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My single mom is the superhero Superman wishes he could be

facts & arguments

Single mom, super mom

I do not see someone who struggles to pay the bills, Kira Matskofski writes. I see the woman who never let me down and never will

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Single motherhood. Two words that hold stigma, commitment and perseverance. If you ask single mothers what they believe the words to mean, they will say that this is the one-woman troupe that keeps the family afloat.

They will gallantly tell you that this is a day-to-day job with unforeseen hospital visits, non-stop community clean up and absolutely no promotions. These silent heroes will wistfully recall the 3 a.m. wake-up calls to puke-stained Barbie bedspreads, amputated giraffe toys (because no sibling won the tug-of-war) and homework that went undone – not without struggle. They will tell you of the woes of doing it all alone. They will recall the visits to the parks where their children climbed monkey bars as if they were conquering Mount Everest, while all they could notice were the moms that offered juice boxes to their children who tugged on their dads' shirts. They will say that they wish they could have given their children more. Their eyes will gleam with held-back tears when they say that, while they are proud of the people that their little rascals have become, they always wish that they could have provided more.

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Children of single mothers, however, think differently. Instead of seeing an exhausted zombie fervently packing three lunches in the morning, I saw mom waking us up from our night's rest to the welcoming sound of Bugs Bunny on the Panasonic television. I saw a teacher that simultaneously taught algebra, the lifecycle of a frog and spelling to a classroom of three so that school the next day was easier. I will never recall the puke-stained Barbie sheets but will remember the calm that fell over me when mom came to the rescue. I will forever remember mom showing up to every school event, wearing her high-heeled flip-flops, purple-tinged sunglasses and that classic smile that made a fervent spread in the pit of my six-year-old belly. Performing the senior kindergarten graduation song came easier after she had shifted in her seat and settled in the heart of her child.

As a child of a single mother, I do not see someone who struggles to pay the bills, make ends meet, or a woman who anxiously paints a smile on her face when life does not run so smoothly. I see the mom that goes to the farm with us for my school trip, the alternative comfort when the nightlight has quit and the person who remembers that while I liked chocolate milk, my brother liked white and my sister liked nothing. At all. I see the person who has never let me down, and never will. She is the one who taught me to be strong, confident and benevolent. She has also made me aware of my self-worth and has taught me to have the capability to politely stand up for myself with choice words that hold maximum effect. I was the only primary student that called my peers dingleberries when my hats were made fun of or my opinions were disregarded. What a large word for the playground back then.

I grew to see the struggle that was hidden behind the cape that was tethered to my mother's neck for the entirety of my childhood. I saw the stress that ran through her head emerge into my physical world through the cursive loops of journals found under beds and bills tucked away in drawers. I saw the effort poured into everyday tasks. Grocery shopping could never be a quick trip as we all had to tag along. Apples would be picked by eight hands instead of just two, granola bars would be turned down for Jos Louis snacks and Fruit Roll-Ups would be hidden beneath the glossy bag of those dreaded grapes. Parent-teacher interviews would last hours as they would morph into parent-teacher-student-sibling interviews. Extra chairs would need to be pulled from dusty custodial closets and placed in the hallway so that we had a place to sit. The shuffling out of our shared two-bedroom apartment would resemble that of an assembly line on our way to the silver-tinted Pontiac in which Whitesnake would be played on our way to school. Here I Go Again was right.

It is the recollection of these times that make me realize the truth behind my lack of yearning for a more stable familial unit. In times of adversity, gaiety and annoyance, we were never truly alone. While single motherhood may be a one-woman troupe, a family headed by a single mother is a team. We are the alliance that will bicker through linked arms and intertwined hearts while heeding the rumblings of upcoming conflicts. It is the overcoming of a sibling's diagnosis, another's Individual Education Plan statement and the death of a once-shared dog that makes up single motherhood. It is the acceptance of the world's snide remarks, pitiful glances and sympathetic pats on the backs that make up the pride that endows the "single-mother family."

Single mothers are often jaded by the preconceived notion that they have failed when they have done just the opposite. They are the superheroes that Superman wishes he could be, the anchors that hold a swaying boat in place and the forceful nudge that switches the track of the misguided train. Society often associates single motherhood with a vision of a broken family. I have grown to associate single motherhood with one word: shatterproof.

Kira Matskofski lives in Mississauga.

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