I don’t often write about being a solo mom. And I hesitated to write this. But I started writing my book today and began with (arguably) two of the most difficult chapters. So, I figured, what the hell – might as well get used to writing about the difficult. So here we are. I did not write this to be self-depreciating or to get people to boost my self-esteem – I wrote it as an illustration and a reminder for us to stop making assumptions about those we do not know.
As I walked into the school to pick up P today, her teacher approached me – sans smile. “This can’t be good,” I thought. As P went to the bathroom, I said hi to her teacher and ask how her day was. She said great. “ok,” I thought, “Nothing to worry about.”
“So …” the teacher began. “If we do a Donuts with Dad day, is Paityn going to have someone who can come?”
There it is.
“Umm, what?” I ask … no doubt with a very “not impressed” look on my face. Because I constantly think I’m not good enough, I immediately went to “Who of my [male] friends could be there?” Then I stopped myself: why does she need someone? Many kids’ parents aren’t able to attend these parties. And why couldn’t it be me? What would be so bad about the person who does everything attending this event? My cheeks were burning and my mind was swirling.
“We just didn’t want her to feel left out. One the teachers thought maybe Fred could do it?” she continued. “And also, who should she make the gift out to? We know you don’t have any family here – what about a grandpa or something?”
Hold the fuck up.
I know this teacher meant well – she’s one of the best teachers at that school, actually – but were we really having this conversation? In 2017?
Now I’m a fairly laid back person; it takes a lot to really offend me, but this most certainly crossed that line. Who is anybody to tell me what is missing in my child’s life? And then, dictate who should fill that role. (Ok, dictate is a bit extreme of a verb choice; I know.) I work my ass off for my kid. I joke about being a “selfish parent,” but anyone who knows me, knows she comes first.
I do everything: I pull in 100% of the income, I pay the bills, I clean the house, I stay home with her when she’s sick, I cook the meals, I order her prescriptions, I get the oil changed in the truck, I make sure she has sunscreen and sheets for school, I teach her empathy, I take her to climbing lessons, I play hockey with her, I read comics to her, I take her to concerts, I show her how to write her name, I teach her how to skate, I go hiking and camping with her. I do it all. And, please, do not mistake any of this for a complaint; to be clear: it is not.
My life can be hard as hell at times and some days, I wish I had help, but all in all – Paityn and I are thriving. We are doing so much better than ok. She may not have a “dad” to attend the class gatherings, but she is definitely not lacking anything in her life.
On a day where I felt inadequate as a single mom, challenged by what people think my daughter needs and how I should make that happen, this conversation unfolded at our dinner table tonight:
P: you’re great, mom.
Me: thanks, bear!
P: yea, you’re great m’cause you do everything for me and I ‘ppreciate you!
I’m not crying; you’re crying.
I know the school meant well by having that conversation and I’m not upset by it anymore. But I wanted to remind people: my family may not look like yours or what society thinks it should and that’s perfectly fine. We are doing pretty damn amazing, she and I. And as Jill reminded me tonight, “Paityn knows you’re her person. And that’s all that matters.”
Edit: If Paityn told me she felt sad about the situation or the school said “Paityn mentioned in class how she wouldn’t have anyone there and started crying.” I would feel completely different. But that is not the case. She doesn’t feel anything is “missing” in her life. My point is that if my child feels fulfilled, no one should project anything different upon her.