A short story
By Rebecca Ramdhan
There are many stories that float around about having one parent instead of two. Stories that differ from mine, because people are different, and you can’t just guess as to what happens in someone’s life. There are reiterations all over the world about children wanting another parent, wondering about all the what-ifs that come with thoughts of who that other person might have been, and why they aren’t in their life now. Those days that are spent deliberating while staying put in an empty house, “guarding” the house (as my mom would call it). I didn’t do much of any of this until I was too old to stay at the daycare they had on her college campus, though.
My days at that daycare were spent without much consideration for what hardships my mom faced. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of things that distract a child. I didn’t really know what my mom was going through back then because it wasn’t something I really noticed. All my concerns were limited to toys, friendships, dirt, and whether a caretaker was fun or a killjoy. It was only when I started to grow up, when I began to grasp the inner-workings of this world, that I began to understand what was happening. Those tired smiles, the late nights, the whispery voice of someone fighting to stay awake just a little longer.
Speculation and some experiences attest to a “lack of love” within a household where a child has only one parent. I like to think there wasn’t any less love than what I perceived based on my mom’s actions. It’s one thing to say you love someone, but it’s another to show it. My mom worked a great deal and put a lot of pressure on herself to provide for me. And I wouldn’t complain past the general “you’re pushing yourself too much”, because she wanted the best for me. I knew that, and I knew it was because she loved me. So I gave myself a role as time continued on (and as I had too much time on my hands to think about everything). I decided I would do the very best I could for myself.
That meant maturing a bit faster in some ways. I learned how to do small things for the sake of keeping my mom from worrying about me in those areas. I would teach myself how to make breakfast and lunch for myself, even dinner if I had to, just so mom didn’t have to fret over making me something. Getting dressed for myself at a young age was one more thing. Getting to school and back by myself, safely, was another. Getting good grades and studying hard so she wouldn’t have to think about helping me with homework? Done and done. When I was old enough to work and save up for myself, even in the smallest ways, and when I got my license with the intent to run errands in her stead, all of it was to help. All of the small things that might make her stress out in the slightest, I did…in hopes of lightening her burden. She would never consider me a “burden” specifically, but I had it in my head to make sure it never crossed her mind in the first place, because I wanted her to be as happy as she was trying to make me.
It occurred to me at some point in life, around the end of my high school life, that as much as I could maybe feel alone when she wasn’t home, she could feel like she was leaving me alone. My mom might feel trapped at work wishing she were home to be with me, to give me the attention she thinks I deserve. Especially with all the studies going on about how hard it is on the children of single parents. The day I realized that I called her while she was at work. I asked her if I could visit her and stay until she was done so I could go home with her. Or, if that wasn’t doable if it was okay to have lunch with her the next day. And ever since then, I spent at least an hour with her at her job, whenever things were idle, and even if we didn’t get a chance to talk, we were close. I would go home with her some days, I would share a meal with her other days. And helped the both of us, I think.
After all, for my whole life, it was just my mom and I. I had no siblings, I had no one else like her to lean on, because she’s family. And I’m her family. We were each other’s support system, and as much as I needed her, she needed me. It was a huge revelation, really, and I’m glad I realized it so early on in life. I wanted to be there for her as much as she wanted to be there for me.
Just as anything in this whole world has negatives, there are positives. It just depends on what weighs more in your mind, and it can take a conscious decision to make sure the good outweighs the bad. I love my mom, and I am so grateful. I always will be. It takes a lot of courage and hard work to do what my mom managed to do for me. No life is lived without risks, anyway.
Whatever someone’s story is, whoever their family is, whether they’re a child of a single parent or the single parent themselves, it’s worth it. It’s worth the time, and effort, and trial, and error…and everything that comes with life. Doing one’s best is all you can hope to do, and with that, trusting that whatever happens afterward, none of it is in vain.
Or…that’s what I think, at least.