Today can be frustrating for all you single moms. Your Facebook feed is filling up with inspirational quotes and cute pictures of children with their daddies. All over, you are hearing people talk about the value of the father, the importance of having a Dad.
And it can make you feel less-than. It can make you feel like you are coming up short. It can make you feel like your child is getting gypped out of something important.
Maybe your child’s dad is a deadbeat. Maybe he is selfish and pursuing his own life instead of investing in your kids. Maybe he is cruel and dangerous. Maybe he is just absent. Maybe he has passed away.
It doesn’t matter on a day like today; all that matters is that he is not here, and you feel the loss.
And I’m sure that for many of you, it brings up doubts about your own choices. Would it have been better to stay, even in all that fear, or unhappiness, or danger? At least the kids would have a dad.
To you, whose hearts are hurting today, I have two things to say to you:
- Those quotes and sentiments are true. Dads are important. Every child needs a father to inspire and influence them. It does matter.
- A father is not the same thing as a biologically related man.
And, oh yes, one more thing:
You are lucky. You really are. You get to actively choose how your children understand what it means to be a father. What it means to be a family.
It’s a lot more work. It’s complicated. It’s time-consuming. It’s a mine-field sometimes.
But it is a gift.
It is something special that you have to give your little ones today. You don’t need to be both mother and father. You get to be mother. You get to teach and show and highlight the fathers you are thankful for today. Your kids get to learn what it means to choose to love. Your kids get to see what it can be to sacrifice oneself and give wholeheartedly even when there isn’t “blood” involved.
You get to show what it means to love like the One who loved us first, even when we didn’t deserve it, even when we didn’t have a relationship with him. We often talk about God being our Father, but we forget that this isn’t a biological relationship; it’s a choice He made. He chose us. He loved us even when we didn’t belong to Him.
So today, I want to say thank you to the men in my life who have chosen to show my children what it means to be a father…a real father, a sacrificial and teachable man, a person who highlights facets of this world that I am simply unable to as Mom.
Thank you, Jim. My own pops. My Daddy whom I have loved since before I understood love. The person whom I am probably the most like in all the world. He stepped up and stepped in from the first months of my son’s life. He is the first man my son remembers loving, too. He is more than PapPap. He is the one who goes to every Father-Son banquet, the one who registers the boy for Little League, the one who bought the two-year old his own set of golf clubs. He taught Little Man how to ride a bike, how to use a vise and hammer, how to crush cans into oblivion, how to shoot a BB gun. He patiently instills in Little Man the things that make a boy into a man: controlling your temper, listening to others, apologizing when you are wrong. He shows that care and support are often in observing the things that need to be done and then making the repair happen—my car would never have oil if it wasn’t for my dad. And he makes sure that Little Man is at his side pulling out the dipstick. Because he knows that moments like that might take a little longer with small hands, but the investment is worth it.
Thank you, Jeff. My brother. My partner in crime throughout our childhood, who grew into a man I couldn’t be prouder of. He shows my kids every day what it means to love his wife. He shows them how a dad in a nuclear family should act. He is what I hope my son sees when he thinks of a good “blood-related” father…what a biological father who also CHOOSES to be a dad looks like. He is what I hope my daughter sees when she thinks of finding a man to marry and treat her right.
Thank you, Bryan. My friend for many years. My family of choice. He shows my children that love crosses oceans. He is one of the bravest men I’ve ever known; he’s chosen to leave his home country and make a life in a different culture. He’s chosen to stretch connections to his family thousands of miles to make one of his own here. And now he’s choosing to create a new connection as he adopts a child from another country. That boy is so blessed to have a man who understands what it is to fit and not fit all at the same time. He is the epitome of choosing love. He is what I hope my children see when they create their own families. Tradition is what you make it. The world is bigger than your own living room. Family isn’t measured by proximity, but by the bonds of commitment.
Thank you, Louis. My college frenemy who chose to become one of my best friends. The only man who stayed with me through the entire birth of my child and embraced his role as Compadre (godfather). The man who has consistently chosen to love all the pokey edges of me. He loves his wife with a servant’s heart that constantly marvels me. He shows my children what it means to value friends. He opens his doors and his home to any wayward soul in need of a harbor. Since he and his wife married, they have consistently welcomed friends, neighbors, even relative strangers, to live with them and put their lives back together in the safe comfort of their home. He invests his time in hurting hearts in so many ways. And that includes my children. He patiently listens and spends time with them. He has no problem playing the fool if it creates engagement and memories.
Thank you, my male friends I collectively call my “couch sitters.” Some of these men are in relationships. Some of them are single. Some of them have kissed me. Some of them would never consider such a thing. These are the men who have taken the time to enter our lives and sit on my couch with me and invest in me as a woman, as a fully adult person. These are the men who have spent many a night at my dinner table discussing theology and movies, hopes and dreams, and helping with math homework, too. Some have weathered a teenager’s grilling and questioning; they have shown grace even when it feels completely awkward. Some taught my kids that not all single male-female relationships need to be romantic to be valuable. They have shown them that their mom is a human being with her own interests and own intelligence. And some of them have shown my kids that their mom is attractive and desirable…that their mom is worthy to be loved and to be pursued. All of them have shown my kids that being a good man starts long before you are ever a dad.
So on this day, I say thank you to all those men who have invested, knowingly or not, into my children’s picture of what it means to be a true father.
And I want to say to all you single moms, remember that you are lucky. You get to help your kids build a crazy amalgam of what a father looks like. You are not bound to your past. You are not locked into loss.
You are creative, and you are beautiful, and you are giving your children a rich gift. Celebrate that today.