While I believe that single moms are indeed walking saints, I also believe that the single dads out there need some love, too. Maybe it’s because I was raised by a single dad myself. My mom passed away when I was ten years old, so from that point forward, my tough-talking, military father became a cupcake-baking, chick flick-watching only parent. However, I'm not the first kid to be raised by a single father. The number of single dads (or even just stay-at-home dads) in the United States is increasing, which means I'm not the only one who has experienced the lessons single dads teach their daughters that make them better mothers.
It’s true that a girl will never stop needing her mother. I continue to learn and re-learn this lesson, the hard way, on a daily basis. However, I am beyond thankful to have been raised by a man that stepped up when I needed him most, and continues to do so. Parenting solo is a tough gig, whether you're a single mother or a single father, but I, the product of a single parent, can attest to the fact that every sacrifice and struggle a single parent goes through doesn't go unnoticed by their children. Of course, it wasn't as if my father was grooming me for motherhood, or hell-bent on having me become a mother to the point that he was consistently thinking about lessons that could help me become a responsible procreator. In fact, I'm sure my father had no clue that the way he was raising me would not only help me back then, but continue to help me in the future; especially when I made the decision to become a mom and looked to someone's parenting choices as a way to form my own. It just goes to show that the decisions you make as a mother or a father, impact your kids for years (and years and years and years) to come.
It's no secret that I wanted my mother around, and still do, to this very day. If I had my way, my father wouldn't have been a single parent and I would have grown up with my mother, too. However, I am very thankful for the many lessons I learned from my father, along our sometimes bumpy ride, that have forever made me a better person and a better mother:
Girls Can Do Anything
My dad always did his best to make me feel like I was capable of anything. He taught me that being a girl wasn't a reason, nor an excuse, to not be the best at something, and that I could do anything just as well, if not better than, some of my male counter parts.
Sometimes You Have To Fight
Mentally, emotionally and yes, even physically (I know how to throw the proper punch “just in case,” so don’t even think about coming at me in a dark alley) my dad taught me how to fight. It’s a good thing he did, because the mental and emotional roller coaster of raising babies is tough. There are days when I mentally battle for every bit of my sanity and well-being. Thankfully, from a very early age, I learned how to overcome.
I want to teach my children how to fight for themselves; how to fight for their rights; how to fight for what they believe in; how to stand up for themselves and others when they need to. I want to teach them that fighting isn't about punching people, it's about doing the right thing, even when it's hard.
Discipline Is Never Fun, But It's Always Important
No, I don’t run around spanking my kids, but if their behavior reflects that of a cast member on The Bad Girls Club, I will put my intolerant foot down. If I gave into every single tear or tantrum, my kids would run the show and that’s a seriously scary thought. Sometimes tough love is, well, tough, and teaching kids what is and is not acceptable behavior is downright hard.
Work Your Ass Off, Even When You Don't Want To
Most of us will fall on hard times at some point in our lives. Having had that happen to my family on more than one occasion, I am thankful for the resilience that my dad displayed when we struggled. It is because of his example that the thought of giving up (even when times have gotten tough) just isn't an option. There are days when I want to quit everything, from my job to my diet to being a parent in general, but I won't. When life gets hard I work harder.
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
I love it when the house smells like clean laundry and scrubbed dishes and clear tables, but sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to raise kids, work multiple jobs, and fight stains. Sometimes, that extra hour of sleep, or those few minutes of sweet kisses and cuddles from my babies, outweigh those funky dishes and piles of laundry. When you're a parent, you can't sweat the small stuff because there's just too much of it.
Don't Make Excuses
Blaming others for your own short-comings is not only immature, it’s irresponsible. Taking responsibility for tipping over his baby brother is currently the thorn in my toddler’s side, but allowing him to be a tiny jerk is just not something I’m cool with. Plus, it’s adorable to see him say he’s “sowy” while hugging his brother. Who knew accountability could be so adorable?
Really though, one of the hardest things a person can do is to hold themselves accountable for their own actions, and to stop making excuses for themselves. I know this all too well. It's not all that fun to take an honest look in the mirror, but it makes us better as people, and helps us to grow in the process.
Strength Doesn't Look The Way You Think It Does
Feeling strong has little to do with muscle tone, but rather the ability to cope with and conquer the daily tribulations that life throws our way, especially while raising a family. Sometimes having strength means just being the bigger person or biting your tongue when you really just want to snap your fingers and spew obscenities. Sometimes, it means not drowning yourself in a bottle of bourbon after tallying up your bills, or not banging your head against a wall when your kids are driving you to the brink of insanity. No, usually it means showing our kids that even though we sometimes struggle, we never stop trying.
Sacrifices Aren't Easy, But They're Worth It
Parenthood is full of sacrifices that aren't always easy to make. I didn’t grow up having everything, but I was never without the things that I needed. I might not have been gifted a luxury car for my 16th birthday, but I had four wheels and an engine that got me from point A to point B sans substantial problems. I traveled all over the country playing sports, and was raised in a place where I could roam free in a wide open space and escape the treachery that sometimes accompanies adolescence. I was never without because of the ass-busting my dad did to keep our lives together. Was it easy? Hardly. Was it worth it? He seems to think so. Even today, when money is tight and tensions are high, I remember what my dad sacrificed for me and I’m quickly reminded that seeing my kids happy is absolutely worth every ounce of anxiety it takes to make it happen.
Don't Let Your Past Bring Down Your Future
One of the greatest lessons my dad taught me was to not live my life constantly looking in the rear view mirror. He taught me that sometimes we mess up, and that's okay, because we're human. Sometimes life is hard. Mistakes get made. Shit happens. The universe will not throw me, or anyone else, a pity party so it's important to be able to pick myself up and move on. I've learned to get over the pain; to get over the difficulty. I know that my mistakes do not define me, but my reaction to them does.
I'm not a perfect parent, and I never will be. By allowing myself to be imperfect, and to not beat myself up too much over my mistakes, I am able to focus on what's really important, and trust me, it's not perfection.
(Insert Something About Cars Or Sports Here, Sometimes)
Girls raised by single dads most likely know a thing or two about sports or cars (although girls raise by single mothers can certainly be taught these things, too. I mean, lets not gender likes and dislikes). Personally, I can change a tire on my own, and I learned from a very early age not to talk during someone's back swing.
Being a parent is hard work for everyone, and all of us (especially those going at it alone) deserve a pat on the back, and probably a stiff drink.