I have very few concrete memories of the first few weeks after Kristen died. I was so consumed with grief, and I wasn’t getting much sleep with a newborn sleeping in a cradle next to me, that the days and nights blended together. All I remember is a general sense of fatigue and darkness. If I hadn’t had my children depending on me, it would have been very easy to shut down, slip into depression, and stop living. But Elizabeth and Ian needed me, so what was I todo? Let them take care of themselves? Hand them over to my parents so that they could care for them? That option just didn’t make sense to me.
“These are MY children,” I thought, “I have to take care of them!”
And that’s what I’ve done.
Over the last sixteen months, my role has changed from being part of a team raising two kids to being the primary provider, playmate, nurse, chef, helper, supporter, reader, bather, and prayer warrior for Elizabeth and Ian. When other parents might argue over whose turn it is to change the dirty diaper, that never occurs in my house.
When my kids are hungry, I feed them.
When they are dirty, Iclean them.
When they are excited, I play with them.
When they are talking, I listen to them.
When they are crying, I hear them.
When they are tired, I pray with them and put them to bed.
When they are hurt, scared, angry, fussy, or confused, I console them.
When Elizabeth cut her foot and needed to go to the hospital for stitches, I took her.
I have become both father and mother to my children, and it’s only by the grace of God that I am able to assume both roles.
But there is one area of Elizabeth’s life I will never be able to help her with, and that’s puberty.
I cannot possibly guide Elizabeth down the path from being an innocent child to a mature woman. Kristen and I had decided before Ian was born that she would help Elizabeth make that adjustment, and I would do the same for Ian. It seemed like a tidy arrangement given our own life experiences. But that plan won’t work anymore. In my heart I had planned my course, but yet again the Lord is determining my steps.
If God allows me to stay in this same area after I finish my doctorate, I do have several female friends at church I can turn to for help. Many of them have already taken Elizabeth under their wing and act as surrogate mothers to her, and I know they are qualified to answer any questions she might have. But it still hurts knowing that Elizabeth doesn’t have her mother to walk with her down that path.
Part of this journey is recognizing my limitations. I’ve had to learn to swallow my pride and rely on the generosity of others. It really does take a village to raise a child. There’s only so much I can do for my kids, so we wouldn’t be where we are today without the love, support, and prayers we’ve received from others.
Who am I? I’m a single father, and I’m humbled.