Ode to the Mediocre Parent


This is an ode to all the single moms who take heart in the stories about decent, smart, well-adjusted adults who were also raised by single moms – those asexual demigoddesses who worked three jobs, never slept, and somehow impossibly arrived at every soccer game – but who can’t manage much more than preparing a home cooked meal every night, except those days when they’re just too tired or they’ve started their period or the chicken went bad before its expiration date and they just can’t bring themselves to eat eggs one more day.

This is an ode to the single dad who fought the odds and won custody of his beloved little girl and now he works the graveyard shift – the best paying job he could find – and brings home enough money to not only make ends meet, but to take his sweet daughter school clothes shopping at the Gap; a man who sits patiently outside the dressing room and endures the stares of the other parents, all moms who shuffle their own daughters subtly away from him and his blue-collar hands while giving him a sidelong glance, just so he can see his daughter’s face when she steps out in her new frilly skirt and hear her ask, “Can I have it?”

This is to all the parents who plunge their own toilets and ham-fist minor construction projects to quietly, privately save pennies to afford the school lunches their kids complain about, but which are essential anyway and, besides, they’ve tried sending their kids to school with a sacked lunch from home and just can’t afford to pay for anymore lunchboxes or Tupperware containers – even the disposable ones.

Week-on, week-off parents of high needs adolescent twin boys who make it to the end of your parenting week face down, one hand barely over the finish line, unmoving, long after the grand stands have cleared while the custodians sweep up the confetti around you: you made it. This one is for you, too.


This is an ode to the very young grandma of the three boys, who never sees her daughter and, in fact, anticipates every day that today may be the one where she gets the call her daughter is dead by overdose, or beating, or alcohol poisoning, or suicide; yet, she sees her grandsons once a week for dinner, which is all the energy and time she can muster in her hectic life, and even though she has to negotiate with her abusive ex-son in law, who is actually the superior parent, and even though she has to side-step the questions, “Mom? Mommy? See mom?” and instead distract and play and teach the ABCs and be present and whole, she still commits to her weekly visits because two hours is better than none and, god damn it, it fucking matters.

This is also for the parents who maybe just didn’t shout as much this week or who stuck with their commitment to no longer smoke cigarettes or who let their kids sneak the iPod because they needed to get good sleep and not have that fight again – and even though it was just as hard as every other week, these parents made healthful choices that supported the oxygen mask idea and they made it to the end of the week fully erect, even if in last place.

dancing finish line

This is for all the parents of high needs, low needs, no needs, typical, atypical, sanguine, asshole, smart, or just plain smartass children who fail and keep going and know that the race is only between them and themselves and that good enough is actually great.

You’re doing enough.


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