Solo Super Hero Stories

Solo Super Hero Stories

As we celebrate National Single Parent Day this week on March 21, we’re talking to some special guests about Solo Superhero Stories.

Hosts Robert and Elizabeth and Solo Parent group leaders Jody, Chris, and Cari share some reflections on being solo parents.

How did you become a single parent?

Elizabeth: I am a single mom through a divorce. The divorce happened five years ago. I have a 9-year-old son.

Robert: I became a single parent from divorce. I was married for 13 years. When we got divorced my kids were nine, seven, and four. I had full custody. I'm remarried now but I was single and raised my daughters for eight and a half years. 

Jody: I have been widowed for almost 14 years and I have a 17-year-old son with autism.

Chris: I became a solo parent through divorce six and a half years ago. I've got four kids ages 9, 9, 9, and 12.

Cari: I have been single parenting for six years through a divorce. I have three children. One adult, a 14-year-old, and a nine-year-old.

Give us an example of a time you failed as a solo parent.

Elizabeth: When my anxiety takes over and I react out of it with my son. A recent example of this is the other night I was feeling anxious because I was running late and the restaurant that I was going to was not in a great neighborhood. My anxiety was going through the roof. I snapped at Jax when he asked me a question. I apologized to Jax the next day and said, “I let my anxiety get ahold of me.” 

Robert: I failed in overcompensating and trying to keep my girls happy all the time instead of letting them sit in the struggle. I parented out of fear a majority of the time. Fear of what would happen to my daughters, everything from safety issues to fear of being perceived as a bad parent, and for it to be used in court. I did trust God and I became a lot more understanding of God's grace. 

Jody: My big fail is when I overreact to my son's meltdowns. He has aggressive behaviors and sensory issues and if he's upset and if I raise my voice or step toward him, then he'll escalate. I've had to learn to be calm, have a straight face, and not show emotion when he has a meltdown. I'm not always great at that.

Chris: A few years ago I took my kids on a trip. At the time I was struggling with control and I planned out every aspect. I thought there was no way that they won't be super excited during this vacation. It did not go according to plan, it failed epically. We're in the hotel room, they're screaming and crying. And I lost it. I screamed at my kids. A complete failure at parenting and grace in the moment. 

Cari: I became an instant single parent when it was revealed my ex-husband had been molesting my daughter and then he was incarcerated. I had to deal with the media because we live in a small community and my ex-husband is well-known and loved by all. I was under the impression that I had to do this all by myself. I was broken, trying to figure out how to deal with all of this chaos. Finally, I picked up the phone crying and asked for help. It took me getting to a breaking point to be able to ask for help. 

What's one thing in your solo life you're proud of?

Elizabeth: It’s a parenting win that my son feels safe with me to tell me things. Everything from the trouble he is having with friends, issues with his dad, and even things with me. I'm so grateful. I didn't have that as a kid. I've tried to be intentional with him. I can say that our relationship is unique and special. 

Robert: I have a great relationship with my daughters. There is an intimate connection that I feel with them because we went through hard stuff together. My parents weren’t very present in my childhood. I didn't have a connection with them when I was growing up. I was deliberate, especially during my solo season of searching for a connection with my girls. I didn't know how to do it because it was never modeled for me and for the most part I've done a good job. 

Jody: A big success is learning how to do finances because my husband was in charge of the money before he died. My sister got me started and I've been able to continue it. 

Chris: I have to preface this with I created a character for a tabletop game I played and the character had a Russian accent. My son was having a breakdown and wasn't listening. I tried to help him and prayed, “Lord, I cannot reach him. I lack the ability and skill to parent my son. I don't even know fully what he is going through.” Later I had this idea to introduce myself as the Russian character and sit down with him. I changed my shirt, introduced myself as Dr. Fen Whiz, and said, “Hello my little friends your father sent me to talk to you for a little bit.” I asked “What's in your heart? What are you feeling?” And then he shared with me. I told him anytime you want to talk to Dr. Fen Whiz, let your dad know. My son said, “That's awesome.” I change my shirt back to dad and I come back and my son said, “Dad, you'll never believe this. I talked to Dr. Fen Whiz. He had a funny accent.” The important thing was my son felt like he was heard by someone. I was excited. I was praying for wisdom when the idea came to me.

Cari: In my past life I did not have control of anything in the home. I received a free smart thermostat and I installed it with the help of a man online, who gave me tech service. I had to rewire the furnace to the thermostat. I was able to conquer that. 

Tell us one of your favorite things about being involved with Solo Parent.

Elizabeth: The people. More than anything it has built my empathy and given me a path to understanding other people on a deeper level. It's also helped me look inward. I hear the stories of other people in our group. To be able to deeply know where they are because I've experienced the same thing, or because I know the pain, has been healing for me. I feel less alone. I feel it helps me put a mirror on my own feelings, which is hard for me to do. 

Robert: The relationships. The authenticity that has come out of people embracing brokenness is inspiring. There's something about being around people that embrace brokenness and frailty that I find inspiring. It rekindles my love for people and reminds me real relationship and intimacy happens when we show up with who we are.  

Jody: The friendships. It's been nice to know other people who get it. We can share our struggles and our successes. We can understand each other. I was alone for 12 and a half years before finding Solo Parent. I was widowed when I was 30 and I didn't have anyone. Now I have a whole group of people who understand and are welcoming. It’s amazing.

Chris: Learning about the lives of solo parents and helping them to see there's more to what God is doing in their lives. The excitement for me is being able to listen during our open share time and pour out the truth of God. It’s inspiring to see them get, “It's not just me and it's not just this situation that I have, but there are other people struggling in this and I can feel okay.”

Cari: The support and the camaraderie. Before I learned about Solo Parent I thought that my story was unique, I was alone, and there was no help or possibilities. Through the organization, I've learned my story happens a lot. Being able to come alongside other solos and say, “No, you're not crazy and this is real.” The support is number one for me in knowing that I'm not alone and that we are all in this mess together.

What is one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger solo parent self?
Elizabeth: Loneliness is a good thing and to sit in it. I used to get antsy when I was lonely. I see loneliness as a gift more. But back then I was searching for all kinds of ways to be loved, to be seen, or to be known. I was genuinely lonely needing a place to belong but what I didn't know is that it was me that was keeping me from belonging and being known. It was because I wasn't vulnerable enough to let people in and be intentional about focusing on those things. If I had taken a step back and sat with the loneliness, and let it take me somewhere and guide me to what it was that I needed, instead of trying to fix the loneliness and the pain of it I wouldn't have done some of the crazy things I did.

Robert: Relax and be patient. Not only will these things pass, but don't be in too much of a hurry to get passed this season. It initially felt so awful. I didn't want to be alone and I didn't want to be with anyone else. Sit in what you're experiencing and don't try to rush through it. I'm very entrepreneurial so I used a lot of my time being solo coming up with ideas for the Solo Parent organization. I would blog and write and I never did that before. That turned into something constructive. But I still found myself rushing through trying to get stuff done and I wish I would've relaxed a little bit more and realized that I trusted God and it doesn't have to make sense in the immediate for me to believe that He's at work. 

Jody: Relax. It is hard, but it will be okay. Take things one step at a time. It will come, it doesn't have to be right, right away, but it will come. And second, it's okay to get out and find others going through the same thing. I wish I hadn't waited so long to find a group, but I’m really glad that I found this particular organization and this particular group of people.

Chris: I've been out of a relationship since December 2018. I've come to a point where I'm so excited the Lord is fulfilling all of these things and singleness and that I'm not depending on other people. And so to be able to go back to “Year One Chris,” and say, “I know you're reaching for your identity in all of these different things, but let me share with you my testimony of you in five years. It's actually okay. The Lord will fulfill that need you have, not only in Himself. Allow the Lord to sustain you through this, and then watch the miracle that He does in your own life and transform it.”

Cari: Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and to ask for help. Also, it would've been hard, but I’d tell myself to enjoy the journey. I have only four years left with my daughter at home. Sometimes there are moments of savoring the dance parties that we had around the table to shift from temper tantrums to celebrations. 

Next, we’re talking to folks who support Solo Parent, co-founder, and Board Chairman, David Farmer, and John White, one of our Founders Circle donors.

What compelled you to give, to get involved to serve with Solo Parent?

David: Part of the reason is my parents got divorced when I was a freshman in high school. My favorite quote is: “It's easier to raise healthy children than fix broken men.” Frederick Douglass said this in 1850. 

The quote resonates because I had to help my mom manage the household. I know how being in a single-family home impacts children no matter their age. And this motivates me to step into the gap. 

It is personal. I look at our programs at Solo Parent thinking how my mother would have really enjoyed the community. I look at what we're doing now, what we're trying to accomplish, our five phases that we've mapped out as a board to grow this organization and it always comes back to those times. 

John: We know single parents account for roughly a third of the population and these families endure a disproportionate percentage of challenges and there's a significant social cost for unsupported single parents. When you consider the statistics, 63% of suicide, 75% of drug-addicted kids, and 85% of incarcerated minors come from single-parent homes. So my wife Julie and I feel we need to support single parents and do what we can to address the challenges of single parents in any way we can.  We remain compelled to give so that the reach and impact positively support the lives of single parents and their legacy, which is their children.

What do you want the single parents that you serve through giving to know? 

David: I want them to know they are making a difference in the group God has brought them to. As I’ve walked through my faith, I've discovered there's no coincidence. Ultimately God's got you as a single parent in that group. Stay involved to the level you can. It's okay to miss some, but stay involved and see where God takes it. Stay with the community that we're trying to help build with our programs. You're critical to it and continue to give us feedback because this is a dynamic program. We're going to continue to improve it every year.

John: We want single parents to know they've got an organization that's one hundred percent focused on them. Our hope through our giving and supporting is that we are helping to provide enhanced scale to positively impact solo parents and provide a means for them to achieve their full potential. We feel fortunate to be in a position where we can help. We're big believers that by expanding the reach, capabilities, and offerings I know Solo Parent is trying to do, can have a tremendous impact on single parents, their children, and therefore our society. 

Nobody gets it right all the time. 
Be intentional and deliberate and try your best. 
Trust that God is writing an even greater story because of the brokenness. 
God chose you above any other choices to raise your children. 

Listener Question of the Week
My child keeps asking why Daddy doesn't live here anymore. How do I answer that?

This is really tough because we want to take away the pain or lessen it, especially because we know we're the cause of it. The question may highlight our shame and guilt. There's no answer that makes it okay for them. It will never make sense to them. And that's okay. We have to let it not make sense.

In Chip Dodd’s book, “Voice of the Heart,” he writes sadness can lead us to acceptance. If we're able to sit in sadness and be with our kids in the sadness, it will eventually lead them to acceptance. Maybe the acceptance is only for a moment. Maybe the acceptance is for a month and then they get sad again. I think it's a cycle that they'll probably struggle with for years and we don't have any control over it. But what we can do is show up and be present with our child. It’s hard but being sad with them and let them cry and express their sadness.

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