Single parenting is hard. I didn’t have to become a widow to know that, I saw single friends trying to make it work and it made me grateful, and just a little less likely to complain when Don was making me crazy. Just a little. Mostly back then it was the thought of never getting a break, never getting to sleep in, not having someone to share the non stop work with. I knew I couldn’t do it. Some of my married friends were basically single parents, because their husbands were lumps. I know my mother did it mostly on her own. My father’s contribution was working and coming home to yell at us if we had been bad that day.
Now I am a single parent, but my only child at home is a very well behaved thirteen year old boy. He is so low maintenance I have to be very intentional about meeting his needs. Like his father, he is not one to demand anything.
He is rather spacey, in an absent minded professor kind of way, and I have to stay on top of his health concerns, as he has a bleeding disorder. After raising his brothers I am used to that, though, it is like second nature.
What challenges me most is the emotional part of being a parent. No one to bounce ideas off of, no one to ask if I think he’s ok, do you think he is getting enough sleep? Should I let him quit swimming? Remember when he was two and he carried that tiger everywhere? Doesn’t he look like your brother? What do you think of Sage’s new friends, and could you please ask Meeko to do his laundry? Someone was mean to Eden, should I let it go or speak to their parents? Should I let him go camping, in spite of the danger of serial killers and deer attack?
There is no one to share my fears with, no one to talk to about my dreams for them, the ones that are real and the ones I should let go. No one to bring balance to my overprotective ways. My labors, brutal three day affairs that were like terrifying docudramas on the History Channel, no one to remember the gory details and agree with me, yeah, it was that bad, for once you are not exaggerating. I share my memories with the boys but they would rather not discuss my placenta. The only other eyewitness who had as much to gain and lose in those scenarios is gone.
It breaks my heart to see Eden turn into a giddy five year old when any man comes around. He went from having an attentive, affectionate, loving father in his life to just me and his brothers. They love him, but have their own lives and pain. Jude especially adores him but is more likely to steal his french fries and fart on him in the car than to offer any advice. My male friends all have kids of their own, but they try. It’s just me, reading to him and watching Dr. Who and playing the Beatles for him and trying to teach him to be a man.
I did ask Sage to please talk to Eden about puberty, asking him to keep it simple to avoid confusing him. Later I asked Eden how the talk with his brother went. Eden told me that as far as he knew, he wasn’t genderqueer or sexually attracted to inanimate objects. Wait, what??? SAGE.
Good Lord. Imagine if I had given him the freedom to elaborate.
I asked if he had any questions. Eden said he didn’t know what a vagina looked like. Oh. Well, then. I got out a book about childbirth, and we paged through it together, looking at the pictures of vaginas and bellies and mothers breastfeeding, and talking about how God made women’s bodies to do exactly what they were supposed to.
“A baby’s head is so big, though,” he said. “And I heard you say your body tore.”
“Something can be very painful,” I said, “and very beautiful and worth it. Like the crucifixion, or love, or parenting, or…” I was elaborating too much. “Are you glad you had babies?” “So glad,” I told him. “So, so glad.” And I am.
I know I can do this, I would just prefer not to do it alone. I miss Don specifically, but Sage and Meeko are good men who are teaching Eden to be loving, kind, and respectful. I am modeling resilience. Don taught him what a loving, attentive father looks like and Jude teaches him not to take anything very seriously. There are worse role models. I can hold memories in my heart and remind my guys how very much their father loved them, and that I love them enough to get up, get dressed and get on with life, and find joy again, because life is painful and beautiful and worth it, even though it hurts like hell.