#ThursdayThoughts: For the Men Who Stand In The Gap (A Father's Day tribute from a single mom"

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Father’s day used to be a weird holiday for me.  When the kids were younger, I was newly separated and was trying to figure out how to spend this day with my children in a way that never made them feel like they “were different” or “missing something.”  It was a difficult and challenging time.  I’d take my kids out to eat for something special, and I’d see looks of pity on people’s faces.  One lady even offered to pay for my family’s meal out of pity.  I would see red on those days.   As I got older and my kids were adjusting to this new family structure, I would spend my holiday as I did most holidays, with my Dad.   Nowadays, Father’s day seems to be split into celebrating Fatherhood and attacking single moms, at least on social media. It’s a sad state of affairs so I usually log off and disengage, rather than see the venom spewed on what should be a celebratory occasion.  So, what does a single mom do on Father’s Day? How do I celebrate when the father of my children is completely absent from their lives?  I could spend my time angry at the world, or I could wallow in sadness and victimhood, or I could choose to celebrate the men in my life who have stood in the gap and been father figures to my children. 

Today, I celebrate two of those men, my brothers.   Outside of my dad, these two men have been so much more than my kids' uncles.  They are role models, protectors, instructors, confidantes and so much more.  They have stood in those empty spaces left by a man who made a decision to remove himself from his children’s lives, and they have filled it with so much love, instruction, and affection that my kids are whole and complete, lacking absolutely nothing.

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My younger brother Mark now lives in LA, but when he was here, my kids were very young (infant and toddlers).  He’s a creative, a brilliant writer and aspiring actor.  My brother would come by the house, frequently babysitting my kids. He was in his 20s at the time, single with no children and he would volunteer a Friday or Saturday night so that I could go out with friends because I needed a break!!!   I would be so grateful, and he was so wonderful with my children. Patient and fun-loving, I never questioned if he “knew what to do.”  He would feed, dress, change diapers…you name it. He was a “godsend” during those times.   When I was unemployed and trying to take care of business, he would watch the kids, even though he worked nights and needed sleep.  He bonded with my children at such a young age.  Now that he is away, married with a family of his own, we don’t see him as much, but he remains in touch with my children.  He’s always texting them, asking them about life, school, and activities. Encouraging their dreams and making them laugh.   He’s more than an uncle to them; he’s a friend.

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My other younger brother, Joe, is single with no kids but is a father to so many.  He works with elementary and high school students in high-risk environments, teaching and mentoring them, so they don’t fall into the traps of drugs and gangs.  He’s often in the schools and on the streets of Chicago fighting for peace.  He’s an activist and poet but more than that he’s an awesome Uncle.   He’s the uncle who hands delivered roses to my daughter in the middle of class on her birthday.  He’s the uncle who is at every basketball game for my oldest and every wrestling and track match for my youngest.  He’s the uncle who will call and take the kids with him to hang out, playing basketball and working out with my boys or playing cards and enjoying intellectual conversations about books and such with my daughter.   He’s the one who was screaming loudest when my son graduated grammar school. He is the one who bought a ridiculously expensive Disney princess costume for my daughter when she was younger.  He’s the uncle my boys love to talk sports with (Thank God!)!  He is a man who escorted my daughter to her first “Daddy/Daughter” dance and made her feel like a princess.   He's stood in the gap.  He has helped with pick-up and drop-off for a mom who was working overtime.   He’s the uncle that my kids can be silly with! 

The bonds my children share with their uncles is precious, and I’m so grateful.  Being a single mom today is a world of criticism by “Dads” and others who feel like you asked for the situation you are in.  It’s hard to understand the struggles and challenges of a single mom when you haven’t had that experience, but people judge you every single day.  As a single mom, I’ve often wondered how do I make sure my kids are emotional, spiritually, psychologically ok in a world that is always telling them they are less than, more at risk than because I made a choice to walk away from a relationship that didn’t honor me?  My children have so many people in their lives who have served as mentors and role models because I’m a great mom who makes sure her kids are surrounded by positive people in their lives.  That’s not unique; most PARENTS do the same.  Being a single mom doesn’t make me less than or less able and my children are not “less than” or “more at risk than” because they come from a female headed household.   I wish people would take a moment to understand that instead of bashing. 

Father’s day is a day of celebration and remembrance.  I celebrate every man in my children’s life that has had a positive impact; my brothers, male friends, mentors, pastors, coaches, and teachers. These men are part of my village and have invested into my children and planted seeds of wisdom, strength, and instruction.    Our children are worth that investment.  So to my brothers, my children’s uncles, I thank you for standing in the gap, not out of obligation but out of sheer love for us!   My children lack nothing because they are surrounded in love every single day of their lives.  Perhaps if we had more men like my brothers, standing in the gap, we would have a better understanding of single moms, the struggles we face and all of our children would be emotional, psychologically and spiritually whole!

Happy Father’s Day to every mentor and Father figures making a difference in the lives of children!

Until next time,

Take care of yourselves and one another.

D. Sanders