There are so many parts of my life that have shaped me as an adult woman and, more importantly, shown me how to “queen.” Out of all of those, growing up with my mom as my sole parent was the most influential. I don’t like to think about myself as growing up “without a dad,” but more like growing up with the best parent possible.
I know there are tons of people out there who live in a single-parent household, and believe me, it shapes you in ways you would never think it would. But honestly, I didn’t realize not having a dad was something that would affect me until I was much older.
“No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn’t there”
Throughout my childhood, my family was constantly referring to us as “Diane and her girls.” It was a label I wore proudly, as the amount of love and admiration I had for my mom as a young child was unworldly. Don’t get me wrong, I still love and admire my mom very much, but as a child, I was glued to her side.
Being the “pack” of four that we were, I honestly did not realize I didn’t have a dad until my friend’s mom got re-married when I was in the 2nd grade. Because she had only had a mom, it never occurred to me that anything was “missing.”
I will never forget this one day, laying in bed next to my mom (I’d snuck in bed to sleep with her whenever I could till I was at least 11, and I still sleep next to her whenever I can!), but this one day, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and explained to me that I had a father, but that when I was about 1, he had decided he did not want to be in my life due to conflicts that the two of them were having. I remember not really understanding why my mom was so emotional, but trying to console her and let her know that I was okay with her as my sole parent. I had my grandpa, and uncles, and I honestly did not feel the void.
I actually met my father once when I was 13 years old. He showed up at my grandparents’ house on my birthday, and my mom asked me if I wanted to meet him. I didn’t understand the magnitude of that situation at the time, but I do remember looking at him on her doorstep and thinking, this is a stranger. He handed me a birthday card with my name spelled wrong, and I never saw him again. We had a couple brief interactions over the phone, but by the time I was out of high school, it was too late and I wasn’t interested in a relationship any longer. I still am not.
“I reminisce on the stress I caused”
In my teenage years, I was hard on my mom. Because she worked hard to make sure we had the “necessities,” that meant I did not have a lot of the “luxuries” that my friends had. I spent a lot of my high school years angry with her and feeling like I was missing out because she couldn’t afford to get me the cell phone everyone else had. I had to fundraise like crazy for cheerleading camp while I watched my friends’ parents writing their checks for the whole season. I didn’t have a car waiting for me in the driveway when I turned 16 as so many of my friends did.
One luxury she did work her ass off for was to send me on a trip to London. At cheerleading camp I had won “all star” during the sessions. This meant I was invited to go to London and represent USA cheer by marching and performing in the London New Year’s Day Parade in 2006. I remember thinking this was something that was not a necessity and was a dream that I might never experience. But when I told her, she was so proud of me and so excited for me that there wasn’t even a discussion about me not going. My mom worked extremely hard, taking on extra jobs, saving, and she may have even gotten a loan so that she could not only send me to London, but also give me ample spending money.
To this day I really have no idea how she was able to pay all that money, right before Christmas, and still put on a beautiful Christmas for me and my sisters. As an adult, I understand the cost of travel so much better and now realize how superhuman it was that she did that for me while also supporting a household with my two sisters and disabled uncle.
“I appreciate the way that you raised me, and all the extra love that you gave me”
Now that I am older, I write this with tears in my eyes, because I can only imagine a fraction of what my mom must have felt having to explain to me my father’s absence. As an adult, she told me that when my father first left, I would go to the screen door each day and wait for him to come home from work. She said after a few months, I stopped. I honestly do not remember that at all, and I want her to know that that has in no way, shape, or form contributed to me as an adult.
What did shape me, though, was my mother’s strength. By the age of 26, she had three young girls and was all alone. In my childhood I remember her always trying her best to plan fun outings for us. We always had food on the table and clothes on our back. While we did move quite often from condos to my grandparents’ home to various single-family homes, she always made sure we had the necessities.
“And when it seems that I’m hopeless, you say the words that can get me back in focus”
The hardest truth to face was when I turned 18 and was about to graduate from high school. My mom was so proud of me, but also had a sadness to her that year. I was talking about college and my friends that were going out of state. As I was applying to college, it did not even occur to me that if my mom didn’t have the money to send me to gradnight, she didn’t have the money to send me to college.
After high school I moved to Ventura and in with my grandma to go to the local community college. Even though my mom couldn’t pay for me to go to school, I still felt her presence every step of the way. When we talked she would say, “This is it. You might struggle now, but it means you won’t need to struggle later.” I needed to be away from her for those 5 years (Yep. It took me 5 years, and we will get to that story in another post). I missed her and I loved her, but I needed that time to figure out life on my own and really learn what it was to “struggle.” The look of pride on her face the day I graduated from Sacramento State University was worth it all.
Ain’t a Woman alive that can take my mama’s place
Now, as I quickly approach my 30’s, the amount of appreciation, understanding, and love I have for my mom is indescribable. I think of some of the unconventional parenting practices I lived with my mom, like watching Boyz in the Hood, eating a crazy amount of fast food because it was what she could afford, and wearing pajamas as bathing suits because she couldn’t afford actual ones, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Even her love for 2pac (which, as you can tell, has inspired a lot of this post) has shaped me. Whether or not she knows it, all of those experiences gave me the grit, work ethic, empathy, and confidence that I might not have had otherwise.
In closing, my hope is that anyone reading this walks away with a renewed appreciation for your parents. Whether you have a single parent or both, and no matter what age you are, please appreciate the support you have been given, no matter how large or small.
If you are from a single-parent household, I encourage you to think about where you are in your life and where your parent was at that same age. What sacrifices did they have to go through to get you to where you are or to help you push yourself?
As I mentioned earlier, I spent too much time resenting my mom for the things I didn’t have, and now, I look back and appreciate those experiences so much because they have made me who I am today, and have also made me appreciate every single aspect of the life I have made for myself with the encouragement and love from my mom.
To my mom, please know that this lyric will always resonate with me, and it is the truth, to my core, of our relationship: There’s no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated.