It's like clockwork. Every morning, when my 3-year-old son gets up from bed, he heads to my room to say "Good Morning," followed by the words, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" This is his way of telling me that he needs his daily fix of saving the planet via the tube. It's a routine that brings me back seventeen years to when his now-20-year-old brother did the same. I guess time passes but some things never change... such as the desire of little boys to grow up to become superheroes or the challenges single moms face in raising them to become, at a minimum, super men!
With so much talk lately about the rise in "single mom" households, there is surprisingly little discussion about how to support these moms in a manner that will actually help. I find myself shocked that in an age when television and technology help us frame the biggest discussions of our day, not one network has thought to offer a show to specifically address this group in a way they need and deserve. There are so many lingering questions amongst single moms and so little help forthcoming. Combine that with even less time and fewer dollars to waste and it becomes terribly difficult to raise a child on your own. I know this personally, as I've lived it.
After being widowed young, I raised a super man on my own. Ian is now studying at Bucknell University, where he is committed to becoming a neurologist. His 3-year-old brother, Austen, is a product of a later divorce. Although single again, I am raising my younger son under dramatically different circumstances than I did Ian. No doubt, Austen is luckier than his older brother in this respect, but Ian is luckier than most boys being raised by single moms as, unlike myself, so many moms are vastly ill-prepared for the circumstances they face in parenting alone, and as such, our sons suffer. It's a fact that will make the difference between raising super men and men who will only add to the growing issue.
As convenient as it would be to argue to the contrary, a mother's obligation to her child does not change simply because life circumstances do. They are today what they were the moment "mom" conceived: to raise happy, healthy, secure, responsible, loving and productive individuals. No doubt, that obligation is the same for dad too, mind you, but if dad has checked out, the magnitude of this task multiplies heavily and falls squarely on mom's shoulders. Mom then has to decide what the goal for her and her son's life, together and individually, is going to be. Will they just merely muddle through the next few years until external forces or age send them on their separate paths? Or will they build a bond and future that is significant and everlasting? It's a decision that needs to be made early and steadfastly to reap the best of all possible rewards: the raising of a super man you can also call your son and the enjoyment of a wonderful relationship between him and you... the woman he could not have grown up properly without!
Truth be told, like every mom ,but especially as a single mom, you will never know your own full potential until you have helped your child reach his. I learned this when my oldest son escorted me into a lab at Bucknell where he had been assisting in a research project. Showing me the many voles he had been studying in an effort to further understand the habits of these critters, I couldn't help but realize how powerful the pride I felt in watching Ian shine was. The incredible satisfaction, delight and relief I experienced that day could not be equaled. I walked away from that lab saying to myself, "You did it, Laura! You raised a super man."
So, for all of the single mothers out there who are striving to do the same, I offer the following helpful tips, in hopes that they will do for you what they did for me:
1. Your son will take your "parenting" as seriously as you take it
Don't slack off and neither will he;
2. Love him and provide him with unyielding security
That said, don't make excuses for him or turn over your authority to him. If you do, you will lose his respect and, ultimately, him, too;
3. Instill senses of direction and purpose in your son early
Then keep him on those courses religiously, as it will help to negate harmful distractions while strengthening your relationship with him along the way;
4. Offer up healthy doses of education, obligation and responsibility regularly
Helping your son to realize his place and contribution in this world will build his self-esteem and decrease "selfish" tendencies (unlike those his dad might have given into, leaving his son without a father);
5. Teach "truth and trust" without consequence
The comfort you feel in the freedom you eventually give your son will rely heavily on his clear understanding of both;
6. Maintain a positive attitude
A bitter mom begets a deaf child and welcomes problems through the door;
7. Play with your son
Having fun with your son is one of the best ways to open up lines of communication with him as a single mom. Boys are more ready to talk when they are involved in an activity;
8. Be a positive role model
Your son will watch everything you do and use that information for later when choosing a mate. You want that mate to be able to be a super wife and mother too;
9. Integrate a strong and positive male figure into your son's life
Boys need super men in which to learn from and emulate. For my older son, Ian, it was his Uncle Abe. For my younger son, Austen, it is his father. Find that remarkable man who will take your son under his wing and help teach him how to become a man;
10. Believe in him
Be your son's biggest cheerleader and foster a secure ego in him. Doing so will help him stand up to life and make good decisions as he navigates his way through and takes others with him.
They say "Behind every great man, is a great woman." I say, behind every super man is a super mom... and that especially holds true if she is a single mom. Though we may never be able to turn back the hands of time fully, we may be able to improve the familial and societal forecast by neither giving up on ourselves nor our sons. After all, ask any little boy and he will tell you, "Superheroes always save the day!"
...But they never do it alone! And in today's numerous "single mom" households, making sure that this continues is one way in which we can, jointly, help save the planet.