This New York winter has been brutal. Mr. Groundhog found his shadow and indicated there will be six more weeks of winter, but he didn’t let us know we’d be in for record lows and everyone getting sick. As February inched into March I too started sniffling and sneezing, and I had a splitting sinus headache the other day. I decided to do something I normally don’t: lie down.
It was a weekday afternoon right before all of the good shows come on ESPN, so I found myself watching Friends. I have seen every episode so many times that within thirty seconds I can tell you which episode it is. The other day I once again relived the story arc in which Rachel gets pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Ross. Shortly after he finds out, Rachel goes on a date again and Ross freaks out (sounds like every episode from the first four seasons but yeah…). Ross is sitting with Joey and explains how he thought that the next time he became a father, life would be different. I hadn’t seen this episode since becoming a single parent, so it kind of hit home.
Ross goes on and on about how after his first marriage didn’t work out, he had this picture in his head of what he thought his future life would be like. He would be married, they would be a family that was together – not a blended one. That made me think about when there was once a picture in my head…
All while my daughter’s mother was pregnant I told her that within eighteen months of our first child being born she would want to do it all over again. She didn’t believe me. Then September 2011, about seven months after Cydney was born, she’s staying at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, being monitored for a few days while undergoing aggressive treatments for terminal cancer. I had just gotten off work and went straight there. She did me a solid by letting me watch the Yankees game and a commercial came on about children. With just a little bit of hair on her head growing back after her chemo treatments being changed and weighing about eighty-eight pounds she said to me, “I wouldn’t mind having another child now.”
I responded with a laugh and said, “Damn, I gave you eighteen months and you couldn’t even make it eight!” She laughed and externally that was the end of the moment. But that was the day my picture changed. Being that she was undergoing chemo, there would be no more children from her. I knew that. I’d had flashes of what the night she passed away would be like, all while looking at my daughter like, “Hey, it’s just you and me and we’re gonna just make sh*t happen.” At the same time, while I thought it was a long shot, I always had faith that one day she would be all right and she, little Cydney, and I could be a regular family in the end, with an amazing story to tell. Somehow, hearing her express a wish for a second child, for that perfect picture, was my confirmation that one day the woman I loved and the mother of my child would leave us.
Going back to the Friends episode, Joey asks Ross: When he sees that picture, is Rachel the woman? Ross responds he used to think so, but at this point that person no longer has a face. I play around and pretend that I’m going to be a single dad/bachelor for the rest of my life,
but even George Clooney got married so but I don’t that’ll be me forever. I have seen a face before. I have pictures of the three of us together and it kinda looks like we’re a family. Somewhere between being a cynic, realist, not wanting to count all my eggs before they hatch, limbo, and faith I try to see it as nothing more than that, for now. At twenty-five years old I learned what most don’t until much older in life – that there are no guarantees and tomorrow isn’t promised. While that family of three is what I see and I want, and I’ll pursue that by all means, I’ll also just enjoy the ride. The picture could change.
All of this is to say that almost no one envisions themselves as a single parent. Whether single parenthood came to us by divorce, artificial insemination, adoption, loss, or whatever; no one thinks about themselves raising a child on their own. We aren’t wired to have that picture in our heads. It’s a bittersweet dream deferred but you love it, nonetheless. Sometimes you need that picture in your head to be the driving force and the reason you don’t give up…even if it doesn’t turn out the way that you’d like it. We all need something to aspire to.
In the meantime, the ones with us and the child(ren) we love dearly are amazing enough.
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