Let me begin by saying that there are very few things more challenging than single parenting. I realize I am hardly in the position to declare such a statement as my experience only lasted a few months and I received a tremendous amount of support during that time. However, in those moments as I sat there with my sleeves rolled up, setting mouse traps, changing poopy diapers, and trying to fold the damn Pack’N’Play back in the bag (is that thing really meant to fit in there anyway?), I sent many a silent prayer to single parents everywhere. I couldn’t appreciate this challenge before.
As a teacher I have been guilty of sometimes judging parents. Why can’t this kid get his homework in on time? Why does her Mom think McDonalds is an acceptable breakfast? But I take it back, parents. I take it back. And I’m truly sorry for not giving you the credit you deserved for simply doing your best. There are so many single parents out there doing a fabulous job in really unfabulous circumstances and we should all be tipping our hats instead of shaking our fingers.
One of the few advantages I experienced during this time, however, was the ability to make all split decisions independently. I have faint memories of TC and I standing in newborn Jack’s room arguing over what onesie to dress him in for the day. Two stubborn people. Two strong opinions. One really unimportant decision to make. Eventually we found our groove. I returned to work after a year at home with Jack and redirected my bossiness to the classroom. I let TC pick the outfits, make the lunches, and weigh in on the birthday presents. Of course this all changed during the time TC was hospitalized. I reverted to my old ways. I became Parent Numero Uno. And, in spite of the stress, I actually really appreciated all the the skills I acquired during this time. I never imagined myself as a toolkit carrying, fireplace cleaning, mouse killer. I’m far more versatile than I thought.
In the months before TC’s assault, Jack was a true “Daddy’s boy.” He worshipped TC, called for him when he needed anything, and much to my chagrin, preferred his company over mine. TC was a super involved father. He’d bundle Jack into the Baby Bjorn, walk him to the corner market, stroll him down to the Natural History Museum, and read to him every night. Tough shoes to fill. For awhile after TC’s attack I tried convincing myself that Jack would not be affected by his absence. But children know everything and even if they can’t express it, they certainly feel it.
It’s unclear whether Jack understands that TC is the dad he had before or whether he sees him as a “new” dad. In either case, he now fully accepts TC as his dad once more. And so, as I cue Jack to “share” with his friends, I realize I need a lesson in sharing as well. TC wants to be involved again. He’s entitled to an opinion about what to feed Jack, how to discipline him, and what to dress him in. These are no longer single mom decisions. They’re co-parent decisions.
Witnessing the rebirth of their relationship has been one of the great joys of my life. I’m ever grateful for my single parenting experience because it taught me two important lessons: one, I am capable of more than I imagined, and two, it’s important to appreciate the help you do have. And, as it turns out, while it’s nice to be the favorite, it’s even nicer to share.