It was never easy watching my kids struggle to fill the void that came with their dad no longer being part of their lives. It was a painful adjustment for them because it’s not like their dad died, so they didn’t have an opportunity to grieve in the way you would when you lose someone you love for good. When someone passes away, you grieve in a way that is final. Everyone’s process is different, but eventually you come to an acceptance — even if it hurts — that ultimately, that person isn’t ever coming back. But with this kind of loss, there is hope, a glimmer of “what-if” that nags at them and makes them think that somehow, somewhere there is a chance that he may come back into their lives someday. And the truth is, it’s not impossible … but there is also a chance that he may never come back. So, as a mom who has watched them battle with this for years, I try not to let them get their hopes up because until that day comes, it’s better off for each of them if they are able to heal and move on, to grow.
Because of this, there are several men in my kids’ lives that have stepped up to the plate. My dad (their grandpa) has been the Boy Scout partner, the baseball carpool driver and the karate companion among other things. He helps my son with projects and talks to my daughter about gymnastics equipment. He offers his insight, his love and his help.
My brother-in-law (their uncle) spent a season coaching my middle son’s first ever basketball team. He took time out of his week for practices and with no kids of his own yet, he committed to early mornings every Saturday and Sunday in the winter. He showed up every week and helped a bunch of kindergarteners who could barely walk without tripping over themselves learn how to run, dribble, pass and throw the ball into the basket. My son felt extra special that his coach was someone special to him because all of the coaches from the other teams were another player’s dad.
I have an old friend who takes each of my kids out for their birthday every year. He lets them pick a gift for every year of their age, and an extra one for their birthday. He lets them choose where they will eat, what store to shop at and promises a night of fun, and he always delivers. When a new Star Wars movie comes out, he makes a point to turn down any requests from friends to see the movie, so he can make sure he watches it for the first time with my oldest son … something my son used to do with only his dad.
Over the last couple of years since my kids have lived with me alone, they have had teachers, counselors, coaches, sensei’s and neighbors who have looked out for them. They know their situation at home, and they go above and beyond what is expected of them to help me with rides to practice, getting equipment and uniforms, reminders for schedule changes or practices, or just making sure they somehow leave a positive impact on my kids during their time with them. My kids have been lucky enough to have a special bond with so many men in their lives who owe us nothing at all, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
I don’t ever want anyone to feel sympathy for me or my kids. As a single mom, I work diligently every day to make sure that they never feel like they are missing out on something because they live in a family with just one parent now. They are happy kids. And as far as they know, this is “normal.” They’ve grown to understand that this what their life looks like, and they have learned to be ok with that. But that doesn’t mean that having a village step up and offer a helping hand, words of encouragement or support to them when they need it most isn’t received by them as anything less than exceptional. They appreciate every man in their life for what they do for them, and because of these men that have gone out of their way to be there for my kids unexpectedly, my kids have learned that not all dads leave, not all men are disconnected, and their future family can be different than the kind of family they had growing up.
To those of you who have stepped up to be a part of my kids’ day, week, month or years… thank you. Some of you have become important role models. Some have influenced them spiritually or emotionally. Some of you have been there when they really needed someone other than me to help them through a tough time. But, to me, each of you are heroes.