My son loves shooting hoops. He runs and jumps, and before taking a shot- he’ll say, “I can do it myself,” but he always prefers for me to fetch after the ball and will turn in expectation for some acknowledgement of his nothing-but-net accomplishments. Occasionally, he’ll even allow me an attempt, albeit maybe only one free throw to his five. Still, his young mind already understands the concept of the game- it’s best played with others, and it feels good to have an audience. As we played today, it made me think of parenting. Like basketball, parenting is definitely a team sport. Sure, some people are successful and happy going at it solo. There was even a time I believed we’d be good without another teammate. But whether by choice or circumstance, I’ve learned it’s easier with someone on your team. It’s more rewarding when others can celebrate your successes and offer encouragement after defeat. Though I hate to admit it, I for one, could use pointers.
Here’s the thing, even though I entered parenthood on a team and often loathe the single moments, I wouldn’t trade the game for the world. Charlie is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’d rather be a single mom than not one at all. With that being said, I can’t even begin to explain the exhaustion and sadness that comes with running across the court alone. This morning, my little guy wanted to feed his toy fox, Finnley, a strawberry. He carefully wiped the orange little mouth and said, “See that? I’m a sweet boy.” I laughed and agreed. Moments later, after all the pretend friends were fed, we went to brush our teeth. My son then proceeded to run away and hide. I chased after him singing, “Fee fi fo fum, I smell the dragon breath of an American.” He came out of his tee pee giggling, roared, and clarified, “I’m not a can. I’m a boy.” I can text family and friends about our shenanigans. I can post photos and captions on social media, but it’s so much more rewarding to get a knowing look from a person that’s there to share in the moment. A person that can appreciate the every day instances with a rambunctious beast- one that can tolerate stinky feet in the face and rough and tumble play. Charlie likes having another player present too. The more the merrier, right? What’s better than one person to tackle? Two.
The other day, we made it to a friend’s pool, and before we jumped in, I realized I forgot Charlie’s float. No biggie. These things happen even when two parents are present. I know that in even two parent homes, there are times one person cares for the child independently. Still. In these instances, I can’t help but wonder how things could be better if I weren’t alone in raising a little human being.
When I want to do something alone or with friends, I am blessed to have a sister that can offer assistance. I have to ask though. And we both know it’s not her responsibility. She’s not his parent. He is mine alone to care for. And though I find the bright side in it (I don’t have to share), I know all too well the joy in sharing. I want to share. The times that another player has offered to play with my guy while I take a time out, I am ecstatic. Even the best players benefit from time on the sidelines. And let me tell you, seeing Charlie play with someone I trust leaves me beyond content. Happy boy. Happy mommy.
Yes, I have family and friends that join in on the sport, but so do children with two parent households. I can’t bring myself to believe that I’m enough. Despite having lovely friends that grew up in single mom homes, it’s just not my jam.
I marvel at other single parents. Are they happy? Maybe they’re waiting for the just-right player. Maybe they’ve got all they need to make three pointers on their own. Or maybe, like with all things in life, these are seasons we must endure. An off season. A pre-season. The championship. I just know the best parenting experiences are the ones that are played with another. I know that even as an all-star mommy, my son and I are happier with a bigger team.
As I write, I hear my MVP calling for me, and though I know it’s just the two of us dribbling the ball, it’ll be a great game because we have each other. He doesn’t know what we’re missing (someday he will…), but for now, I keep quiet and smile. Besides, the third quarter has just begun.