Last week I shared my thoughts regarding the importance of mental health for single dads. Let’s continue with some other areas that may need attention.
Pastor Thomas gently smiled at me. “When did you last cry? I mean real tears.”
I shrugged. The divorce was six months behind me. I wasn't really upset about the breakup anymore. I had accepted that, months ago. It was more about the kids now. I was angry they would not have the childhood I’d dreamed they would have.
If I allowed myself to grieve, that would be embracing the irreversible. If I stayed mad, I could maybe change things—force my ex to correct some wrongs that impacted my children.
“Your family situation is what it is, Tez. Staying mad won’t fix your children’s futures. Before our next session I want you to go somewhere private, put your face on the floor, and pour out your heart to Jesus. Just bust your guts mourning. Because turning it into anger, Tez, just makes you end up sinning in some way or another.”
He was right. My anger wouldn’t change things for my kids, at least not for the better. Later that night I released my resentment and began grieving over my kids’ losses—things they would never know they lost.
I grabbed a roll of toilet paper—because it’s manlier than a box of tissues, right? I began repenting to the Lord, then mourning over my children.
I thought about all the norms that would never be. The family vacations without a mom, the holidays without a dad, the everyday conversations that usually happen over dinner or while driving to school. The little teaching opportunities while taking walks or working in the yard. Conversations about manners, finances, romance, and heaven. I knew these moments would still happen, but not in the fashion I had hoped. One parent would often be missing from these discussions.
I was finally letting my dream die and realizing this new reality wasn't really going to make a difference to the kids. For them, life would be what life would be. This dream had been more about my needs than theirs. Maybe that's why I was so furious. It had become all about me, and I was annoyed because nobody around me seemed to need what I needed so terribly.
My selfishness now revealed, I began to weep—slowly at first, then like a levy in a hurricane. Thirty minutes later, I found myself on the floor of my bedroom earnestly petitioning God—mediating on my children’s behalf. At one point I remember taking their photos off the dresser and waving them in the air—lifting their names to the Father, in prayer. I interceded for them so passionately; I thought my neck veins would pop. When I was too exhausted to go on, I took a deep breath for closure, went to the mirror, and laughed at myself. I looked like a Botox junkie, but my junk suddenly felt a lot lighter.
Seven years later I found myself working night shift and sharing a house with a good friend, Derek. My son, Caleb, (now eleven years old) was also living with me full-time. It was like a godly version of the sitcom, Two and a Half Men. On school nights, Derek would wake up Caleb as he left for work. My son got ready for school with no adult supervision. I hated this and beat myself up for it daily. I would arrive home just as he was walking out to meet the school bus. Intoxicated with guilt, I’d kiss him goodbye and sleep until he returned. Then I’d make dinner, help Caleb with homework, watch a little television with him, tuck him into bed, and leave for work.
Thankfully Derek had an incredible servant’s heart. He was willing to forfeit any social life he might rather have, in order to stay at home all night with my son. Together with the help of our church, we provided Caleb with the male companionship he needed during this crucial time in his life. With Caleb’s mother three states away, many of the women at church doted on him. Caleb seemed to especially love that. It wasn’t the best situation, but it’s all I could offer as a single parent.
Sometimes I wondered, What am I thinking? Sure the graveyard shift offered better pay than more traditional hours, but at what cost? By working nights, was I forfeiting relationship with my boy, as well as safety and the protective care of a parent? Derek had a fantastic heart, but he was not a dad. He was a single guy with no parenting experience. Meanwhile, my overall health wasn’t responding well to this nocturnal lifestyle either. Caleb never complained, but I knew I was physically becoming less and less able to care for him like I should. I relied heavily on my small group and the singles ministry to help me raise my boy. My neediness doubled when my daughter visited.
There’s no way I can care properly for my children if I don’t first care for myself.
So tell us, what part of you do you feel most needs improvement?