The Lament of the Single Mother

Three months old with chubby legs and big, round shining eyes
That look at me in confusion as I walk away,
Leaving you with a stranger in a strange, sterile place.
You start to cry as I disappear
And I cry, too.
The Lament of the Single Mother.

Weeks turn to months, this is old hat now.
I gather our lives in a diaper bag,
Drop you at daycare, ignoring your pleas.
But as I sit at work alone on my break, pumping your meal in a darkened room,
I cry
The Lament of the Single Mother.

I turn around and you’re five years old
The star of your kindergarten play.
Why did they hold the production at 10 a.m.?
I wonder as I look through the pictures your teacher emailed me.
And my saddened heart sings
The Lament of the Single Mother.

Third graders get to play football with helmets!
You tell me, big, bright eyes excited.
Three long months later you want to quit:
You’ve fallen behind the kids whose dads play catch with them after school.
We are not quitters! I say.
But I let you stop anyway because I don’t know how to help you.
Together we cry
The Lament of the Single Mother.

It’s summer and your uncles ask
If you can stay with them until school starts back up.
The drive from Houston to Utah is long
But once there you have the time of your life.
In August you cry; you don’t want to come home.
I cry, too,
The Lament of the Single Mother.

At the end of the month, you’ll walk through
Your elementary school doors for the final time.
I can’t believe my baby is almost in junior high.
I offer to buy you a yearbook;
You think it’s too late.
Baffled.
Why you didn’t tell me the deadline had come and gone?!
You didn’t ask because you assumed we couldn’t afford it.
I hug you close and my soul whimpers
The Lament of the Single Mother.

When I look back on your life thus far,
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
I smile and remember bringing you home
From the hospital without a name, in spite of the nurses ire.
You were a boy, not a girl – the surprise of my life.
Your daddy, in prison, couldn’t be reached.
So I waited to name you until I talked to him.
I was sad at the time, but it makes for a funny story today.
And laughter drowns out
The Lament of the Single Mother.

I hope that the laughter is what I recall
Each time I look back on this wild ride we’ve shared.
But I pray the laughter never erases the sting of these experiences.
So that each time I meet a mother like me,
I can call upon my past and open my arms.
And our tears will intermingle as softly I say,
I understand.
Then together we will sing the bittersweet harmony of
The Lament of the Single Mother.

ilaiasi and me cartoon

4 responses to “The Lament of the Single Mother

  1. That was beautiful Kalani. Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts.

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  2. I too have been a single mother at different points in my life. I do understand completely. Thank you so much for sharing…

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  3. Pingback: The Lament of the Single Mother | Well-Behaved Mormon Woman

  4. Im not a single mother but I was raised by one. This really spoke to my heart. I remember missing out on movies or ice cream with my friends because I knew we didn’t have the money for it. I remember seeing my mom cry in the evening because the weight of all she had to do as a single parent was heavy.
    The older we got the more we could help financially and I loved being able to give my mom my check . She always gave it back saying to use it to take care of the things I needed. 🙂
    I’ll always be grateful for her and the independence I had at such a young age. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Happy Father’s day to all the single parents out there! I love you mom

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