Single Parenthood: Facing Life's Unfulfilled Expectations
- 2006 11 Sep
Most of us single parents have learned others can't fulfill our expectations. But we keep hoping, don't we?
It's been several years since her divorce, but Jan still describes the Wednesday night service when her husband handed her the car keys, said, "Who are we kidding?" and walked out.
In that moment, she knew their struggling marriage was over. Numb, she sat through the service, wanting to give her husband time to walk home and pack his suitcase.
Afterward, the woman sitting behind her asked if everything was all right. With tears running down her cheeks, Jan blurted she was facing divorce.
"Then the woman patted my arm, said God would be with me and went home to her husband!" Jan says.
Sure, it would have been wonderful if the woman had hugged her and said, "Oh, Honey!" but she didn't.
If we're going to be hurt every time someone fails to provide what we think we need, we're going to be hurting a lot.
Yes, single parenting is hard work. And naturally we'd love to have a pat on the back occasionally, but other folks don't realize what we're shouldering I began to learn that years ago when a relative and I drove to Kentucky to take my grandparents, Papa and Mama Farley, and my Aunt Adah to Michigan.
An eight-hour drive was ahead, so my grandmother had an enormous lunch perched next to her on the front seat. On top of the basket she placed a bunch of bananas, then settled her cane against her thigh, ready for the trip.
Delayed road construction and numerous detours forced us to wind around the hills on dangerously curving stretches of asphalt. Topping one more rise, we discovered a rock slide covering the road.
The relative got out of the car after hastily throwing the gear toward park. Then as he climbed onto the rock pile to survey the situation, the car stalled and began to roll backward.
I was in the backseat wedged between Aunt Adah and Papa, but it was up to me to reach the brake. In an instant, I threw myself over the seat, knocking the lunch to the floor as I scrambled to stomp onto the brakes.
When I got the car stopped, it was already several feet beyond the asphalt. And beyond that was a 500-foot drop into the ravine below.
With the car safely braked, I released my breath and tried to push my heart out of my throat. Finally, I looked at Mama. Surely she had some praise for my quick action that had saved the four of us from severe injury--if not death.
But she was picking up the scattered lunch. Then she muttered, "You smashed the bananas."
So much for my need for appreciation.
Even after the detour lesson, I still expected folks to live up to my expectations. In fact, during our first Christmas in Colorado Springs, my children and I attended a musical downtown.
The show was usually given as part of a dinner package, so our matinee audience was seated at round tables, too. Before the curtain went up, waitresses delivered soft drinks.
When the show started, the performers sang as though they were having a wonderful time. Then, during one tender holiday song, I started to cry, missing my previous life.
Just then the man across the table pulled his arm back toward his wife. My tears increased as I decided he was going to give her shoulders a little squeeze.
How fortunate his wife is, and how wonderful of him. My thoughts were moving faster than the man's arm.
At last, with his arm all the way back, he reached for his soft drink--instead of his wife!
I laughed aloud as life's reality shattered another fantasy.
Yes, it's taken a while, but I've finally learned to stop looking to others to fulfill my heart's needs. Instead, I claim Deuteronomy 31:6-"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
What a difference that promise makes in my expectations of myself--and others.
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