Why single mothers make great dads


We all complain about our spouses.  It’s just a fact of marriage.  And God knows, I’m as guilty as the next person of focusing on my husband’s flaws rather than the millions of gifts he possesses.

But lately, I just can’t help but explode with gratitude for this man with whom I’ve chosen to spend my life.  I watch him right now, pushing the lawnmower on a crisp, fall morning wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie pulled up over his head, while my daughter sits in a chair by the dining room window waving to him and singing, Daddy, Daddy to herself.  I smile each time he charges back up toward the house, making a grid in the grass, as she says, Daddy hold you, Daddy hold you, and waits patiently for him to come in and do just that.  Because he will.

I think about Friday night, when I thought (thank God!) that I was finally going into labor with my second child and we went out for our own version of The Last Supper (PS, I’m still pregnant a day past my due date as of this writing–ugh!).  I pinch myself when I picture my daughter eating his sushi tempura while he ate her cheese quesadilla instead, and the two of them danced together by the front door of the restaurant as I took twenty minutes to lift my pregnant self from the chair.

This man is an awesome dad.  And I say this not because my brain is a soup of pregnancy hormones right now, but because it is the honest truth.  And to top it off, he’s a pretty damn good husband too.

It occurred to me last night while I tossed and turned in the bed that there could very well be some sociological explanation for how well suited he is for these jobs.  I’ve heard a lot lately about “the millennial man” and I do think there is something in the air that has pushed modern men to play more domesticated roles, but I think in my husband’s case, he is such an amazing husband and father because he was raised by a single mother.Father's Day 2013 (23)

His father died when he was an infant and his image of what a man was supposed to be was a single woman raising three children alone, while dealing with the sudden and tragic death of her husband.  He has no illusions that “men aren’t supposed to cry” or “such and such is women’s work, not men’s” because his male role model cried often and would at once mow the lawn and have dinner ready by six.

I know my husband, his siblings, and his mother wish more than anything that they didn’t grow up without a father and husband, and I know they miss him still.  But I think about many (many) of my students who are raised by single parents and the supposed negative psychological and sociological impacts of this experience, and I have to respectfully disagree.  I think that strong people who are missing someone so pivotal in their lives often fill that void by becoming more of a whole person than others.  I never pushed myself to be both yin and yang, masculine and feminine, because I grew up with clearly defined boundaries about what that entailed.  I never needed to be both.  But his mother did and what she produced is children who don’t define themselves by those roles.

My husband cooks dinner every night (and he’s a hell of a better cook than me).  He cleans most of the time.  He cuddles, hugs, and kisses our daughter ceaselessly.  Every day between 9 and 10 am, I get a text telling me he loves me.  And he also always takes out the trash, mows the lawn, and kills the occasional spider.  He is everything to and for us.  I wish every woman in the world should be so lucky, and I thank my lucky stars day after day that I am.IMG_4254

Hopefully I will have this baby and not be pregnant for the rest of my life, and when our new baby girl enters this world, God-willing, she and her sister will grow up with a male role model who is both protective and nurturing.  A mother could not ask more for her children.




Why every writer should hang out with kids

patched face

Image found on Google Images.

My freshmen are writing short stories right now–flash fiction, actually, which has been quite an interesting challenge for them.  But what has been the best part of teaching them how to do this, is hearing their ideas.

Man, they can come up with ideas that make me what to kick myself for not thinking of them first!  This is why it hit me today that every writer should find a writing group of kids.  It would be pretty easy even if you weren’t a teacher–just pull up at a park and offer pizza to the ones you find there.  It would be a great session until the police showed up.

Yesterday a student told me that she wanted to write a story about a girl at school who kills other girls and wears their skin (we read a lot of Poe, don’t judge).  Her original idea was that this Carrie-like outcast would one by one pick off the popular group of girls, but they wouldn’t know what was happening although the outcast would be showing up to school in these skin clothes. I knew that would be a lot to deal with in 500 words, let alone suspending disbelief long enough to make it work. But we starting talking about building to tension peaks before the ultimate climax, and we came up with the idea that the outcast comes to school with strange bandages every day, meanwhile the girls in the popular girl group are having attendance problems. Ultimately the climax is that the final girl is left at school and the outcast pulls off the bandages to reveal that the girl’s friends’ skin has been slowly added to the face/body of the outcast.

The student got a mischievous grin at the end of this conference and my skin crawled. It was a great idea for a story and we both walked away knowing it. I couldn’t wait to see what she did with it, but I found my fingers itching to write it myself. This phenomenon happened conference after conference. They had unbelievable ideas that just needed a bit of tweaking, questioning, or guidance. Ideas that could turn into stories that Stephen King himself would be pissed he missed.

I guess the muse speaks louder to kids. All of my “experience” that I’m using to help them is nothing without that raw idea that they sit down so jazzed to tell me about. I miss those raw ideas. I don’t get them as much as I used to, but like I’ve said before, I’m grateful that I get to hang out with young writers long enough to find them where I can. I can only hope the muse whispers loud enough while I sit beside them, and every writer should be lucky enough to do the same.