A Single-Mom’s Guide to Raising Joy-filled Boys

Honey, it’s time for bed.

I went to bed yesterday.

Yes and you have to go to bed today.

Why?

Because I said so.

Well, you’re fired. **points to the door** I am the king of my own domain and you can’t tell me what to do!

It was a long day, a hard one even. I was exhausted, cranky and my last nerve disintegrated as my only son just fired me for tucking him in. I’d had enough of his back talk which meant there was only one thing left to do. TICKLE FEST!

Five minutes of toe and stomach tickles, three minutes of air dives and pillow slams, two minutes of hanging him upside down and shaking him for enemy weapons, and one minute to tuck him back into bed. Prayers are whispered, hugs exchanged and nightly I love yous float on the air. I turn to leave. “Fine you can stay but if you try this go to sleep nonsense again tomorrow, you’re fired.”

Boys. Funny, smelly, gifted, energetic little wonders who squeal at words like booty and whose fearlessness can push you to the brink of sanity. They’re beautiful, magical and absolute blessings. He was 6 then. He’s 19 now and on occasion I still get fired.

Being a parent is one of the most difficult responsibilities on the planet. When you shoulder that responsibility by yourself it can be brutal. The emotional and mental stresses that accompany single parenting can push you into insolation, depression, hopelessness and anxiety. Throw in societal statistics, an absentee parent and well-meaning but clueless friends or family and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a break down. It happens. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.

But the good news is there’s a way out, a way up and a way over to the other side. You can raise your son to be gifted, respectable, smart, and confident. You can create your own village to help you in your endeavor to instill values, morals and a sense of pride into your children. It won’t be easy, especially if you’re doing it by yourself, but it isn’t impossible. In fact, NOTHING is impossible if you believe and have a plan.

PRAY

Haiti, Scotland, DC, Cape Cod, a believer, multi-scholarship recipient and completing his second semester in Industrial Design at the Cleveland Institute of Art. This is my son and he is who he is because I prayed.

As a single mom, I knew what the stats said but I also knew what my God said. So, I prayed for wisdom, not once or twice but daily. In turn, God taught me how to parent with patience, lovingkindness, laughter, joy and discipline in the midst of the most upsetting and downright painful times of my life. God’s wisdom showed me how to turn frustrating tasks like bedtime into a time of laughter and precious moments neither of us have forgotten.

I learned how to soothe instead of spewing condemnation when his dad didn’t keep his promises. I learned how to listen to my son’s heart and immerse him in things that spoke to his purpose and passion, instead of nitpicking about what he was doing wrong. I learned to listen to his truth, without filling in my own perceptions or judgements. It was wonderful, painful and humbling. Only you know what your children need. Pray and let God speak.

GOT VISION?

In the early days, single parenting felt like a noose around my soul. I felt inadequate, depressed and straight up on the brink of imploding. See, I never wanted to be a parent, ever. Let’s just say my childhood experiences were not ones I’d wish on anyone. Still, here I was with two children, a wounded spirit and a desire for more than what I could see. If you want something you never had, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done.

Laughter. Foolishness. Discipline. Faith. Joy. These words underscored what I wanted my parenting legacy to look like. They were the catalyst that fueled my desire to read books on raising sons, pray often, observe other parents, listen to Holy Spirit and then do what some deemed as radical but I saw as logical. I learned: If you want your parenting legacy to reflect the type of incredible blessings that God has for your family, then you have to have something to set your sights on. Write your vision. Stake your claim. And get to work.

DREAM WITH HIM

Did you know spiders are a genetic mutation unleashed on the human race by angry aliens as payback for E.T.? Did you know that a simple red blanket doubles as an invisibility cloaking device that only the brave can see? Or that a sword dipped in liquid truth can vanquish pirates trying to attack Noah’s Ark? Dreams and imagination go hand in hand.

Dream with your son. Play with your son. Engage him in his world of nonsense, hilarity and genius. You’ll be wiser for it, especially if you listen. Don’t just play, LISTEN.

That’s how I learned that mommy dragons growl and hiss when they feel like their tails are caught in a trap. And even though none of the town’s people knew how to appease the beast, one brave soul sacrificed his riches to offer the mommy dragon the most prized possession in all the land: a hug. It worked too. Honesty comes in many forms and in many ways. Believe with him and listen to him. There’s always lots for you to learn.

Friends, it’s been a long road. A road riddled with tears, anxiety, laughter and hope. It wasn’t all laughs or joy but there were more good times than awful ones and we got through them. We thrived in spite of them. And we still do. Today, my son and daughter still climb in to my bed where we spend hours laughing til we cry, cracking jokes, and making fun of folks who can’t sing but still insist on doing American Idol anyway. Today, my son is in college boasting a good GPA and will still sleep in the living room if he loses track of a spider in his room. Today, he is a world traveler, compassionate, comedic, joyful and learning how to navigate this thing called life. I saw it then, prayed for it then and am reaping its joy now.

If God did it for me, He will undoubtedly do the same and better for you! Pray, get a vision and get to dreaming.

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