By Christine Howard
“Hurry, Mom! Dad needs you,” my son screamed. “He’s…not moving.” He never did.
My husband of twenty years had just been unexpectedly ushered into the presence of God; leaving a 14 year old son, a 10 year old daughter, and me – alone.
Single parenting was never God’s design. Yet, through death, deployment, divorce, or disabilities it’s often His individual plan for some. It’s not a punishment; yet, as the only adult at home it may seem so.
Women understand the mothering part, but alone we’re given the added joy of being the father. Given circumstances there might be grief, anger, or despair we want to hide from. Or perhaps ignore dad’s place, pretend nothing is wrong, or cloister our family until we suffocate them. But none of that is God’s intent. Therefore, He will support us as we undergo our fatherhood transformation.
Dobson’s excellent work, Bringing Up Boys suggests a surrogate father. That sounds wonderful, especially with manual tasks and unique guy perspectives. But for the majority of single moms it just doesn’t happen. Replacement dads are hard to blend into a single woman home and carry their own complications. So until a different scenario emerges, you alone must embrace what it means to be a man, a dad; whether you have sons or daughters.
For midlife women, like me it’s especially difficult, as we’ve usually just found a comfortable groove. But change is possible – with God.
First step in my re-creation was to discover a father’s perimeters. I was a gender spy who read countless books on every aspect of being a godly man. I coerced a good friend’s husband into getting his men’s study notes. Too much was at stake to, hope for the best and I refused to let my husband’s death be a crutch for my children. As a twenty-year educator I’d seen the devastating negative repercussions enabling parents made by using Excuse Cards for rebellious behavior. Their intentions may have been initiated by a desire to protect, but making or allowing excuses never develops independence and maturity. Indeed, the opposite occurs; therefore, I determined to stick to our original plan – raise godly, well-balanced children. In stubborn faith I clutched onto God’s promises as if they were, [and they were] the very air I breathed.
Next, I uncovered my husband’s specific dad impact. For our son, my husband had coached four sports, led a boys’ Bible class, was a Scoutmaster, and taught trombone. Sports were my option, though I dabbled at the others. I devoured sports biographies, videos, playbooks, watched ESPN with him, coached, and organizing boosters’ clubs. This secured communication, which kept my son’s bruised faith receptive to God’s healing and my teaching. God’s provision humbled me.
Beyond sports auto mechanics and home repairs were tackled through two marvelous Time/Life books. Part to train my son regarding manly things, part economic survival.
When your spouse is absent your children must know you can handle any disaster; personally or through contacting the right person – who works under your authority. Seeing you in charge is crucial. Understanding this and the father’s protector/provider role, I latched onto the absolute of demonstrating, that underwritten by my ABLE God I could meet whatever catastrophe occurred.
Panic was replaced by trust as my children realized my total confidence was in God. They trusted me, I trusted Him. In the beginning they felt betrayed by God taking their father. This appeared an insurmountable obstacle making their spiritual survival impossible and only the power of Scripture granted me sanity and hope that through His promises my children would be restored and blessed.
Our daughter needed her dad in ways I never imagined. My husband prized his little girl and it showed when he coached her sports teams, played piano so she could rehearse her ballet and tap, read her to sleep nightly, and listened to endless school recitations. Weekly she joined his choir practice because she loved to hear her father sing and joined in perfect harmony with him.
In an effort to steady her shaky heart I took piano lessons, coached soccer and tennis, and
facilitated the oral language program. Most importantly I sent her yellow roses on every special occasion; their secret father/daughter code. She wept for an hour the first time the card read mom; but her thank you relieved me at finally soothing her pain.
As a single middle-aged woman I felt dating would complicate our family dynamics, but I needed a husband; so I dwelt in Isaiah 54 and believed, no demanded God be my husband – and thus a Father to my children. Years and examples pile up with how He transformed me, comforted my children, and met our every need – especially when trials came.
With each obstacle I thanked God in advance for its removal; drawing on Gideon’s strategy. But my kids questioned my competency as I praised God before He delivered, until He routinely demonstrated His consistent provision. Then my kids took notice.
After seven years of single parenting our washer literally exploded. My son hollered,” Mom! Better thank God in advance for a new washer.” The sound had rattled me, yet my son’s comment stole my breath. Yes, I’d thank God in advance. But I had so much to praise Him for that the washer could wait.
My son, now twenty-nine runs a construction crew and married a godly woman like a mother prays for. My daughter, now twenty-five is a gifted teacher and seeking the Lord to fulfill her desires of marriage and family. Both make my heart tight at how God has blessed them and where He’s brought them.
At first learning to balance these two roles was like eating broken glass – tastefully. Pouring over what Scripture had to say about husbands/wives, parents/children however gave me clear directions how to proceed. Only a mighty God could have brought about this transformation; one I’m forever grateful and humbled that He did.
All praises go to Him