She sang and smiled, both to a happy boy strapped in a car seat in the back of her car. He smiled and appeared to sing, too.
Her license plate read “Noah N me,” and there were small stick figures in the back window of her small car of a smiling woman and a smiling boy. There’s a bond between a single parent and a child, because the parent sometimes has to pull double duty.
Single parenting is not easy, though. There are struggles, times when a parent feels all alone, times when they feel overwhelmed. It can feel that way even with the support of a loving spouse, of course. Parenting is smiling and singing, but it’s also weeping and screaming.
Please welcome today Kim from Co-Pilot mom. She’s from Canada, making her my first official guest poster from another country (unless you count New Jersey, right Ilene?).
Kim, a self-proclaimed geek (they have those in Canada, apparently), writes eloquently of life as a co-pilot to her two captains. You’re going to love her stuff, just like I do.
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Before we had children, I always assumed – and maybe my husband, David, did, as well – that I would take the lead in the whole parenting thing. I was an early childhood educator, after all – I knew a thing or two about young children. My husband worked with grown-ups in a professional environment. What did he know about parenting?
When our oldest son, Captain Alpha, was born, I tried to guide my husband’s parenting with gentle reminders:
Support his head, he likes it when you pat his back, sing to him
David would always go along with my suggestions – he never questioned my wisdom or techniques.
Early on, though, I realized that I didn’t really know anything more about being a parent than he did. A classroom full of preschoolers did not help prepare me for feeding and diapering a newborn, or dealing with sleep-deprivation. This was uncharted territory for both of us – we were just making our way the best we could.
We found a new routine and got to know our son. I gradually found my stride and gained a little confidence. I was all about the nurturing. I loved to cuddle Alpha and read to him and when he slept, I just wanted to stare at him.
Eventually, David fell into his own parenting rhythm, too. His style emerged – a little rougher, a little more humour-infused – and yes, maybe a little more relaxed with some things.
After a while, he didn’t go along with my suggestions unquestioningly. He started to have his own opinions.
“It’s fine. He’s fine,” he would protest when I suggested that Alpha’s hat wasn’t tied or his pants were riding up too high on his chubby little legs on a chilly day.
One day I saw David bring Alpha to the change table and pretend to lay him down dramatically – in the style of a WWE-wrestling-type body slam – before placing him gently on the change pad.
When I worried aloud that he was too loud and too rough-house-y, his scoffs – and Alpha’s laughter – silenced my concerns.
“This is what I do,” he would tell me. “You do nurture. I’ll do nurture slams.”
So we did. We did the diapers and the dressing and the feedings. We did the waking and the putting to sleep and the reading.
But we each bring our own pieces of parenting to our family puzzle; our individual styles make our family unique.
We found balance – when one of us was worried, the other reassured; when one of us got bogged down, the other was comic relief. Add in some cuddles and kisses – and even a few nurture slams – and we found our way as parents and deepened our connection as partners. He taught me that while expectation and worries about proper clothing are important – having fun is, too.
These days, I like to sit back and watch the wrestling and the teasing and the laughter that my boys share with their dad – for it has become one of the brightest lights in our home.
Do you and your partner have similar parenting styles?
Kim is an early childhood educator turned stay-at-home mom in Nova Scotia, Canada. She writes about co-piloting two small Captains until they are flying on their own at her blog, Co-Pilot Mom. A fan of Jane Austen, science fiction, and cooking shows, Kim often entertains fellow motorists (and embarrasses her family) by singing in the car. She is a beginning runner who is partial to coffee, chocolate and fresh bread.