Earlier this week, one of my closest friends broke down on the phone with me as she dissected her single-parent struggles. I listened to her with my childless ears, trying to relate to something that I couldn’t. But the fear in her voice was deafening, until she reluctantly uttered the words “I don’t know how I can do this anymore”.
I was no more than 6 months old when my parents split up. If asked when younger what it meant to be the product of a broken home, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. With 43% of US children living without their father [US Department of Census], I was the exception. There was always a cohesiveness between my parents that made me feel as if growing up in two separate homes was the norm.
There was no fighting, no name calling and no disrespect. There were no disagreements about which parent would “get me” on what day of the week. If my mom needed help with the garbage while picking me up, my dad would take it out. If I needed my mom’s help with dusting dad’s curtains, she would lend a hand. When my mother was sick, my dad would come pray for her.
They just had a mutual respect, thoughtfulness and appreciation for each other as people
As easy as it would be to attribute their cohesiveness to an underlying romantic interest, that simply wasn’t the case. They just had a mutual respect, thoughtfulness and appreciation for each other as people…not just as my parents. Because they genuinely cared for each other as friends, they were able to function as such.
I’m SURE my dad wasn’t anymore thrilled about paying child support than the next man – but the words “child support” were never uttered with a frown or used as a threat in either household. My parents got along…or at least they allowed me to see it that way.
When I compare my parents’ relationship to those of today, I feel so much disappointment and concern for children who are stuck in the middle of a parental warzone. As a single woman with no children, I could NEVER relate to the struggles of co-parenting. I can only imagine how stressful it must be to raise a child with someone you can barely stomach to look at.
The respect my father had for my mother made me respect her as well. The trust that my mother had for my father is what encouraged me to trust him too. She was okay with him and therefore I was okay with him. It felt acceptable to like him and learn from him. As a result, I couldn’t get enough of my father! I lived in his shadows…soaking up every bit of knowledge and every lesson that I could.
If you can’t create this type of relationship with your child’s mother or father, so be it. But don’t let your child grow up only respecting one parentonly trusting one parent, only confiding in one parent, and only learning from one parent. Don’t let them miss out on all of
THE LESSONS YOU CAN TEACH:
1HOW TO TREAT (OR BE) A GOOD MAN. Before Jagged Edge taught women how to unlock a man’s car door, I was already schooled. I understood that a gentleman was supposed to walk on the outside to keep me safe. But I also understood that I could could do the same by praying over my man the way that my dad prayed for me. Has your child seen you pray for the women in your life? Have you held his or her hands in yours while you prayed with them? Have you taken your son or daughter on a date?
2HOW TO MAKE MONEY. I may not be rich but my dad taught me early about hard work and entrepreneurship. Many of my Saturdays were spent crushing soda cans and selling them to some recycling place for $20 a bag. I – felt – rich! But even more so, I felt a sense of responsibility and ownership over my own income. I had control over where I stood financially and I liked it. Have you taught your kid how to mow a lawn and profit from it? How to make yard work a business?
3HOW TO MANAGE MONEY. But it didn’t stop there. Once all of that money started coming in :) he taught me what to do with it. He handed me his checkbook and showed me how much I could really afford to buy with it. To my surprise, we had bills to pay! Does your child know how to balance a checkbook? When I learned how to balance a checkbook, I also learned the value of a dollar. I knew that those lights needed to be turned off at night. I knew not to leave the TV on if I wasn’t watching it. If you want to cut your bills down – try that :)
4THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY. Although big on life skills, my dad was even more passionate about family. So he mixed the two any chance he could get. Who in your family can teach your daughter how to sew or cook? Or your son how to work on a car and fix a broken sink? The uncle that rehabs houses – have you asked if your kid could tag along? The cousin that makes great video clips for social media – do they have time to give your kid a quick tutorial? I knew family was important growing up because my dad made them important.
5TEAMWORK & PARTNERSHIP. My dad and I were always working on some project – whether it was installing a ceiling fan in my bedroom or rehabbing a house. These moments together made me feel as if he needed me. I was valuable. It taught me focus, patience, teamwork and communication. I also learned how to use a wrench, a screwdriver, pull carpet, lay tile, etc. And those conversations…knowing I could partner on something constructive while still enjoying each others company.
6WHO YOU ARE. I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night! Knowing that my dad would be ready to tuck me in with some wild story from his childhood just gave me life. These stories taught me who my dad was as a person…about life and hard lessons. Does your child know about your old friendships? Your biggest mistakes? Your greatest accomplishments?
7ABOUT QUALITY TIME. With technology being shoved down everyone’s throat, this isn’t easy. But it’s still obtainable! Have you woken your child up to the sound of a basketball against the pavement? My dad invested in ping-pong and Foosball tables just so we could spend time together. We even had our own hangout spot where we would watch airplanes fly overhead. Do you and your son or daughter have a spot?
8HOW TO DEVELOP THEIR PASSIONS. If there was one thing that my dad didn’t play around with, it was helping me discover my God-given gifts and my passions. When I wanted to be a writer, he fostered that talent in me – buying me Writers Market books and helping me submit my poetry for publication. When I was unsure, he bought me career guidance books and tapes. How many swimming, gymnastics, basketball, writing, fashion design, web design or chess classes have you enrolled your son or daughter in? How many tournaments have you actually attended? I knew my dad cared about my passions because he was always there. Are you?
What special moments have you had with your son or daughter? What lessons have you shared?
Sources and other media: FatherhoodFactor