When our children are young, we only want the best. After dealing with a particularly unpleasant relationship, some people are left alone as single parents, tasked with the responsibility of raising their children. For those folks who take their jobs seriously, the idea of getting back into a relationship is not an option. There is one priority in life: taking care of the little beings that were brought into the world, dependent upon their parent, and surrendering everything that was ever personally important to do what’s right … no matter how hard. Dreams don’t go away … they evolve into something greater, and the love grows stronger. But, it becomes far easier to seek isolation, like a mother-wolf guarding the den, taking great offense at criticism (the proverbial predator) and placing tremendous value on the few things that we will ever do right in life (and it usually seems like those moments are far too few in between).
While some people manage to find their way back into a relationship, it’s more often than not, typically a very rocky situation. So, the rest of us avoid those pitfalls. Sure, so-called “professionals” accuse single parents of being “bad people“ because they deprive their child of a 2-parent household, but those so-called “professionals” have little to no factual studies upon which to base that decision and usually rely on their own, personal instinct (unbeknownst to the now hurt and ashamed single parent who feels like more of a failure than ever). The trials of single parenting are not easy – but they ARE important and they ARE WAY worth it. Life suddenly changes: working 10 – 15 hours per day, sleeping ZERO to a few hours per night (for months on end), never making ends meet, and never getting into a position of stability. Time with our little ones becomes restricted in ways that most other people cannot and do not choose to ever understand. Yet, it is clearly outweighed by the simple, few moments in life when we can see our children smile … see them laugh … and know that at least we did one thing right.
Of course, it should never be a burden on a child to play the role of “parent” to their parent, but I personally believe (contrary to modern psychology and those so-called “experts”), that there is nothing wrong with taking joy from parenting (even to the point of it becoming the center of your universe!). All human beings derive joy from some outside source. Some people freak out over sports. Some people need to be married or own a pet … and some people find that the pleasure of raising a child is a reward of infinite measure. Yet, after 18 years of hard work, struggles, broken hearts, physical pains, emotional breaks, and a WHOLE lot of stress and public shame … the day arrives when our struggle comes to an end. The goal is achieved and our children…
Their ideals are their own. Their loves, likes, and dislikes, are what they have developed and it belongs to them. Their decisions, responsibilities, and accountability are solely on their shoulders … no matter how hard we may hang on. And … an empty house is a very … very sad house. Every laugh … every scream … every annoying Q&A period, every word that was ever said, whether you remember it or not … becomes a gift of gold. The good times … and the bad … are the memories that we have to hold on to. There is no spouse to turn to. There is no one to lean on. A lifetime of solitude leaves single parents … single. But, with any luck, our children will find friends, love interests, job opportunities, education, and all the great things that we could only wish they could have (that we never could).
Then comes the greatest struggle of all …
Letting go is not easy. Nah … our kids are probably not “gone“. Some may still live at home for monetary (and hopefully, NOT “lazy“) reasons. Some will visit. They will have questions, need our approval, and still want our love. And, every treasured moment to give that love is even more spectacular than when they were tiny, little angels in our arms. But, there is no greater challenge (IMHO), than “emotionally” letting them go. It’s not healthy to use guilt, shame, or have “personal” reasons of gain and selfishness to keep kids at home. Sure – we’d love it if our little ones just kept being our little ones … but that just isn’t possible. As adults, they need their own life. So, what’s so difficult about seeing the greatest success of your life come to fruition?
Well, in truth, there’s loneliness. That part’s difficult to get past. There’s a bond that is terrifying to lose. And, worst of all, the “control” that brought a buffer of safety, turned single parents into savage beasts defending their home, and brought all those endless, sleepless nights – is gone. The truth is – we never “controlled” their lives … but we certainly did have a lot more control than we did on the day they could drive … go out with friends they choose … get jobs … and leave home. All that said – it’s still not the MOST difficult part about letting go. Remember … there was another parent in there …
And, when the day comes (for those unfortunate enough to have it come), that the children want more time with their “other” family, as if it had somehow been denied to them before (because it’s all YOUR fault … NOT!) or suddenly became an “opportunity” they didn’t previously have. Really? 18 years of giving up on finances, goals, time, and health just to give them a better life and … they want to see their “other” parent? That hurts … a lot.
No, your child is not trying to hurt you nor are they even thinking about your feelings. Remember, they are adults, now. They have ALL sorts of new opportunities (including their own, personal matters to deal with), and the fact that they have another parent out there means love, closure, reason, and a slew of other possibilities that they need to explore.
So … here you are … all alone. The roof over your head came at a serious price. The food in the fridge came with many … many days of not eating. And, the money to send them to school or do whatever else you can, no matter how small … was not free. Even the love you’re ready to give solely to your child was born from your spouse or significant other not being around. At least … they weren’t there before … not when it mattered.
Does the child know? Yes, of course they do. They were there. The difference is – they weren’t “jaded” by a spouse who left them alone. All they knew … and all they loved … was in one person. And, now, their wide open heart is ready to love more people. They can love the other parent … even long for them. They can love their friends and other family members. And, one day, they’ll probably meet a significant other of their own, with a whole different family to love. When the absent parent can suddenly be the “fun” parent, devoid of all those years of responsibility … the ugliness of their fly-by-the-handle timing creeps up like acid reflux. They don’t operate on your schedule … they interfere with it, take your time … and they don’t care. But … no matter how much it hurts … the single parent is stuck having to remember it’s not “their” time anymore. They never got to be that spontaneous, irresponsible “fun” guy or gal. That was traded to be the responsible parent who has to watch a child go “play” with a parent that they don’t (and may not ever) understand doesn’t love them in a way that has meaning (such as sacrifice, selflessness, and responsibility). The trade off was – you got to spend your life doing your best for your little one. And, it was an incredibly fantastic decision based on some very SERIOUS love … even though that doesn’t fill back up the oil lamps at the wedding procession…
And … there you sit … all alone … feeling a little lost … a little sad … and a little helpless. Yes … people tell you “Go out and get a hobby,” or “Go meet people.” But, those are easy things to say for other people who didn’t give up their hobbies and the chance to meet other people (and develop better social skills) already, all just to be a parent. It’s not only terrifying … but now, the chance that your little one may come home and need you is a rarity that you’re not willing to pass up. You don’t want to miss it because you did something “selfish” like go out on a date when they needed you (no … it’s not selfish … but it sure does feel that way).
Therein lies the rub. You resolve to spend the rest of your life single, ready for them and all the other people they’re going to bring into their lives. When they tell you that they’re going to visit your “Ex” (or as they like to call it, their “parent”), you get a shrill chill down your spine. A “parent” is someone who loved you enough to always be there. Everyone else is just a “donor” to the program. But, you can’t tell them it hurts. You can’t cry in front of them. And, you can’t let them know just how bad your heart is breaking or else … you’re being selfish. And … darn it … you spent too many years hiding every moment of pain the best you could to stop doing it now, too.
So you smile on the outside while on the inside … you die just a little bit more.
But – it’s not the end. You can’t let it be. You want to never let them down and if it means an entire lifetime of solitude after 1 or a few bad relationships so that you’ll never know what it feels like to be loved by a significant other … then so be it. Nothing …
In all the universe is quite as sweet as the love of the person you cared for. Why? Because, it’s confirmation that you did okay. Yep … that’s right … it still comes down to selfishness. Weird thing is – it’s not the same kind of selfish as not sharing a toy … it’s the kind of selfish that every human being struggles for: accolades, acceptance, approval, status, and personal gratification. So … while society may try to label you, shun you, and put you down … just remember … they’re being selfish because they want the same thing you do … their “own” accolades and confirmation that what they did and said was correct.
Pretty shallow answer … I know. In fact … it’s not really an answer. It’s just a confirmation that your broken heart really is … broken (and it’s going to stay that way for quite a long time). It’s confirmation that what you want (to be the center of your child’s universe), just isn’t an option. Suddenly, you’re just a lowly planet (Pluto) that gets downgraded to a “rock” (ever wonder why people took such offense at that? Maybe because we can see ourselves in it?). And, your child, who becomes their own sun at the center of their own universe now has all sorts of planetary bodies surrounding them and it’s almost as if you feel the love just a little less each and every day.
But, I’m here to tell you to hold on. Even the sun needs help from time to time. And, when all is said and done, it will be that tiny little “rock” at the edge of the universe that was watching everything happen that will know exactly what to say when the time is right. It will be that lonely rock that heals all wounds and loves unconditionally when others do not. It will be that tiny rock that defines the boundaries of your child’s galaxy, still keeping them safe … unseen and unheard. And, in your deafening solitude where all you can hear is the emptiness of the life you made for yourself … you will have something that no other planet does:
You will have a view of the ENTIRE galaxy! You will be able to see the universe around you, unobstructed. And, best of all, at the center of that galaxy will be a giant, bright, ball of sunshine that still laughs … still smiles … still gets angry … still hurts … and still loves. It may not be much … but you will feel the warmth of that sun. You will know that it was because of you that your child grew into someone amazing. They don’t have to be president (and who would want that for their child?). They don’t have to be wealthy. They don’t have to be married or have families or be “metro” business folks. They can just be the wonderful, little baby you rocked so many years ago in your arms.
Of course, that doesn’t make anything easier or take away the pain. But, I think of the planet Pluto so far out there … already pushed aside and a little lonely … behind everyone else … and without so much as a peep … it gets downgraded … and yet … it may very well be the most important component in the entire Galaxy – just … like … you! Well … hopefully someone takes that to heart or shares it with someone who needs it!
Thanks for reading!
“Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said–
Then you say–go slow–
I fall behind–
After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows–you’re wondering
If I’m OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time.” – Cyndi Lauper (“Time After Time“).