Deflecting Holiday Hurts as a Single Parent
- Dawn Walker Founder and Director, Single Parent Missions
- 2013 11 Nov
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God.” –Luke 6:12 (NIV)
What is it about the holiday season that brings all our loneliness and hurts as single parents to the surface
Last Christmas was a perfect example. Money was tight and my boy knew it, so he wrote a secret letter to Santa that he taped shut and wrote on the outside, “Mom don’t look.” Which of course meant that as soon as he left for school I pried the side open and peeked to see what he wrote. Number one on his wish list? A puppy. My heart sank, knowing that it was out of the question, both from a financial and logistical standpoint. I did my best to get him a few special gifts, but there wasn’t much under the tree on Christmas morning, and it took him about three minutes to rip through what little was there. He wasn’t ungrateful at all, but I could tell something was wrong. He got up and I saw him go over to the front door and look out on the porch. Then he went to the back door and did the same thing. Then he ran upstairs to his bedroom, hid his face in his pillow and started to cry.
I felt awful. As I went up to him, I prayed for the right words to say that would soften his disappointment. I knew it wasn’t about the puppy, it was about feeling forgotten. So I had to tell him…Santa wasn’t real. And therefore Santa didn’t forget to bring him a puppy. Mom just wasn’t able to get him one. I did remind him that God had not forgotten him and there would never come a day when he would hear me say “Jesus isn’t real.” We hugged it out and I think it’s safe to say he isn’t scarred for life, but I was at an all-time holiday low. Not only did I feel like an inadequate parent, it also didn’t escape my attention that there had been no presents under the tree for me, which just magnified the sadness I was already feeling on his behalf.
Just before I spiraled down into a Level Orange pity party, I remembered something. Holidays weren’t easy on Jesus either. He never had a ‘special someone.’ If I remember correctly, his holiday gifts for The Passover were betrayal, abandonment and crucifixion.
I could argue that he wasn’t a single parent and never had to navigate through Wal-Mart on Black Friday with two whining toddlers and a car-seat on one arm. But He could probably argue back that He was a single father to 12 blue-collar misfits He had to raise into fishers of men in just three years. They went everywhere with him and at times probably harassed Him to the point of transfiguration. The only way He could get a break from them was to climb a mountain and pray.
This is not a bad idea for how we should approach our holidays as single parents.
The fact that holidays are going to hit us hard should not be a surprise. We know what’s coming, and we need to prepare ourselves. Here’s a few key ways I think we can get our hearts ready for these challenging days:
1. Stay focused on what you’ve been given. If this means writing down a list of things you are grateful for, do it. Spend time remembering all God has given you…unexpected provision, undeserved favor, the gift of your children, and the gift of His Son! And remember, your attitude sets the tone for your home. If you are focusing on gratitude, you will teach your kids to do the same.
2. Refuse to play the comparison game. You will always lose because you are comparing your worst to someone else’s best. You don’t see the hurts and struggles married people are facing, you just see that they have a spouse. You don’t see the credit card bills and the stress others feel from their overextended lifestyle, you just see all the presents under their elaborate trees. Comparison is one of the enemy’s favorite tools to steal our joy, make us want things that won’t really satisfy us, and distract us from seeing God’s blessings in our own lives. Don’t give him the satisfaction of playing his game.
3. Set up alternative options for community. Instead of isolating and having a pity party this holiday season, why not get together and share a meal and a fun afternoon with some other single moms or single dads you know? Or start a new tradition with your kids to serve the homeless Thanksgiving dinner instead of wondering if anyone’s going to invite you over.
4. Know what you really want and where to get it. I’m not talking the perfect outfit or the latest iPhone. Even if my son did have the foresight or the finances to get me the most amazing gift, I’m still not sure that would satisfy me. The longing I have to know I’m seen, remembered, important and loved is so vast that expecting any person or gift to fulfill it is ridiculous. Only Jesus can impart that to me and on these days when I know this longing is going to ramp up, what I really need to do is make more time for more of Him.
As single parents we can’t protect our hearts and our kids’ hearts against every onslaught of holiday hurt. It’s gonna happen. But instead of being blindsided or sulking this holiday season, let’s go somewhere where we can be still and get a better glimpse of God’s perspective. And if all else fails…go climb a mountain and pray.
Dawn Walker is a single mom and lives with her 10-year-old son in Grand Rapids, MI. She is the Founder and Director of Single Parent Missions, a ministry dedicated to raising up single parent families to transform generations. She is also a speaker and works with churches to envision and equip them for effective single parent ministry. To find out about upcoming mission trips for single parent families or subscribe to her daily “Hope Notes” for single parents, visit www.singleparentmissions.org.
Publication date: November 28, 2013