Single Father Knows Best
- Christianity Today Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 11 Jun
Keeping my kids first in my life is important. After my ex–wife's remarriage, I felt a little pushed aside, but I refused to let her edge me out of my kids' lives. I stayed involved with them by picking them up from after–school practices, taking them to doctor appointments, helping them with school projects, doing anything to be with them even when they weren't living with me.
My efforts have paid off. I'm part of my kids' everyday lives. I know the kids' friends and teachers, and they know me. And today, when my oldest daughter got a new cell phone, who was the first person she called to try it out? Not one of her many friends, but me, her dear ol' dad!
The best piece of advice I received as a single dad was to continuously walk in forgiveness. I was supposed to apply this to my ex, who'd left me for another believer, but I found I needed to apply this attitude to church members and many other people who don't seem to have a template for recognizing the possible existence of an earnest, believing single dad.
In raising my 10–year–old daughter, I've learned to communicate and be consistent. Often after a separation or divorce, neither person wants to see the ex, let alone talk about shared parenting goals. Nonetheless, when children are involved, the parents' relationship doesn't end with the marriage's; it simply changes. Single parents must be willing to sit down and communicate, resentment aside. Parenting goals should be the same post–separation as they were pre–separation.
Also, the same rules should be in effect at both parents' homes. A child gets confused if mom's house has a completely different set of rules from dad's. Not every rule must be exactly the same, because agreement on some rules is impossible. But if bedtime on a school night is 8:30 P.M. at mom's place, then it should be the same at dad's. This practice provides consistency and minimizes confusion for the child.
Soon after my divorce, I realized I lacked many domestic skills. Immediately, I tried to learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry. Love for my kids drove me to work extra hard at becoming domesticated. It was exhausting. Because I'd convinced myself one of my new responsibilities was to be a mom, I had no time for the fun dad–time my kids and I'd always treasured. I'd become boring and tired.
Operating on empty eventually put my job in jeopardy. Worse yet, my kids didn't recognize the extent of my sacrifice. Thankfully, a wise woman at church suggested I forget the hot meals, serve a few more cold sandwiches, and take time to listen to my kids. She reminded me quality time builds relationships.
That night, I sat down and had a long talk with my kids. We decided what chores to share and what chores to let go. My time started freeing up, and fun started surging within our home again.
The best way to be a good single dad is to love my children unconditionally. My kids (ages 9 and 14) understand that although their mother and I are no longer together, both of us love them dearly. However, because they live with their mother 50 miles away, I've struggled to love my kids with much–needed time. Nonetheless, I do the best I can, often telling them I love them and believe they'll be successful in life.
As a child of a single mom, I appreciated hearing words of love and support from my parents. And I believe this is my children's biggest need. With such support, the kids are adjusting well and succeeding in school. And they always enjoy our time together. Regardless of what's happened between their mother and me, I've managed to prevent them from having to choose between us. As a father, I've learned extending my heavenly Father's unconditional love to my children helps strengthen our relationship.
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