This journey has been eye opening to say the least.
Today Ryan and I left the park and got into the car on a sunny day and it seemed unreal. We were happy, played out by sand and slide, and ready to be home. But we weren’t driving back to mom or my wife or to his brother, but to an apartment that is only filled with beautiful noise when we are there. We are alone. It just seems unreal.
There are things about single parenting that sadly I didn’t really know before this.
- Just how tired a single parent is
- How lonely a single parent may feel
- The lack of adult conversation for a single parent (sometimes I swear I talk in 3 year old when I am not with Ryan!)
- The yearning for affirmation for my parenting without the partner who appreciates you
- The waves of emotion that continue regarding your child’s other parent and having to communicate effectively without that frame
- How limited dinners can become because you just don’t feel like making mor happen
- The lure and lull of routine
- The amount of time I spend playing with my kid
- The play dates or lack thereof for my kid
- Feeling like a pariah at your own church because of “divorce” or just people trying to avoid the conversation of your struggle
- Feeling unseen or ignored
- Feeling like you are always having the same conversation about being lonely!
- The gratitude for breaks
- How much love fills you for your child
I was ignorant unintentionally before all of this. I mean, when I started dating a single mother, I learned a great deal. Don’t get me wrong. But I also saw a mother who was surrounded by family and a couple best friends. I don’t have my family nor do I have any single best friends. So in that way it is unique for me, although I am also cognizant that I am not the only one who has gone through this and that I may not be as unique as I like to think!
Being a single parent is full of mixed experience. One of the things that is on my mind today is how much I desire for my son to have play dates and engage other families at church. Being a single parent often means not getting invited out, and I know this being a parent in a couple who had the opportunities to invite single parents and their kids out and not doing so. I can’t say I don’t feel isolated or avoided at times, but I also can’t say that some of those times aren’t driven by the lack of trust I’ve inherited from the way my relationship ended. Those feelings still exist, and it gets me thinking about other past situations. In fact, I was thinking today about some of the kids of single parents and how they often seem disconnected from the church family (seeing the experience of the past 3 churches I’ve been a part of),and it hit me that when single parents and their families aren’t asked out or the kids have play dates, the kids themselves suffer from exactly what we as Christians strive against: church being just Sunday morning! If Ryan doesn’t get many opportunities for spending time with other families in our church, he then only knows church people and church as that one event every Sunday morning, not his extended family. I yearn for him to be treasured among our congregation and even have his turn saying the Lords Prayer at church. Being mindful of this, I feel guilty for how I have isolated others not even knowing I was doing so and being mindful of those effects on the kids of those families.
Now some of you may wonder if I am being a complainer or if this is just convenient for me to say now that I am this position. Some of you may wonder if I am being harsh on my church or other churches. But let’s be honest here. People get into their own lives, just like I do. I love my church family deeply and they love me and Ryan just as deeply. We as people are just often unaware of what we don’t know and haven’t experienced. For those who are single parents, you know what it’s like to spend most of every week as the sole adult in your household with your child depending on you every morning or most days. To be fair, I do get breaks because of our custody schedule so there is that. The blessing of church family hangout time is that both father and son are loved, father gets a short break with other adult eyes around with good mental stimulation, and that my son grow to love our church family as the rocks that they are during our transition and our continued journey past that. We get that blessing some, but I want more for us as we continue through a challenging transition.
But here’s the deal for me in all of this. This predicament of a single parent and the relationship to their church is a two way street. Inviting out a parent and child for dinner or lunch or play dates is important, but so is my attitude and interactions at church. I have to be more joyful and inviting myself, but also honest and real. I have to engage others if I hope others to engage me. And actually, neither side should be predicated on the other, but if one side is less inviting or more uncertain of engagement, the struggle becomes cyclical right? So what am I saying in all of this? What does this part of my single parents tale is so critical? It is that I am getting plenty of support, but I need more and so does Ryan, (and no I don’t mind sounding needy, because I know there is a difference between knowing what I need and being needy) and that I am engaging and trying to have a positive attitude, but I need to be better for myself and for a Ryan. That’s on me.
Many times, people give advice to those going through a transition that it’s about attitude and seeking what you want. In telling a part of my “tale” it is my way of saying here is what I love and what I want. I want our church to be our church and not seek another, and I love having a church who is our family. But this is one of the great challenges from what I’ve seen and heard from many single parents. And it’s one we share too. I wouldn’t name it if I didn’t see how God has blessed me and my family before at our church. In that way, it’s a prayer.