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Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Oct 20 / Peter Lichtenberg

Solo Parenting

DadI have been avoiding writing about parenting alone ever since I began my blog. Why?

Parenting alone, and I mean all alone, with no spouse or ex-spouse in the picture, is intimidating. Parenting alone after the death of the spouse who is the most present and powerful force in the family is downright scary. At first I thought that we would find the right nanny to be a loving force for my then 12-year old son and 9-year-old daughter, and that this would add to my love and care. A little over two years and four nannies later, I gave up on that idea. Now I am it; chief cook, chauffeur and daily problem solver.

Susan and I were very conscious, and I mean both of us, that our relationship was the most important one and that only by attending to it, could we provide a basis for happy parenting. Now I feel that I need to nurture my own health, if I am to be a happy parent. Yesterday a friend told me, “You just need to love your children; they are like a mirror to yourself, and you should put all of your energy in parenting.” This unsolicited advice sounded a lot like a lecture: “Peter, you don’t love your kids enough.” This brought me face-to-face with one of the biggest challenges of grieving—unwanted and unhelpful advice. As if to say “Peter, if you only listened to me your grief and healing would be over.”

Does grief scare people so much that they need to “solve it”? It reminds me that Susan loved and accepted me; all of me. She knew my frailties and vulnerabilities (and I knew hers) better than anyone, but she always accepted and loved me, and never wavered in her deep belief in me. I did the same for her. In the past week, people have been incredulous that I lack confidence in certain areas of my life, and believe that I apparently don’t love my kids. I’m still listening to Susan; she didn’t try to solve the grief she knew I would have; she shared her love and care and let me do the same. She always told me that I was a great dad. It’s her words I choose to believe.