August 19th, the beginning of school, was more harrowing for me than for my fifteen year old daughter. I was worried that her school mates would recognize her clothes as last year’s, and that they would tease her mercilessly.
At thirty six, I became single and unemployed at the beginning of this summer, so I was completely unprepared for the impact of this double whammy on our usual preparation for back to school in the fall. It helps that Orlando where I live is not one of the most expensive cities, but the strain on our household is still telling.
Challenges to Single Parenting are Plentiful
I am a mother of two girls, a teen and a toddler, and I don’t expect single parenting to be smooth sailing. However, the following challenges have been particularly difficult.
Shopping: It’s no fun telling a fashion conscious teen to put a hot pair of jeans back on the rack because we are not doing designer clothes this season. Or make trips with her to the clearance rack in search of the best of the worst. To make matters worse, my daughter is surrounded by cousins her age who spent the summer replenishing their wardrobes with the latest trends. But I have discovered that not being able to buy all she wants does have its advantages. I get to teach her about priorities, and she is learning to make choices.
Dining: My family no longer takes food for granted. The food we consume is carefully budgeted to ensure that it is affordable, sufficient and nutritious . Like most teenagers, my daughter has a constant craving for fast food. Normally, she stops at Taco Bell after school to buy her favorite meal, quesadilla. However, with limited pocket money, she is forced to head straight home and eat from the family pot. As I have come to recognize the benefits of wholesale clubs like BJ’s and Sams’, she has been learning to appreciate the taste of tinned pink salmon and chicken breast.
Schooling: As an honor student, my daughter, Angel, was required to read “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer and “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, among other books, before the start of school. To my dismay, the summer ended without me being able to provide her with any of the books. If that’s not bad enough, I also could not provide her with a new school bag or a new pair of shoes.
Lessons Learned From the Experience
I am learning that parenting is about teaching one’s children resilience and determination. While my toddler remains blissfully unaware of the reasons she can’t get a second pack of M&M’s, I am most proud of my oldest, Angel, who is handling the situation with such aplomb and grace. I watch her as she goes ‘shopping’ in her own closet, finding items long discarded and wearing them with such poise that it brings tears to my eyes. I watch as she immerses herself in her studies, unmindful of the inanities that consume other fifteen year old girls. I am buoyed by her faith in me, and am even more determined to succeed as a single mother.