As I type this, my two daughters (ages 12 and 18) are making an hour-long drive, determined to buy us all dinner from my favorite Thai food restaurant as a Mother’s Day gift.
It’s 6:00pm. So far today Andrew has made me breakfast (pancakes, complete with fresh peach sauce and homemade whipped cream, and fresh juice), Kenneth has gifted me with a dark chocolate and dried fruit bar (my favorite) and the promise of a copy of The Twelve (sequel to The Passage, one of my most-adored books from last year), and Rebekah has driven Caroline to the flower store where Caroline personally chose every flower for a gorgeous bouquet. Every one of these gifts has been paid for with money my children have earned or been given, and some of these presents (like breakfast) have included money spent for groceries and trip out to buy supplies.
Today, I’m truly overcome with gratitude and love for all four of my children. They don’t have another parent who helps them with these kinds of preparations for my birthday and Mother’s Day, and while I always tell them (and mean it!) that presents don’t matter to me and it’s not necessary for them to go to the trouble, they always go out of their way for me. Because they’re on their own, it means a lot of coordination on their part, a lot of work and effort, and sometimes, a lot of money (which I wish they wouldn’t spend on me, ahem).
It saddens me that there is such a burden on them during these occasions. There is part of me — the part that tries to look on the bright side — that thinks they are better people because of it. Less self-centered than many young people. More giving, empathetic, thoughtful.
But I still wish they didn’t have to shoulder so much.
They hold down the fort when I travel, help around the house and yard far beyond what most kids have to do, and sometimes just stand there next to me while I scream expletives (as when a pipe burst in our basement and water gushed in a torrent from the ceiling). They know more about our financial situation than most kids do (sometimes I’m thinking aloud, trying to work through stuff, and they are the only other ones in the house to hear it). They see me emerge red-eyed from the laundry room (my favorite spot to lose it, because hardly anybody goes in there) and avoid questioning me about it because they know I’d be embarrassed. My older kids chauffeur the younger ones around when I can’t. The younger ones will have to help me manage everything — just the three of us — when the two older ones are gone. They are all endlessly loving, supportive, caring. They are not only the reason for everything I do — they’re the reason I CAN.
It is widely acknowledged that being a single parent is a challenge. But what isn’t always acknowledged is that being the child of a single parent is a challenge, too. So on Mother’s Day, I want to say thank you to all of the kids and teens who help shoulder the burden of your single parents, to all of you who pick up groceries and drive siblings around and coordinate and purchase gifts and in general RISE ABOVE the situation, giving far more of yourself than many kids your age are ever asked — and some would argue — ever should be asked to give.
I love every one of you with my whole heart. YOU are unsung heroes in this equation, and the world is beyond fortunate to have you.