Dear Single Mother,
You don’t know me, but I keep thinking about you and wondering how you did it.
You see, I met your daughter last week at the new indoor playground. My four-year-old daughter looked up the huge spiraling tunnel slide, decked out with ladders, ropes and thrilling tunnels, bursting with excitement.
But then she became hesitant. She had no idea how to get up to the top. Child after child clambered past us, climbing up the ladders and careening down, over and over.
I stood at the bottom of the slide with my little girl and realized that there was no way – even if I wasn’t in my eighth month of pregnancy – that I could climb through the jungle gym and show her how to get down the slide.
That’s when I spotted your 10-year-old daughter, a girl that I vaguely recognized. “Would you please…”
Before I could even finish my question, she reached out to my daughter. “Do you want to come up the slide with me?” My usually shy daughter gave a huge smile and nodded happily, and the two of them went up.
Your daughter patiently helped her to the top and slid down with her a few times, until my daughter was confident enough to go up by herself.
Before we left, I turned to your daughter and asked her name. My ears pricked up with interest. I recognized your name from the community. I don’t know you, but I do know that you have seven children and that you are a single mother.
And I was blown away.
To you, it may not seem like a lot. But your daughter made such a huge impression on me. Her kindness, her willingness and how she barely had to be asked. She is clearly someone who is used to noticing people who were in need.
As a mother, I know the enormity of the task. From the logistics of getting everyone fed, dressed, to sleep, to the doctor, and bathed day after day. Of arranging this child’s swimming lessons and being aware of what’s going on at school, and giving each one what they need.
I know the massive emotional investment being a mother requires. We want to give our children the best chance at success, socially, academically, physically. We endlessly debate the big and small things – from what school is the best fit for our child to what sandwich to make for lunch today. I know how much mental and physical energy it takes to mother just two children with my husband’s support.
And the hardest part is that we never know. Have we done it right? Will our children turn out to be decent people, positively impacting the world? Did we nurture enough and provide right boundaries? There’s no barometer at the end of the day which lights up with “job done well” or “task accomplished”.
And somehow, all alone, you have succeeded. Amidst it all – the car pools, the orthodontics appointments, the school plays, the swimming lessons - you have raised a daughter who displays authentic kindness, who is sensitive and caring and takes notice of those less capable than her.
So dear single mother, I have no idea how you do it but I pray that my daughter will one day grow up to be like yours. And that somehow I could exemplify your amazing parenting skills. Thank you for raising a daughter who will remain etched in my mind as an example of what I pray I will instill in my own children.