People say being a single parent is hard, and it can be, and it is. But there’s something really quite wonderful about being a single mother of an only child. For the last ten years before he went off to college, from ages 8 to 18, my son and I got to play by our own rules.
We blasted classic rock throughout the house, ate our meals on the living room table with chopsticks and reading books and candles, and pulled 12-hour all-nighters watching entire seasons of Monk and Breaking Bad. We burned incense, hung toilet paper streamers for our birthdays, gave handmade cards for holidays, and ate ice cream for dinner. We ditched our bed frames and box-springs and slept on mattresses with funky bedspreads, dressed up our cats, played pranks on each other, and hung rock posters in the dining room.
Richie and I shoveled snow, installed air conditioners, and planned for power outages together. We argued and then compromised over the ingredients of our food, toiletries, and video games. We learned to knock first, take turns, prioritize, and never end a day without saying I LOVE YOU.
My son got to see that I’m just like him, and we’re both figuring out this round of Life together as we go along. He got to see me as an equal, a fellow life traveler, a real person, and not just as someone he calls Mom.
Being a single mother allowed us to grow up together, and it permitted me to mess up so that I could demonstrate again and again what it means to be human and how to say (and truly mean) I’m sorry. It gave me the chance to share with my precious boy, by daily example, how to be free and brave with your thoughts by choosing not a man-made religion, but instead choosing God and kindness at all times, and by never judging others because of their race or gender or where Life landed them.
And when it came time for college, and he asked to attend one so far out of my one-paycheck financial league, it allowed me the opportunity to realize once again that our beautiful human potential will always mean more to me than having zero debt or owning material things. It let me get creative and fiercely determined to weave together a patchwork plan, beyond wildly courageous.
But most importantly, being a single mother made room for having those meaningful and passionate conversations with my only child about worthiness vs. privilege. I begged him never to forget as he journeys alongside his classmates that it is an absolute privilege for him to be there even though he is equally worthy as anyone else of the opportunity. I reminded him to never take the shininess of his new daily campus life for granted, or forget the modest roots that he came from, or fail to take it all in with anything but absolute on-his-knees gratitude.
On the morning of my son’s high school graduation in 2014, I posted on Facebook this message to him:
Oh, my beating heart. I blinked, and you grew up. Today marks a new era for you. In seven hours you will be a high school graduate, and the world will expect different things from you, and some will try to tell you who you are or who you should be. Instead, create your own love stories and scatter your own stars, and remember that you arrived in this lifetime by design, on time, and with great purpose.
As Roald Dahl once said, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” I love you everywhere, all around, endlessly.
People say being a single parent is hard, and it can be, and it is.
But at the end of most days, more than tired, I felt grateful that I got to do things my way. More than broke, I felt creative and trusting that new nets would always appear with God and faith by our sides. And most of all, more than worried, I felt aroused by these everyday moments we were standing in that I knew were becoming the forever love stories of our lives.