February 1, 2008

And the Winner Is…

I’ve been solidly married for over 19 years. But I recently played the part of single parent.

I willingly take on that role two or three times a year when my husband travels overseas on short-term missions trips; this latest incarnation was a nine-day gig. And, if your spouse likewise travels for work, you, too, sometimes light up life’s marquee as a temporary single parent.

The character is all-consuming and exhausting, a 24/7 performance that would drive a mere eight-show-a-week Broadway actor to tears. Rocking – without relief – a colicky baby from just after dinner until midnight, only to awaken to her cries at 5:00 in the morning; dragging tired and hungry toddlers to the grocery store when “everything” runs out at once; forgoing the release of good workouts or a dinner invitation because getting a babysitter is too complicated or too expensive…or both; sensing that one’s ears will drop off from being the children’s only sounding board. And, yes, I weep in the midst of it! But then I bow in humility as I remember that I am but an understudy.

The stars are those who play the role day in and day out with no end in sight: my friend who has raised five adopted kids entirely on her own because she answered God’s call to provide them with a home; the dear woman at church who left an abusive marriage for the sake of her daughters and who now battles a deadly cancer to boot; my former pastor, who tended to three young children even as he also learned the lines of grieving widower.

For my bit-part, I’ve received a number of awards, delivered in the form of small kindnesses. A coupon from a local pizzeria, mailed by a still-anonymous acquaintance – one night’s dinner! Friends invited us to their home – another dinner, along with a joyous playdate for my kids and a wonderful “talk-date” for me! When my husband returned, he whisked the girls off to his parents’ for a weekend – rest for my weary ears!

I treasure each gift, and each energized me just enough that I could push through to the curtain call – even when it came a day later than expected. How much more would a real single parent value such offerings?

Golden Globes to me, Oscars for them!

So think about a single parent you know – maybe several actually come to mind. Brainstorm some ways – big and small – that you can bless that mom or dad. And then follow the biblical mandate of Jesus and his disciple James: go beyond thinking to acting. Play the role of benefactor. Your kindness will shore up a parent who is otherwise alone and lonely, scared or heartbroken, and utterly spent. What a way to celebrate kids!


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