Guys. Parenting is freaking hard.
I vividly remember that evening in late August when two pink lines (and later a Clearblue “pregnant”) revealed that Nate and I had created life together and would soon be entering the unknown chapter of parenthood together. I remember scrambling downstairs as Nate finished up mowing, holding the test behind my back, so giddy to show him. In traditional Nate manner, he looked at the test, and after wordlessly studying the results for a handful of seconds quietly asked, “that means positive right?” He then wrapped his arms around me and began frantically patting my back calmly saying, “wow that was fast”.
Over the following months, excitement and nerves built. We prepared as best as we could (quickly discovering there is no real preparation for parenthood). And then, on the afternoon of April 5th, 2014, Ian Randall entered the world making our little party of two, a party of three…Making me a mommy and Nate a proud daddy. And boy was he proud.
Those first few months were a battle for me though. I developed Postpartum Depression which was both unexpected and terrifying, but Nate’s unwavering support and understanding kept me afloat. His patience and natural ease at which fatherhood came to him kept me sane…at least ten times a day I found myself thinking “thank God you are my partner in this” or “I don’t know what I would do without you”.
We were team. We were a united front ready to take on the world together, and together we took on parenting…We were learning together, growing together, and were so grateful for our little family of three. We dreamed about all of the memories we were going to make with Ian, so excited to watch him grow side by side…Because after tackling parenthood, we knew we would get through anything in life as long as we had each other.
And then life threw us the biggest, most unforeseen curveball when life took Nate…Forcing me into single parenthood and forcing Ian into a life without his daddy.
Our party of three, became a party of two once again…This time, without Nate to lead the way.
Parenting is already hard but nothing could have prepared me for the challenge of single parenting in widowhood. That’s really freaking hard. And not just for the obvious reason of parenting alone.
It is pure and utter torture having to look at your child everyday knowing they will never have the opportunity to grow to personally know their own father. To have to look into our beautiful boy’s eyes and answer questions I’ll never have the answer to…To know that while Ian is “handling” the loss of his father as well as a four year old can, that there will come a day when he walks off of a field or ends the school day seeing other kids run into the arms of their waiting father and be angry that he wasn’t given the same opportunity.
Along with the struggle of watching your child grow up without a father, is the daily stress of single parenting in general. Widowhood steals that equal parenting partner to make decisions with. No longer can I rely on the security of raising our little boy into a young man alongside Nate. No longer do I have his voice of reason, nor his patience and calmness to balance my anxiety that parenting often induces. No longer do I have my partner to tag team discipline with, to plan with, and to enter this uncharted territory with.
As that old quote goes, “there is no manual to parenting”, but at least when Nate was alive, he was always there to help me figure it out. Now the sole responsibility of raising our son into a man is on my shoulders *no pressure*. That scares me to no end because I don’t want to screw our kid up…But being both mom and dad is so hard and so frustrating sometimes. I never know if I am doing the right thing, and I desperately miss the calming presence of my husband to help balance my constant state of worry.
I get downright pissed off for Nate too and the fact that his right to father his son was taken away. I know that had he been given some warning that his life was going to be cut short, that this would be the hardest reality for him to bare. He took such pride in being a dad, and the joy Ian gave to him was written all over his face on a daily basis. He loved that little boy with his entire heart and deserved so much more then three and half years with him. And as I acknowledge that fact, guilt often follows me…Ian is my lifeline, and I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t be getting through this past year without him…But in the same breath, I will admit that there are nights when I find myself counting down the minutes to bedtime. There are times when patience is lost on me and I feel like I lash out too quickly. There are times when I just want to scream at the top of my lungs because parenting is so challenging, and there are times when I feel like I want to just escape from being a mom completely…it is in those moments, I feel the most guilt because I know Nate would do anything to be given the opportunity to be here for his son. Nate and I never wanted to parent alone. We never envisioned having to parent alone, so facing the daily reality that we were given no choice in the matter is both infuriating and tragic. We worked so hard and tried to do everything right in life, and still we were dealt this hand. Nate should be here.
He. Should. Be. Here.
But he isn’t…And he would tell me that I need to play the cards I was dealt as best as I can. I know he would tell me to not sweat the small stuff and go with my gut. I know he would tell me to step away when I need and that I am doing my best… And as I think about what he would say, I begin to realize that while he is physically gone, I still have this ability to parent alongside him as I remember the way he parented…and more importantly, the way he lived life in general. Over the past few months, I’ve tried developing more of a “WWND” attitude, or what I like to call, “What Would Nate Do”…It’s not easy, and I struggle daily, often going to bed at night feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, but ten months in, I have realized that I am still in the beginning stages of trying to navigate this single parenting thing. Everyday I just try to promise myself to start fresh and learn from the day before. I try to celebrate my successes and reevaluate the times I feel like I could have or should have done better. I can only hope that as time continues to pass, Nate’s voice continues to echo in my head and in my heart, and that through him, I discover better ways to balance my solo parenting abilities. I also pray that Ian continues to have patience with his mommy as I figure it all out…Because lord knows that little boy is my saving grace.
I may not know what I am doing the majority of the time when it comes to being a single mom, but through Nate, I have come to learn that life is about not sweating the small stuff and being willing to learn…Being willing to not accept defeat and to try better tomorrow. Each day I watch Ian grow into more of his father, and I am reminded that despite the stress and the worry…despite the exhaustion and uncertainty…despite the sadness and anger…there will always be more love. Ian is the purest form of our love, and with him and through him, I’ll always have a piece of Nate. And for them, I will continue learning and trying.