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Fatherly Forum

I’m A Single Dad And Here’s Everything I’m Scared I’m Doing Wrong

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I can’t be alone, right? I can’t be the only father out here who’s scared to death every single day of having to raise my child alone. My child, a 14-year-old daughter who’s just entered high school. Just thinking about it makes me want to run to the hills somewhere and sit with some monks.

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Since it’s too late for running, my only option is to cope. Well more than cope, because coping doesn’t get the job done. Not around here. Not when what I decide to feed her for breakfast every morning feels like a life or death decision. Or whether or not to watch a third straight episode of Stranger Things even though it would run past her bedtime.

There may be some things you’d never get me to admit, but the fact that I’m scared as hell being a single parent isn’t one of them. I say that boisterously, as my stomach knots typing this article. Few things are more frightening than thinking of what might happen if I don’t get this right.

But then I think; what does “getting this right,” really mean? Should I be a helicopter parent? That might work. I’d take days searching through her smartphone for any inappropriate conversations. Maybe I’ll drop her and pick her up from school everyday and get there early so I can ridicule which friends she comes out the door with. Or maybe I should do the complete opposite and just allow her to make all the decisions on her own.

Just the thinking about it makes me want to run to the hills somewhere and sit with some monks.

Then there’s the fact that she’s a girl. She’s my only child so I have no idea how raising a boy would be any different, but raising a girl has its own challenges. I try to be the example. Try to show her what good work ethic looks like. Everyday after school, dinner is ready. We sit, eat, and watch Ellen. By 5:00 PM the TV is off and she’s doing her homework on the living room floor while I busy myself writing on my laptop.

I sneak glances over as her head is buried in at least 2 textbooks, or as she punches numbers into her calculator (she got 100 percent on her last few math tests.) I wonder if the apartment is too cold, or what she thinks when I tell her not to leave her jacket on the couch and then she comes home and see’s my sweater in the exact same spot. I think about if she liked dinner enough to bring it to school for lunch the next day.

Then I think about the next day. Maybe I should take her to a movie even though it’s a school night. Maybe we should go for a walk along Queen street and see what’s happening. She loved eating the “pulled pork” at that vegan restaurant I took her to. We’ve been back twice already.

I’m wondering how much all of these decisions really matter. Which ones I should give the most weight and which ones I’m just tripping out about for no reason. I’m guessing they all matter somewhat. Everything means something, right? Who really knows the answers.

I’ve never read one book on parenting. Ever. And that’s saying something because I read a lot. I’m not sure how much of a conscious decision that’s been. It may just be that I was a parent when I was still a kid. Literally. So I kind of threw myself into the fire. No guide book necessary.

She’s my only child so I have no idea how raising a boy would be any different, but raising a girl has its own challenges.

Now here I am with a daughter counting on me for everything. I can tell she’s rooting for me. She wants me to do well. She gives me chances, let’s some things slide. Like me forgetting to pack her lunch in the mornings. Or not buying enough snacks or drinks for school. She’s good like that.

I’m trying though. That’s all I can do. Scared or not, there’s no delegating when you’re a single parent. No passing the baton. We’re in this together, me and my not so little girl. And she’s still alive so I must be doing something right. Right?

Kern Carter is the author of “Thoughts Of A Fractured Soul” and a proud millennial. You can read more from him at www.kerncarter.com.