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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

The Tango with Tenacity

Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Let me just plainly state – single parenting is rough. I am not sure why anyone would willingly sign up for it, although I know quite a few people who decided it was the best option for them. When you unexpectedly find yourself parenting alone it is a stark awakening. It always tickles me when my married friends have a few days when their spouses are away and they tell me that they know what I am going through because they had to care for their children alone. Their thoughts are understood, but they don’t fully get how the scenarios are different.

The thing that my well intention friends don’t realize is that for a single parent, there is no one ever coming to help make decisions, run an errand or bring you a glass of water. Now that my guys are older, they ask how I am doing, what have I been up to and what’s on my mind. I really appreciate their sincere care. What I don’t have is someone to remind me to pick up my medicine, don’t worry about dinner tonight or I see “fill in the blank” needs to be done, I will take care of it. If an extra bill comes up, Peter and Paul have to back up. They are both demanding so you have to get back to them quickly!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have been surrounded by some wonderful people who have encouraged me, especially at my church. Typically when you get in the prayer line at church, someone is going to ask you what you them to pray for. For the time that my sons were growing up, no one asked me – they just prayed for strength, which was definitely what I needed, but it is a little funny in retrospect. I have also been pleased with wonderful co-workers, neighbors, and friends. I remember when my mother passed away, my office provided dinner for my family. Even one of my sales team members who lived out of state told my supervisor to make sure I had whatever I needed. This means so much to you, especially in those heartbreaking times.

The other thing about going it alone is that there is almost a feeling of desperation to not get it wrong. Some parents may be okay with the minimum, but I knew I had to work harder to make sure my sons weren’t operating with a deficit since they only had one on-site parent. In my high school group of friends, I was the only one who didn’t have a father living at home. I don’t know that it had a huge negative impact on me because my father lived near us and was vested in all of our school activities. Raising sons was different. Someone (me) would have to teach them how to throw and catch a ball, how to drive, and how to handle conflict with teachers without scaring the foo out of them, when (and how) to challenge and when to go with the flow – the critical skills. Here is the key point with that, there is no one to delegate these tasks to…and they have to learn them to be successful. So you dig deep, pray for guidance and handle it with the skill you didn’t know you had all the while thankful that the Lord is guiding you. Teaching your children to take on life with tenacity is so necessary so that they focus on being their best.

While not having that parenting partner is a void, you have to be smart about how you handle that too, because while your children are listening to you, they are more intently watching your living example. I didn’t date while they were growing up. I saw the damage that could do to a young man’s heart in my own family, especially when they start to feel like they are the alpha male in the home. To be honest, there just weren’t that many suitors. I have been told on more than one occasion that I intimidate men. Not so much by being outlandish, showy or aggressive. Once my full story is told, they just don’t see where they are needed – fair enough. I don’t need to be the damsel in distress. It’s not how I roll. My objective was if someone presented themselves and was serious about contributing, I would consider it. If they presented them self as a disruption, I would have to kill them. (In retrospect, I can see how that would be intimidating…) For the record, I haven’t said that to any candidate – I am not that out of practice. At the same token I don’t want to end up with the guy who thinks his best picture on the dating site is his picture with the baby blue suit…with the hat to match. Oh and he has a red and yellow ensemble just like it. (Whose child is this with the Skittles colored suits? Where does he work?)

While I am very comfortable with myself, I am more open to the possibility of companionship. It takes on a new role in this day and age, but I have specific marching orders from my sons. “Ma, please give us some warning. We don’t want to come home one day and find dude sitting on the couch watching TV.” Yes sir, you will get some warning, but I doubt they have anything to worry about.

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