For the past 20 years or so, my friend Ron has called me yearly to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. Ron watched during the earliest years of raising two boys by myself, as I struggled to single-handedly work multiple medical transcription jobs from home – some of them around the clock, waitress a few hours a week for some extra cash, budget my time, manage my money, help with the homework, keep our home clean, fix household things by myself, go back to school (twice), mow the lawn, cook dinner, bathe the boys, and snuggle them to sleep. And! Still manage to take them on cool, adventurous, once-in-a-lifetime vacations.
Ron always told me that I was Mom AND Dad, and I proudly received those accolades, and waited every year for Ron’s call. After all, I WAS doing it all! I was doing it alone, and I was doing it well!
I needed no one. I had this. I was doing the Mom AND Dad thing better than most married couples, I thought. No dysfunction here! Nope. Not in MY home! Not in MY family.
I could mow the lawn as well as the guy next door – perfect stripes going back and forth in the grass, absolutely impeccable weed whacking job, beautifully trimmed bushes, varnished deck, and the brightest and prettiest flower beds on the block. And my proudest accomplishment was that my sons never spent even one hour of their lives in a day care facility.
But none of that meant I was filling the shoes of what only a Dad could be.
It wasn’t until years later when some young men began investing time in the lives of my teenage sons that I realized my inadequacy at being a father figure. And I will be forever grateful for my friend Pat who encouraged me to get my sons into a small group from church. I didn’t always agree with Pat, but since she was single-handedly raising two young men by herself, and doing it well, she seemed worth listening to! (Hey Pat, I’m still listening!)
So over the course of the next decade, four men in particular very intentionally spent time with my sons. They swam, they played ultimate frisbee, joined a fantasy football league, went to Buffalo Wild Wings, filled in for me to take Homecoming photos while I was at work, watched football games together, and who knows – probably burped and farted together a few times too.
Oh, chill out. We all know boys will be boys.
But here’s the thing – While they were doing all of those fun things together, my sons were learning what being a Dad looks like, what being a husband looks like, what being a man looks like, and what being a follower of Christ looks like.
Jesus performed a lot of miracles and did a lot of teaching while He hung out with his disciples, but they also went fishing together, and if Starbucks would have existed back then, I bet they’d have had some great discussions over a large Vanilla Latte. Probably even a punch card.
So here’s my 2 cents: No one can single parent singly. You heard me right. I could never have worked from home, had I not returned to school to learn a skill I could do from home. I could never have returned to school if it wasn’t for my Mom and Dad who watched my kids for me while I was in class. I could not have done half the things I did, had it not been for the support of all of my family members, and quite a few friends too! Pipes burst, the living room flooded, and Claudette came to the rescue with about ten fans. Cousin Steve built the deck. Ron laid the floor and helped my Dad construct the bunk beds. Harvey built the sandbox. Marc helped fix the shed doors. I could go on and on. I have had good communities wherever life has taken me, and so many who have been hands and feet for me when I needed them. And ……… discipled me. Spoke truth to me. Encouraged me. Loved me.
Whether you’re single parenting, or not – it truly does take a village. We were not meant to do life alone.
And Mom – You cannot be Dad any more than Dad can be Mom.
I’m so grateful for the influence my Dad had in the lives of my sons when they were young, and will forever appreciate the young men who have invested and continue to invest in Rory and Ian. I think it was Priscilla Shirer who said we should always be be facing both directions – being an influence in someone else’s life, but making certain we have someone speaking truth into our own lives, as well.
God doesn’t want us to be independent. He wants us to be dependent – dependent on Him. But He also gave us a community of people for a reason. I know both of my sons and my daughter-in-law Holly have people who intentionally speak truth into their lives, disciple them, walk alongside them through life.
There are so many kids who need a father figure, or the wisdom of a Dad – and there are so many young girls who need the example of a woman, or the wisdom of a Mom. There are single parents all over the place. They may be too independent to ask for help, or even accept it if you ask. Do it anyways. I am convinced that a lot of the world’s problems could be solved over a burger and fries, a game of Ultimate Frisbee, or just a walk around the block. Or at least, I’d like to think so.
To my dear friend Ron – I will look forward to your call this Father’s Day. But I am, in fact, a very inadequate father – just a Mom who was very blessed with way more than an adequate heavenly Father. He sent all the right people into my life at all of the right times. You’re one of them, Ron. And the rest of you all know who you are too. I’m surrounded by people who show me on a daily basis was following Christ is supposed to look like, and I’ll never stop thanking God for each of you.
Recently when my son Ian was home, I asked him a question. “Who are you walking alongside these days?” So I’ll ask you the same. Who are YOU eating burgers and going fishing with these days??
And just for fun, here are a few laughs from my notebook of single mommy-ing, inadequate fathering memories…….
- January 1996, Rory was 4 years old. We were at Selfridge Air Base to go to the barber shop because hair cuts were only $5. The ladies’ bathroom was closed for cleaning, and Rory needed to go! Having never been in a men’s bathroom before (why would he have? I was single!) I reluctantly sent him into the men’s bathroom alone. Ian and I waited outside. When he came out, he looked as though he had seen a ghost! “What’s the matter? Everything okay, honey?” I asked… to which Rory responded, “Yeah, I’m fine. But there’s some guy in there pee’ing in a fountain.” #singlemamaproblems
- Kindergarten teacher asked me how much of an age difference there was between myself and my “husband.” I looked at her strangely, then remembered that my Dad, born in 1925, had picked up Ian from school the day before. “Ummm, that was my DAD!” I said.
- Rory drew a picture in preschool of his family one day, and when asked who each of the stick people were, he pointed out himself, his brother, and his mom. When his teacher asked the whereabouts of his father, he responded, “Oh, he got his legs shot off in Vietnam.” (I am so very guilty of letting him watch “Forrest Gump” when he was much too young to watch Forrest Gump!) Don’t be like me!
- One day, Ian asked why Rory has a little brother, but he does not. And, he insisted that he wanted one too. After all, he should get whatever his older brother gets, to be fair! I tried the best I could to explain that in order to get another brother, Mom would need a husband. Since there was no husband, there would be no more brothers. His response? “Fine! I’ll ask GRANDMA! She will get me one! She has a husband!” (Yes, my father had a lot of fun with this one!)
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19-20