Have you ever thought about wishing Happy Father’s Day to the single mothers of the world, those legions of women who have to raise their children without a dad? Sure, it can be sad, but my hope is that the kids who have been raised by just their mom appreciate what she did for them.
I know how it is. I did it for 20 years. It is hard work. You single moms know what I mean. Especially when raising boys. To be mom and dad to boys is like living in an alternate universe.
When they are little, they think you hung the moon. They love you soo much. They believe everything you tell them and trust you with all their little hearts. They call you Mama but the way they say it puts a crown on your head and a superman cape on your back. You cook for them, make sure they brush their teeth, help with homework, teach them to fight their own battles. You have to haul them back and forth between little league, scouts, and sleep-overs. You look for free entertainment like the park, the swimming hole, and the library. You turn the stereo up and dance wildly around the room with them to burn off their abundant energy so you can sleep at night. You get them a dog to teach them responsibility.
About the time you think you got it made, something awful happens. Your home reeks with testosterone and suddenly you don’t know a damn thing. They don’t call you Mama anymore; now it’s M-o-o-o-m.You are no longer the recipient of loving gazes, you are the recipient of rolling eyes and you-don’t-have-a-brain looks. Face it, you are clueless. It becomes harder and harder to maintain control of any sort. I know a woman who had 4 boys she was raising by herself. She took karate lessons so they wouldn’t try to test her. Now, that’s teaching respect! I wish I would have known about that when mine crossed the threshold into adolescence. Just joking. Not! At this point, they want to just wet the toothbrush instead of actually brushing. They beg you to drop them off at least a block from their destination. They look at you like you’re crazy for turning the radio up when good old songs come on. You cannot keep enough groceries in the house because they lap it up as soon as the grocery bag comes out of the trunk. You make it a point to sleep with one eye open in case someone decides to sneak out in the night. And if you want the dog to survive, you have to feed it. And brush it. And pick up the dog poop.
I had something of a ritual for their thirteenth birthday, a rite of passage so to speak. That was the special day they got to learn to mop the floor. That’s not to say they did it whenever I asked them to. I always knew they just took a wet rag and wiped up the spots on the floor instead of moping the whole thing. It’s a good trick, one that I, myself, practice today. Thanks guys! And speaking of that, there were a lot of other things I wasn’t fooled about. Like why the beautiful elephant ears I planted right off the edge of the deck didn’t flourish like those on the other side of the yard. Yes, you guessed it. They peed off the deck.
In the meantime, I had to resign myself to the fact that I no longer knew everything and there were some things I wish I never knew. Experimenting with smoking (all kinds of things), cooking (burning) when I wasn’t there to supervise, saying the laundry was done when actually it was under the bed. Did they really think nobody would notice the wrinkled, smelly clothes?
And that childhood bliss is followed by having to tell them all about the facts of life. A mom teaching her sons about reproduction is a bit awkward. My friend, who was a Health Clinic Nurse, thought she was doing me a great favor by giving me a bag of condoms when the boys came of age. How many times did I come home from work to find condoms in the back yard after they filled them up with water, climbed on the roof, and water-bombed each other – and the neighbors.
We had some rough times. There were a lot of tears and anxiety about how I was going to be able to take care of them, but lots of proud moments too. I hope they know that. If you would ask my boys what they remember most about their childhood, they would both say that mom worked all the time. It’s true. I had to. For them.
Today my boys have kids of their own. I guess the condom lesson didn’t take. But what a gift my grandchildren are to me! Anyway, they are great, interactive fathers, not by anything I taught them, I’m sure, but because life is a good teacher and they taught themselves to be the kind of fathers they should be. They tell their children “I love you” right to their little faces. Now that I know they got from me. Sure, I popped them on the head occasionally, maybe tried to beat them once in a while, but they always heard I love you every day. Because I do and I always will more than life itself.
If I have learned anything about raising boys myself it’s this: If they can’t eat it or smoke it, they pee on it. And watching your son be a good daddy is payback enough for any and all the sacrifices that had to be made. So Happy Father’s Day boys.
And Happy Father’s Day to all you moms out there who pull double duty for love.