Unsung Hero

April 21, 2024

Today we’re talking about an upcoming movie called “Unsung Hero” which is based on the remarkable real life story of David and Helen Smallbone and their family, and how instability paved a way to some of their greatest dreams and things they didn’t even dream of. The movie opens April 26th, 2024.

It follows David and Helen’s beautiful story after having lost everything. When David’s successful music company collapsed in 1991, they had nothing more than their seven children, suitcases, and the love of music. They left everything they knew in Australia and moved to the United States hoping to rebuild their life into a bigger and brighter future. Helen’s faith inspires her husband and children to hold on to theirs as long as they band together as a family in a brand new country. 

David and Helen are parents to some incredibly successful music acts in the Christian music industry. Five-time Grammy Award-winning artists for King & Country and Rebecca St. James come from this family.

This movie resonates so much with the topic of solo parents and stability because throughout, we see a family thrust into a new reality that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Before you were thrust into this new unstable reality, in the early nineties, you were one of Australia’s top promoters in Christian music. You had many successful tours come through the country and you were gearing up to launch a massive new tour with Amy Grant and then the bottom dropped out. The tour was not what you had expected and you put everything out on the line, banking on it being a successful tour. In a weird way, this parallels the life of a single parent. We all go all in with great expectations of the future based on everything that we’ve known to date. We’ve dated this person for a while. It seems like the perfect mate. It seems like everything’s going to go great. There’s no way this can lose. And then all of a sudden everything turns upside down and we’re left devastated. 

Take us back to the early nineties. Do you remember that optimism that both of you had, knowing that you had this big tour coming up?
Well, it definitely was the biggest tour I’d ever done. And to set up a tour, you have to come to America and talk to the agents and the managers. We were probably running a major tour every two months and this definitely was the biggest one we’d ever done. And we were doing some things a little differently. Australia was in recession at that time and I probably wasn’t as aware of the recession as I should have been. I left mainstream music to get into Christian music because I wanted to do something that was valuable.

The weird thing is looking back 34 years ago, this is something that I had to experience to grow. And Helen had always been the spiritual giant in the family. I was just a slow learner. But going through that great loss in my life is the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given. It gave me a different perspective. So now I see through a different lens. I think prior to that tour, I saw it probably through a commercial lens. Now I see it through a ministry lens. That’s what I love about Solo Parent Society. Because of your life experience, you have a ministry heart. And for those who don’t know me that well, Robert and I walk most Tuesday mornings and it’s therapy every week. We just have no agenda. [We] talk about life, talk about family, talk about Jesus. And for any of you listening, consider the discipline of walking with somebody once a week because there’s no agenda other than relationship and sharing what’s going on in each other’s lives. 

David spent probably about 10 to 12 years prior to this particular tour with a lot of Christian artists in Australia. Most of them came from America because Australia’s Christian population is so small. The first concert that Rebecca, our eldest daughter, ever went to was a Larry Norman concert when she was six weeks old. It was in the Sydney Opera House. One of David’s first national tours that he did was with Larry Norman in 1977. So from that time, right through to the end of the eighties, he was touring international artists in Australia, and the one artist he had never been able to get was Amy Grant. She came with a promoter from New Zealand and he promoted both in New Zealand as well as Australia. 

So it’s like the pinnacle of the industry. She, at that time, was at her height. And it was an exciting adventure because he’d been doing all these other guys, but he’d been missing out on the pinnacle of the best. For this to be taking place and for him to be the promoter for this particular tour was very exciting. Huge. A fulfillment of a dream.

I was so focused on running the home and family and kids and was sort of aware of what was going on, but was not in the weeds. I didn’t know as much about the financial arrangements or how many were expected. It was all in his arena. I was thrilled for him, frankly, because it was one of those things that he had dreamt of doing. And this was a fulfillment of reaching the best you could do. 

You had hoped that there would be a lifeline [from other Christian brothers or sisters in the periphery of what had happened] to basically salvage whatever you could from the losses. But that didn’t happen either. Can you take us back to how you felt when you realized that all was lost and you needed to deliver that message to your wife?
We lived in Sydney and when we were there, she would always bring the kids. I’d be out on tour and we’d do all the capital cities and I’d be gone for a week or two. And then when we did Sydney, she would bring the kids and they would stay for the first half of the concert and then go to sleep and she’d carry them out to the car after the concert was over. So we were at the Sydney Entertainment Center and the children were in a dressing room right next to the production office. And I realized at that show that we had some problems. So I went to the tour manager and the tour accountant and said, “Could we have a reduction?” It is basically some grace on what we owe. We were going to lose a quarter of a million, which is a lot of money in those days. I was hoping that they might give us a reduction of $50,000, but Helen remembers their response better than I do, and it was just not a normal thing. They viewed it as a contract, a legal agreement. We had to abide by that. And I don’t remember their response. She remembers it, and it’s probably not appropriate to share it.

So I’m in the neighboring room and listening to him telling them—and in their response, there was no compassion at all. Something very positive came out of that—now whenever we tour in America with Rebecca or for King & Country, if someone loses money, we’ll give them money back.

That was my learning curve. I learned a very strong principle. I learned that this crazy Christian music business thing was a partnership in ministry. So if we succeeded, we succeeded together. And if we lost, we lost together. And we have these wonderful relationships all over America and all around the world because people know, because of my tough experience 34 years ago, that they can have confidence in us. We’ll still have a legal agreement and everything, but when push comes to shove, there will be some form of compassion. And I think because of that experience, we’ve been allowed to live in the miraculous. Helen made a comment to our sons just before we started filming the movie 18 months ago. Joel gave Helen and I the script and she read it, and I didn’t want to read it because I’m a strong-willed guy. I didn’t want to influence; I wanted them to interpret our life story as best they could through their lens. She read it and she went back to them and the only thing she said really was “Just make sure you include the miracles because Hollywood has a way of homogenizing Jesus and taking away the wonder.” 

And now we’re hearing back from people who are seeing it, that it’s connecting at a very high level. And I think going through the hard times, prayer was the big thing. We learned how to pray as a family. I remember just after we arrived here, we had no furniture. We were in a house in Brentwood and Joel was seven, praying fervently in the lounge room. The innocence of a child’s prayer. Our pastor went and saw the movie a few months ago. He said, “If you want to see a miracle, need a miracle.” And I think it’s actually profound because we fight the need. God’s there with us and we know that, but we are taking on the weight of providing for and caring for ourselves. And because we’re not allowing God to lead us, we’re not allowing God to provide for us. We actually don’t see the miracles. And I think that’s human nature; we want to grasp everything. We want to hold it really tight, but God wants us to open our hands and let him look after us, which is he’s saying again, again: “Come as a child, let me be your father. Let me look after you.”

It’s very foreign to us in our human nature. We fight dependency and so we were pretty pushed to the end of everything where we really had nothing but God and each other because we’re on the other side of the world. We’ve got no family, we’ve got no friends. It’s a new culture. Everything is new. Nothing is familiar. When you’re really pushed into that situation, you’ve then got to go to the core where everything’s stripped away. You’ve got to go to where your foundation really is. And our foundation was Jesus and each other.

Helen’s mother, who’s a wonderful lady, would call every month in tears and say to Helen, “Hey, loving daughter, it’s not working. Time to come back.” And I’m astonished, thinking back on it now, that [Helen] still believed. When I first went to her 32 years ago and said, “Hey, baby, I think the only way we’re going to get ahead is if we go to America,” I was really shaking in my boots. I thought she was going to say no. And she said, “We’ll go for two years.” And 32 years later, we’re still here. Those very hard two years drew us together. At that time we’d been married 16 years. The harshness of that time meant that we had to pull together in a way we’d never had to do previously. And as I look back on our married life, that was a very valuable time. I look back astonished that when I came to town and was getting rejected because I was viewed as a failure, she still believed. I’ll never forget that. I think that was an exceedingly good moment for our marriage. 

Helen, you overheard that conversation and you knew what that meant for your family. And so [David] comes to you and says, “What do you think about America?” Where was your mindset when he came to you with that? And then you get to America, everything’s unstable, you had no support, your culture’s new, everything’s new—the instability was visceral, I’m sure. What propelled you to be able to create that stability for your kids, for your marriage, just in general?
I’m very thankful that God did take everything away. Because if he had not, it would’ve been too easy to run away, run back. I knew David had run the gamut of his love of Christian music in Australia. You’ve got to put it in perspective. Australia is about the same landmass as America, which people don’t realize. It’s a huge country. We have one-tenth of the population that are centered around the coast, so we are like your northeast area more so than the Southern Bible belt area. So for him to be promoting Christian music to a population of 30 million with maybe five percent Christian, spread around this huge landmass, it was very hard. And he had come to me and said, “I just don’t know how long I can do this for.”

So when we lost the money on the tour, I said, “Do you think you can do anything else?” And he says, “I love what I’m doing. I love making a difference in people’s lives. I love music. Christian music is what I love to do.” So then thinking, “Well, the only place to go is America.” All the people we were bringing down were Americans. So that looked like hope, to tell you the honest truth. So I’m leaving Australia with hope for a new start that is going to put him in a place where people are going to see his giftings. He’s going to have a new life in a way, promoting Christian music, probably even being able to bring stuff back to Australia, but doing it from an American base, not an Australian base. So I’m seeing it as hope. Then we got here and reality kicks in that we have no car, we have no furniture, we have no family, we have no friends, we have no nest egg. We’re in a rental home. And you don’t survive in Nashville without a car. There’s no public transport. It’s not like Chicago or New York where you can get on a subway. And I was pregnant. I hadn’t been to a doctor by the time I came here because there was no point. I knew we were leaving. So there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of, “Wow, what’s this going to look like?”

In the early nineties where you lived in Brentwood, that area was very rural compared to [today]. You couldn’t get to a grocery shop without a car. We were fortunate that our neighbor loaned us a car for a period of time until she found out if we had an accident, they would be responsible financially. And then she was like, “I’ll drive you, but I can’t let you borrow the car anymore.” So we’re in survival mode. And as I said before, when you’re in survival mode, you’ve got to have hope. You’ve got to look for hope. There’s no point in seeing all the negatives because as soon as you see all the negatives, life just totally overwhelms you. And at this point, I’ve got six young kids who are looking at me thinking, “Well, how are we viewing all this?” And so if I give in, then it’s not just for me, it’s for a husband who’s trying to find new openings; he’s doing his work. Then you’ve got these six faces looking at you and they need hope too. So you actually have to look at it from a positive perspective because it’s not just going to overwhelm you; it’s going to overwhelm everybody. Each day, I’d just wake up and think, “Well, what have I learned?” You take the next step and you trust. You trust that God is with you on this journey and he is going to care for you, provide for you, strengthen you, give you peace, give you hope. Those are the things that as humans, every single one of us needs. And he was faithful. Was it easy? No. But he was there. 

In the film, you really illustrate that day-to-day struggle of just getting up and trying to figure a way. And you had great creative ways. It does show the miracles, which is great. 
Well, without the miracles we couldn’t have stayed, right? So you get to a point where you are trying to keep that positive perspective, but the day-to-day circumstances tend to be overwhelming. And you start to get discouraged. Every single time that happened, something let us know that God was still with us and that God knows. Then you just get up, do the next thing.

Is there a good example? 
There are multiple examples: someone dropping groceries off on our doorstep when we were getting low, a check coming in the mail, someone contacting us and wanting us to come and do a job—we were doing cash-paying jobs that would help put food on the table. We were doing those jobs as a family. Rebecca was babysitting and cleaning houses. I would often go with her to clean the houses. Sometimes it’d be Rebecca, me, and one of the boys going to clean houses. Those jobs would give us enough to go to a grocery shop and put food on the table. We’d only been here a couple of months and someone felt led to give us a car. And not just the old bomb car down the back. It was their brand new car. And so those things are significant. And I remember one time we had no gas in the car and we had no money. We’d been given a couch and Joel put his hands down all the way round the couch. He pulled out $2 in coins, which back then would get you a couple of gallons of gas. 

So we’d go to the gas station and I don’t think the guy had ever seen someone walk in and pay with coins, but it was $2 worth of gas and it got us to church and back. So there was resourcefulness. And I think sometimes we [want] God answering our prayer the way we want it answered. And it’s not always that. I liken it to the next step: It was the step that got us to church. It was the step that got food on the table. It was the step that gave us hope for David; he was looking for a record contract for Rebecca, and he got word that Word Records was going to be interested in her. It gives you hope to keep going.

There’s a parallel between single parent life and what you guys experienced. As we’re talking this month about instability, we fight; we don’t want instability. We don’t want to live in this place of dependence on God or David calls it “God’s economy.” We don’t really know how things are going to work out, but we just trust. We see little signs. This movie was a constant reminder of what I went through, and I did go through a season of losing everything. It was different than your season of losing everything. Interestingly enough, it happened to both of us in the period of time of our 40th birthday. It does transform the way you look at things. That’s what I love about being a single parent and understanding there’s hope: not that you’re going to get through it, but hope that you will be transformed because of this difficult season. It builds resilience in us. It also builds a foundation of where our hope really comes from. 

There is a powerful scene in the movie, David, with the Word Record contract—where you thought, “Okay, I’m finally starting to see this work out.” But then you move back a couple pegs and you feel like, “Okay, I tried everything. I did this. It looked hopeful. Now it’s dashed again.”

What did you learn during this season of all this instability and losing everything? What did you learn about surrender?
I thought I understood what surrender was like. It’s just kind of giving your will up. But when you can actually do nothing about the situation, surrender feels different to me. And when that record deal fell through, both Helen and I had difficulty getting out of bed the next day. [It was] the only time in the first two years that was the case. Where else do you go? Helen probably could report more accurately than me on this, but until this experience of coming to America, I had a passion for sharing the hope in Jesus through music. But if I had a conversation with you in my Australian days, I would talk about business. I wouldn’t talk about Jesus. Now I talk about both—how do we do music business almost from a church perspective? So the takeaway was we were trying to work out which way is up. Major takeaway was the church that loved on us. 

I was trying to remember how we ever got to church. David had come to America to manage an artist, John. He was out of town on the weekends and David would take him to the airport and we would borrow his car for the weekends and then he would go back and pick him up. So we had access to his car in that interim where we had none. We were actually much more mobile on the weekend than through the week. That was the deal for quite a while. And then if we needed a car during the week, we’d borrow the neighbor’s car. But there was no security. You talk about instability, there was no stability even in that it wasn’t our car. And I do know a couple of times when we needed to go [somewhere], we did ask somebody to come and pick us up, but that was hard too, because we’re a family of eight. So, put the driver in there and there’s not many cars that can fit that.

We had nowhere to go other than to the church. The church loved on the brokenhearted. A number of our neighbors were church people, not at our church. That was the answer to our ails because we connected to the local church and they put food on the table, loved on us. The guy gave us the car after church on Sunday. He would take us to the local Chinese restaurant and pay for it. We couldn’t afford to eat out or anything. Oh, we did eat out at Shoney’s on Wednesdays because kids eat free.

We became very resourceful. We became good friends with the Shoney people. To anyone who’s listening who might be struggling a little bit, the church gave us hope. The church was practical. In Australia, we would support people who were hurting at the church. Now suddenly we come to America, we are being supported. So I am a lover of the church. I’m cynical of the music business, I love the church. And those two years changed my perspective. 

I hope two things happen [with the movie]: It points people to Jesus and it points people to family. Helen made a comment the other day after we’d been to a showing of the movie and said, “Isn’t this crazy? They’re doing a movie on our story. Most of the time they do movies on people that are dead and we are not dead yet.”

I almost think everybody should go through what we went through because it energized us to have a passion about sharing the hope in Jesus. And I’m boringly loud about having a Jesus perspective. 

Helen, I’d love to just hear your perspective on how you framed it up for the kids so that they had that hope and also a sense of adventure and fun with it. 
It’s really crazy because the movie actually expresses it better than I could. We get into the rental home and realize there’s no furniture, no beds. It was still warm enough, so they didn’t need a lot of their sweaters and stuff. I had brought sheets, so we made up beds on the floor using the winter clothes. And in the movie [Helen] sits down on the floor and says, “Oh, these are adventure beds. A lot of people have adventure beds.” I mean, those aren’t my words, but there was an aspect of “we’re in this together.” I think I said it’s like camping out in the house.

We had a house but there was nothing in it. So we could do whatever we liked. We played cricket, which is like baseball, in the living room. The kids thought that was grand. Just being able to run around and you can’t knock into anything. That’s where I think perspective is so important because there’s two ways you can view that. You can view it with resentment: We have no beds. The kids have no beds. You poor kids. This isn’t fair. Everybody’s going to feel sorry for themselves if you go down that line. But to go down a different line where this is only for a period of time, and we’re all facing it, and we’re going to make the best of this, and having that bit of adventure aspect to it—kids are very flexible. They just go along with it. And then with regards to them working together, the movie expressed it extremely well. Everybody sat down in the furnitureless living room, and Helen put a jar in the middle and it’s got some cash in it. And she says, “This is what we are living on. It’s going to take all of us to keep this jar with money in it.” And again, I didn’t do it exactly like that, but the kids knew we had to pitch in and everybody needed to help. Everybody was on deck. So at the grocery shop, Joel would be checking underneath the shelves to see if there was any cash. And one time he found 20 bucks. In those days, there were payphones. He would go and raid every payphone. If we’d go to the airport, there were the carts or the trolleys that you would put back in the luggage carts. He would get 25 cents. Everything mattered. And I sometimes look at us as parents now. One, we don’t allow our kids to share in our journey. Secondly, we protect them a little too much. And so they don’t have that sense of purpose. They don’t have a sense of “I can do something even if it is just 25 cents” from this, that, or the other. And we felt very unified. Every single one of them felt needed. I’d had Libby when we were here—a babe in a stroller. When we were going out and raking leaves, my next chap who was maybe three and a half, would push her in the stroller. Everybody had a job. Everybody mattered. I remember one time we were mowing lawns. Someone had given us a ride-on mower and a push mower. So people were surrounding us, supporting us, doing what they could do to help our journey be easier. And that makes you feel very loved. And I remember the following year, the estate we were in all had one-acre properties and we were raking leaves, using the mowers to blow the leaves into a pile. And then we would drag the pile up to the back of the property. And I remember looking over and seeing Luke with his feet up on the steering wheel, sitting so comfortably back there. I mean the kid’s all of five or six. But all I’m thinking is, “Luke, we are all working. You can be dragging one of these just as much as me” and me sort of saying, “Get off the ride, get the other corner of this and help me drag it up the back” because everybody mattered. And I think it instilled something in them that lives on today. The crazy thing is God never wastes anything in those early days. We all knew we were a unit. We had to work together and everybody mattered and had a contribution to make.

About three or four years later, Rebecca got signed when she was 16. When we started traveling on the road, we all went together and the kids started doing the stage management and setting up all the equipment, lights, and sound for her. I look back and I think God had shown us how to work together from those early days when we were raking lawns, when we were cleaning houses, when we were mowing, and it continued through. He never wasted that. He was showing us that as a unit working together, we can actually achieve some pretty incredible things. And the amazing thing now is —we have bookend girls and five boys in the middle—those five boys are still working together. He didn’t waste any of those opportunities.

I think that’s encouragement for solo parents. The struggle’s real. And our tendency is to try to ease our kids in. We don’t want them to struggle. But there’s something beautiful and resilient that comes out of those seasons because those kids all saw God. Because they were walking so closely with us, they were the ones witnessing God in action. One of my brothers was a principal of Christian schools and he recognized that we can teach knowledge, we can teach the Bible, but until a child experiences God, he won’t own it for himself. And he said, “My challenge as a principal of a Christian school is, ‘How do I get my kids in this school to experience God before they leave?’” And I think that was the foundation of what happened in our home. Through that difficult time, the kids actually experienced God for themselves. They saw answered prayers. And once you have that foundation of experiencing God, your life’s changed forever.

Knowing what you know now, what would you go back and tell the younger Helen that has just landed in the States? 
A lot of times we look at closed doors, we look at the unfortunate, whatever that might be in our lives. We look at the disaster as a disaster. But I sometimes see it is actually a stepping stone. It’s an attention getter. God is doing something to lead us in a new direction; a closed door isn’t necessarily a disaster. It is actually God saying, “Well, that season’s finished. We’re going to a new season.” So my encouragement to my younger self and to somebody else who’s in that same position is to look for the hand of God. Look for him every day because he will be with you. That is a fact. And he will be showing you step by step.

All we are promised is that God will give us what we need for today. So if we can change our mentality and live in that moment, in that timeframe and take the next step forward, the next step will lead to another step and then there’ll be an open door. But it’s a journey. It’s not going to all be laid in your lap and tied with a bow looking neat and pretty. It’s taking those little steps of following God and he will lead you. So to me, a closed door is an attention getter to something new that God is doing.

Maybe the only way to get to true understanding of true stability is embracing instability. If you don’t embrace the need, if you don’t embrace the fact that we, on our own, are not capable of creating true stability, I don’t know you ever really uncover the miracle of what true stability is. It’s not found in self-reliance. And we might be all doing well today. You’ve got no idea what tomorrow’s going to bring. Every single one of us. That’s one thing I love about the movie because everybody relates. And for some people it’s because they’re a mom, they’re a dad, they’re a brother—everybody relates to a family structure because we all have a family, healthy, not healthy, whatever. And secondly, it’s showing a family going through a hard time and we all are having or will have a hard time; if we haven’t now, it’s coming. If we’re in it now, better days are coming, but it’s just par for the course. And those trials and tribulations are to mature us, grow us, to transform us to looking more like Jesus. So it’s not something to be pushed away, it’s not something to be resentful of. It’s actually something to embrace and see the good things and what God is doing.

David, what would you say to your younger David?
The biggest negatives in my life have become the biggest positives. Not getting a reduction on that tour forced us to come to America. And this is a crazy thing that I can say. I’ve had a wonderful life. But involved in that wonderful life is losing everything, starting all over again. And I would say to anyone who’s listening, it might be tough at the moment, but it’s an apprenticeship for the future. And I was protected from dysfunctional relationships. Looking back, there were relationships I was pursuing at the time that would’ve taken up all my time and wouldn’t have allowed me to focus on Rebecca’s ministry and then for King & Country’s ministry. So it’s fascinating. I think that the idea that we mentioned early about living on the edge, that’s when you see the miraculous. There’s something about American society: “Oh, don’t take any risks.” And I think when we live on the edge, that’s when we see God in action. And dare I say it, some terminology you heard before, “God’s economy.”

About 15, 16 years ago, I worked out that Christian music is very much in show business, more so than in the ministry. And I’m thinking, “What can I do in my small area of influence to maybe help change that?” So I committed to [a devotional] every meeting that I took. And some meetings are pretty interesting and some people don’t like it. I’ll do a devotional at the beginning of it and hopefully it gives them perspective. I remember about 10 years ago, an attorney here in town, probably the hardest-charging attorney in town, organized a contract for King & Country with Warner Brothers. He did a good job on it and I was sitting down to say thank you. And he’s one of toughest attorneys in town. He had represented Madonna, worked at a high level, and I shared a devotional with him. The toughest guy in town melted. It wasn’t anything that I said, it was the words of Jesus at some level. And I thought to myself, and “This is what Helen and I understand is hope in Jesus.”

Our mantra is to pursue Jesus, be in church. I think had we not embraced the church when we first came here 32 years ago, we would’ve gone back to Australia and it would not have been pretty. But those people in our local church are heroes. And it changed us. 

If you’re looking for an inspirational book, find something from Tim Keller. This is what he has to say: When David was in trouble, he felt God was not with him. And we’ve all been there. “I’m cut off from your sight.” During success, we can have the opposite feeling of “I will never be shaken,” which is just wrong. We must live on the basis of what God has revealed, not what we feel. And that’s a challenge to us all, isn’t it? Pilots who fly into clouds must follow their instruments even when those contradict their clear sense perceptions of what is up or they will inevitably die. We go through clouds of prosperity or adversity. We must not go on feelings of self-sufficiency, but rather trust a gracious, wise God. And he’s got a prayer here, which I think is a good way to finish. “Lord, if my heart doesn’t learn to trust your word when it tells me things I don’t want to hear, then my heart won’t accept it. When it tells me things, I desperately do want to hear about your love and forgiveness. Teach me to trust you.”

I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s such a great portrayal. And the thing I love about it is it’s very real. You spend time in the moments you don’t feel like you can get out of bed. And we all know where the story kind of ends because you guys have gone on to do amazing things as a family, but it doesn’t gloss over some of those very, very difficult things and the heartbreaking things—the last time you saw your father and not being able to be there. It really does depict things that feel completely unstable and the fact that there’s hope in the midst of instability. And that the struggle is for a purpose. And Helen and David, thank you for being with us today.

I just love what you guys do. It gladdens my heart and encourages me, and it’s almost emotional for me to say this, but Godspeed to you and Godspeed to all the solo parents listening.

Listener Question:
What would you tell your “just became a parent” self to not do again? And what things would you applaud yourself for?

Helen touched on this a little bit. I would say not to try to protect our kids too much from everything that they’re about to go through. I know as a single parent, this is heightened, but you want your kids to have what you didn’t have or you want to overcompensate. And the truth is as parent, we don’t want to see our kids going through struggle and going through hardship. But it actually is building resilience in our kids. And I think that’s one thing I would definitely caution myself to do. Look, there are times that we do need to show up and be there, but there are also times where it’s actually for their good that they struggle. I think one of the things that I would applaud myself for, especially in the later years when I became a single dad, was that I was pretty present. I really was good about putting the phone down, shutting the computer, whatever it was, if they came into the room and just be all in. 

Fear drove me a lot and I was a little helicoptery. Overprotective mama bear. And so I’d probably say to loosen up a little bit. Let the kid fall down, let the kid get hurt, let the kid learn from mistakes. I’ve loosened up over the years in that regard, trying to be more intentional about not being that way. So hopefully I’ve righted the ship, but I probably messed some things up early on. And then something I applaud myself for—I guess you could make the argument either way that this is bad or good, but when Jax was a baby, I always wanted him to see me smiling so that he felt safe and that he felt at ease. And he was the easiest, happiest baby. So it was really easy for me to always be smiling; I just always wanted him to see that. I always wanted him to feel that safety from me, that everything’s okay, everything’s going to be okay. And that was from day one.