My daughter, Holly, was in third grade when she came home one day in tears. The room mother had handed out directions to an event and said, "Take these home to your families."

Then she'd glanced at Holly and said, "Sorry. I mean to your moms."

In our kitchen, I put my arm around my sobbing eight-year-old. "Holly, we are still a family," I said. "We're just a family of three now."

As she leaned against me in relief, I realized if we were going to survive, I had to develop emotional strength. So, I took a deep breath and leaned on encouraging Scripture such as Philippians 4:13 -- "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Single moms and single dads need personal strength no matter how we gained our status. We all have too much stress, too many responsibilities and too little time. In my own situation, I had married young and gone from my father's authority to my husband's. And even though I'd taught in a Detroit-area high school and had handled numerous professional duties, I knew nothing about balancing the checkbook, doing home maintenance or repairing a car. Those had been my husband's duties.

I worried about raising my two children to be healthy adults. How could I teach my 10-year-old son, Jay, to be a man? My single-dad friends who were raising daughters alone had the same concerns about providing feminine role models. As our children were growing, we all worried and prayed a lot. Most of us kept our families in church, trusting those few hours each week to provide our children with role models.

So if you are in the same situation now, let me encourage you that single parents can raise healthy, law-abiding children. In fact, these years later, my son is a well grounded, masculine young man despite having grown up with a mother, a sister and a neutered cat!

But even as I'm grateful for achieving that goal, I still remember many days when discouragement was a close companion. In fact, one Saturday morning nothing seemed to go right. In the middle of my grumpiness, then college student Holly insisted we go horseback riding.

"Might as well," I muttered. Within the hour, we were at our favorite stable, but the docile brown horse I usually rode was already on the trail for the day. That gentle horse had two speeds -- slow and stop -- so I was disappointed he wasn't available. There was nothing to do but request the second most docile.

Soon a large black horse was brought out. We eyed each other before I took the reins and led him to the mounting block. There, I placed my left foot in the stirrup and started to swing my right leg over the saddle just as the horse decided he didn't want me on his back. Then he sidestepped away from the block. There I was, one foot in the stirrup and the other poised in midair. Even then I didn't have the agility to shift my weight quickly and throw myself into the saddle. The stable owner danced back and forth below me, arms in the air as though to catch me when I fell. There was only one convenient part of my anatomy to push, but he knew me well enough to know he better not touch that. So with arms waving, he hopped from foot to foot and yelled, "Don't quit now, ma'am! Don't quit now!"

Holly bent forward in her own saddle, howling with laughter, so I started chuckling and then had an even tougher time hauling myself into position. But finally, with a surge of adrenaline, I shifted my weight and shoved my right foot into the stirrup. The horse gave a defeated snort as I turned his head and followed a still laughing Holly up the trail.

That ride, even with its tenuous start, became a reminder to provide an extra push on tough days. No matter how tough our challenges as single parents, we don't dare quit -- now or ever. 


Adapted from From One Single Mother to Another: Heart-Lifting Encouragement and Practical Advice by Sandra P. Aldrich. (2005 Gospel Light/Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.