at some of the tools and work we did – stuff I did all the time growing up. I realized that, in the throngs of doing daily chores and laundry and straining to be two parents I’d done more chores and fewer things that they needed to know getting by. Sending my daughter to college and training my middle girl to drive, I’ve already made them jack up the car, take off a wheel and put on the spare, and learn how to jump-start their car. I’m getting tools for each of them now so they have a basic kit just to do things they need. Moms have just as much propensity to do these things, I know, and I want my girls and boys to have these tools. I’d gotten so weighed down by daily life, though, I’d forgotten how good it is to work in the garage with your dad.
- Be honest with your kids: They’re smarter than you think. Lie or hide things from them they’ll just find out and then they’ll be rightfully angry that you lied to them. When I started dating and had seen this person more than a couple times I told my kids. They were far happier knowing I trusted them with this and brought them along on this journey. That lead to:
- It’s okay to be happy: Do your hobbies, maybe include your kids in them. I play and have since recorded music and my kids helped with gear and got excited. Maybe you’re single because of divorce. Maybe you’re single because you lost someone. Don’t date or get into a relationship just because you’re lonely. Do it because you’re ready. I waited a few years because I knew I wasn’t. Now, though, my kids love seeing that I’m happy and getting to know that other person, too.Related: Our Story Begins: A Much Needed Break
These aren’t earth shattering things, I know, but you’d be amazed how much they help. I know this isn’t everything you need to know, maybe not even the biggest things . . . but they’re a start. If you’re just finding your way, I think you’ll be glad to know there’s a smoother road ahead.
What about you? Did you learn some hard lessons? As a single parent or even as a married mom or dad?