When I became a single parent, advice from outsiders seem to flow like water.
“It’s your chance to start over.”
“Don’t worry. Children are resilient. They’ll be fine.”
“You won’t be single long.”
“Use this time to have some fun.”
And while all of the comments were meant for good, and at the root, the people saying them were trying to be helpful, I began to notice a trend:
It was all about me.
It sent me back to a time thirty years before, when my own parent’s marriage fell apart and I was a child. At the age of 13, I soon realized that my opinion no longer mattered. That I would be told where to go, who to go with, where to live, and how to spend my holidays for the rest of my childhood. Quite honestly, it lasted longer than that.
I don’t remember anyone asking how I felt about it—without already having an answer they expected me to say.
No one seemed to care that I was in pain over the loss of my family. Instead, all of the adults were moving on, starting over, and having fun. All under the assumption, I’m sure, that my brothers and I were “resilient”. We’d be just fine.
Except that we weren’t.
And, it wasn’t the break-up of the family that crushed us. Because if the truth be told, I begged my mother to leave my father. It was a bad situation that none of us deserved to be in. It was what happened afterwards that changed me.
The loss of my voice.
The insignificance of my feelings.
The nonchalant attitude that all of the adults seemed to take around us. Nodding at each other as we continued to do well in school, and activities, and seemingly everything—as if to say, “See there, they are resilient. They haven’t missed it at all.”
They were wrong.
So. Very. Wrong.
So, as a newly single parent, I know one thing to be truer than anything else in my life:
It’s not about me.
This family that has fallen apart was not a family of one. This is not my time to throw caution to the wind and traipse through every dating opportunity as if I have something to prove. There are innocents involved.
And their voice matters to me.
Your children’s voices should matter to you too. Because your real role in this season of your life is to not only find healing, but to help your children find healing as well. To focus on them. To listen to them. To stop assuming things about them that are only true for yourself.
To see them as the unique individuals they are, with voices that yearn to rise up and be heard, so they know that their pain matters too. That their pain isn’t something to push gently to the side, but to be brought to the table, and talked about, and cried over.
It’s about them.
These incredible blessings that God has placed right in our very paths. That during overwhelming times can feel burdensome—because our own pain is so much. But, when we allow them a voice, we soon find that we are not alone in our pain. That there are others who feel it too. Just as deeply. And who long for healing just as we do.
When we allow our children a voice we might hear things we don’t want to hear. We might find pain in the words that come. It’s the very reason that so many of us would prefer not to ask them. But, we need to do it anyway. So they can see that despite what has happened, they are still the most important people in our lives. That they are still loved. That their pain matters. And that we want to help them heal.
Just as they were witnesses to their family falling apart, they’re still watching. To see if they matter. To see if their new version of family is still important to us. To see if we love them.
To see if it’s all about us, or them.