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I don't think I've actually said it to him. I never said thank you. Never said thank you for raising me alone. I know I didn't make it easy. I know I was frustrating from day one, but he did it. My dad raised me alone. He took me to daycare, and then to school. He packed me lunches for field trips and helped me with my homework. He worked so many hours, just to give me the life he never had; the life he thought I deserved. My dad spoiled me because he felt guilty that I only had one parent. But even with all the toys, the thing that stands out to me the most was that every picture I drew was hung on the fridge, and every ugly clay creation was kept. I think the hardest of all was when he comforted me as I cried about the parent who wasn't there. I didn't even know if he was still mourning her. I just knew I was sad about the life I thought to be normal. I was mourning a life I had never got to have, and even though he was mourning the life he did have, he took me in his arms and comforted me.
As I got older and hit high school, my dad was still doing it alone. He remarried but it didn't last, and I feel I'm partially to blame for that. I wasn't used to sharing my parent, and I was a brat. But he taught me to drive, even though my driving scares him. I was a rebel in high school and always in trouble. No matter how many times I was in the vice principal's office, though, he was there, and he had my back. He even sent a nasty email to my vice principal when he thought I was being treated unfairly. But even then, when we fought, I brought up how things would be different if my other parent was around. It's probably the only regret I have in life. It wasn't fair of me to compare him to someone I didn't even get a chance to know. How could he compete with a dream that I had created? It's impossible for me to know if my mom could have done a better job raising me, and throwing it in his face wasn't fair or right. I kick myself, wondering how many times he asked himself if my angry rant was right.
Everyone has difficult children. They're born into every family, but it's tougher on single parents. There's no one to bounce ideas off of. The lack of communication about huge decisions is pressure enough to make or break you, and no one tells you how lonely it is. Going into it, you know you're doing it alone, but the actual loneliness is enough to kill. And when your kid looks up at you, sometimes you wish that there was someone, anyone, standing next to you. That they weren't solely looking up to you. That you had a hand to hold or just someone to tell you that it was okay and you're doing a great job. My dad should've been told he was doing a great job about a thousand times.
Even though I still cry about my mom not being able to be in my life, I wouldn't change my childhood. I had an amazing childhood, even though my dad was a single parent, I don't feel like I missed out on anything. He did his best and still does, and while others may disagree, I think he did the very best, and he still does. My dad is my best friend. I say that seriously. I tell him everything, even if he doesn't really want to hear it, he listens. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anyone else's. But I never voiced this. I never told my dad thank you for being my only parent. I never told him thank you for working constantly, to give me everything I ever needed. And even now, I never thanked him for being a role model to me. He set pretty high standards for parenting, but I'm ecstatic to have him as my model to parent my own daughter. Single parenthood has reminded me just how much my dad did for me, and how seldom he was thanked for it—and how seldom all single parents are thanked, for that matter.
So thank you. Thank you to every parent who has done it alone, or is doing it alone. Thank you for not giving up, even at two in the morning when they won't stop crying and it would be the easiest thing in the world to give up. Even when you're working two jobs and feel like you don't get to be near your kids at all, but you have to work so much to provide for them. When you feel like you're at your wits end, you have absolutely no clue what to do, but you keep fighting because that's all you can do. Because you're the only one fighting. Thank you. Keep going.