The Untold Struggle

I don’t talk about this often because to be honest, I don’t really know how. The funny thing about this topic is, you feel like you have to step backwards in order to talk presently. Like you have to tell the story from the beginning. I don’t want to tell the story from the beginning, at all. I realize every vantage point lived a different story, your truth, my truth, the truth kind of thing. We all know that every vantage point is jaded, and all I know with certainty is where I stand now. I am raising my 11-year-old son alone, with incredibly supportive parents and friends. But, without his dad.

To the single parents out there, I salute you. Our situation is so unique in that we have a small village of people behind us to help ease the burden that falls on me, and even with that support, I still find our situation difficult. To all of the single parents or caregivers that serve as sole providers for your dependents, you have my utmost respect. That said, 11 has been an interesting age. For the first time in our lives, my son has questions about his biological father, and unfortunately I don’t always have the answer. Let me explain what happened today…

While making a return at a local mall, one of the cashiers kept asking questions about me. He was younger, and was being respectful, but was steadfast that he knew me somehow. I listed off a few places I’ve worked yet he still couldn’t pinpoint how he knew me. And then he knocked the air out of me by asking, “Do you know Smith*?” Immediately my son’s jaw dropped, he knows his biological father’s name, and he focused his eyes intently on this cashier. I said yes and the cashier replied that they were cousins. By that time he finished saying that the return was complete and I quietly ushered my son out of the store. We hustled to a private area and I said, “Okay, what are you thinking?” (Small commentary: I’m not sure it would have mattered what my son said next, I don’t think I was prepared for his response in the slightest. If you find yourself in this situation I highly recommend a few deep, deep breaths.) Then my sweet little dude said, “I bet he knows his favorite animal.” Did you hear my heart break? My dad’s always been an amazing parent, role model and supporter in my life. I too easily forget my son won’t know that in his youth in the way he deserved to experience it. After some pleading on my son’s part, we walked back into the store to see if that cashier might have a moment. We found him and provided a brief explanation, he didn’t realize the connection he had to my son, and he was willing to let my son ask him a question. So we asked, “Do you know his favorite animal?” Sadly, the cashier replied, “No, I’m sorry man. He doesn’t really come around our family gatherings anymore.” We thanked the gracious cashier, who as a young adult was incredibly sensitive to the situation, and headed towards the exit. One step outside of the mall and my little man broke into tears. “It’s just not fair I don’t know my dad.”

Jesus take the wheel. You see, I’m a firm believer you can only hate something you once loved. While I appreciate the time I had with my son’s father, I was 16, and we found ourselves in an unplanned situation. I don’t hate him, and I’ve worked really hard not to be resentful that when given the chance to be an active parent, he hasn’t stepped up and done it. But in that moment, I felt hate. I felt anger. I felt rage. I’ve worked hard over the last 11+ years to become a better person for myself and my son. I’ve worked to become his sole provider, a coach, a teacher, a taxi, a maid, a tutor, a chef, a bank and so much more. And yet, there I stood outside the mall on my day off apologizing for someone else’s choices, choices I myself don’t even understand.

And I guess that’s where I leave this story. Our day continued, my little man smiled and laughed and thanked God for the day before he fell asleep. But I still don’t understand. I don’t have a nice package with a bow on it, I don’t have any kind of explanation or understanding, and I’m not quite past my frustration. And I know I’m not the only single parent out there. So to every single parent working multiple jobs, budgeting strictly to make ends meet, and trying desperately to explain why your ‘co-parent’ isn’t carrying their weight, my prayers are with you. I know all too well how lonely it can be, how exhausting it usually is and the emotional toll it can take. Yet, I also know the example you’re setting for your child. Your worth ethic, your attitude, your sacrifice, your hustle – none of that goes unnoticed. Keep pushing folks, tiny eyes are focused straight on you!

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*In an effort to respect the privacy of this person, the name has been substituted.

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