55: Your Way, My Way

55: Your Way, My Way

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Your Way, My Way

Being a single parent is twice the work, twice the stress and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.

~Author Unknown

We’d barely gotten inside the building when the squeals started. “Look Grandma, come over here! We can touch the fish!” I scurried over to where my granddaughters had joined several other children who were sticking their hands in the water, feeling the stingrays. The employee on duty showed the girls how to place their hands gently in the pool. “Try it, Grandma,” they said in unison, giggling with glee as they touched the creatures.

My son watched from a distance, allowing the girls their independence. If I’d been their mother, I’d have tagged along with the girls, supervising and making sure they followed the attendant’s instructions, but my son preferred to watch from afar.

At that moment, I thought about my son and what life had dished out to him. He’s the only parent the girls have. My son had always dreamed of a normal life with a wife, children, and a happy marriage that would last forever. Unfortunately, he’d watched his dreams come crashing down. In the end, he’d had to rescue and fight for his daughters, who had been in and out of foster homes after their mother couldn’t take care of them. Throughout it all, my son had encouraged the girls to at least keep in touch with their mother, until she unexpectedly passed away.

The girls raced from exhibit to exhibit as we walked through the aquarium. It made me nervous. I fretted that a stranger might kidnap them, but it never bothered my son.

I thought about when my children were small, and how disciplined they had been. I could take them any place and they would stay next to me. Racing ahead wasn’t allowed. Neither was screaming and yelling. However, I noticed that most of the other children at the aquarium were acting the same way as my granddaughters. Parents these days seemed more relaxed and willing to let their children run free.

Eventually we took a break. My son led his daughters to the snack bar to get something to eat while I rested my feet.

When I raised my son, we could never afford to buy goodies, whether it was at the zoo, the movies, or other places we visited. Instead I packed homemade snacks and juice. Did my granddaughters realize this was a special treat? Probably not.

Amid banana plants and humidity, we spent our time in a rainforest exhibit, watching the girls speed across a rope bridge. If my kids had crossed that many times I would have insisted they quit. However, my son let the girls race back and forth until they finally grew weary.

I figured we’d leave for home then. Nope. My son led the girls to the souvenir shop, where he told them they could each pick out a gift. My granddaughters surprised me with their thoughtfulness. They didn’t ask if they could buy more than one item. Obviously they knew the rules. After they’d examined everything, they each chose a beautiful musical globe. My son didn’t blink an eye, even though I knew he probably couldn’t afford the gifts.

As we drove back to my mother’s home, I glanced at my son and felt a warm rush of gratitude. In the back seat, my granddaughters merrily inspected their magical globes. They’d had a wonderful time.

While my son and I haven’t always agreed on parenting styles, I know that one thing is certain. He is a wonderful father and mother combined. Single parenting is complicated, especially when there are hurdles along the way. Placing his hopes and dreams on the back burner, my son has never complained. Instead, he’s plodded along, doing the best he can to take care of his two daughters, trying to make their lives as normal as possible. In my eyes, the “best” is all that any parent can do.

My heart goes out to all the fathers and mothers who raise their children alone. One day I hope my granddaughters appreciate the love and devotion my son has given them. His children come first. Life with his daughters is challenging, yet he faces each day with hope, a prayer, and unconditional love, because that’s what the best parents do.

~Jill Burns

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