Last September 4, 2017, when my parenting column at The Manila Times turned 1, I was prompted to open up my life more and share more intimate stories. As an effort to make it easier for my readers to unearth and enjoy my weekly articles, I compiled the four, anniversary articles that discussed sensitive single parenting topics. You will also find the link at the end of every article for your reference should you want to read the actual, published ones.
Happy reading, Mommas!
Now, as I celebrate my first year with The Times and as I start counting down to turning 30, allow me to share more of my heart. I am starting a series of never-before-shared intimate and sensitive stories and life lessons that I am only able to share now because 1.) it is water under the bridge and 2.) I believe these were God-filtered circumstances that many people can learn from, just coursed through my life first.
So in all honesty and humility let me share with you that: I tried to date someone in the past year.
Dating is not something I have been comfortable with; it has always been a stiff arrangement for me ever since. It is not a walk in the park, let alone for a single lady who already has a child.
I acknowledge that this addition in my life is not exactly a welcome addition to most men, especially their mothers. And because I don’t want to invest again in a relationship that will not work, I really do not make an effort to see anyone.
Nevertheless, around this time last year, someone came along—an educated, well-mannered, decent-looking man. We connected instantly and very well because of our similar interests—food and fitness. On top of that, I believed that we had the same belief and principles as he was a Christian too which, for me, made a world of difference.
Having said that, I assumed that he would be guided by and would respect the dating norm among single Christians—no holding hands, no beso even, no movies and no anything that only married couples should do.
But his nationality and their unique family traditions somewhat got in the way of us continuing our “getting to know each other” stage.
Because my daughter at an age where she understands matters more, I became open to her and I would ask for her permission if I can go out. She has always wanted to have younger siblings and she knows that the only way to do that is for her mommy to go out.
As such, while it is difficult for Gummy to let me go out for meetings, she gives a quick and happy go when I’d say I would go out for a date. She was very supportive.
However, I never told her who the man is in order to spare her from future disappointments and unnecessary emotional attachments if the thing” does not last long—in this case it barely lasted 2 months.
Back to the man, I would meet him around twice a week but only when Gummy is already asleep—it is well laid down that I will only give time to other people and for other matters when my Mummy obligations are done—and would talk to him on the phone everyday.
Of course, his time and attention led me to believe that he knew what he was getting into.
You see in the Christian dating scene, men verbally express their intentions at the beginning simply because they know what the end-goal of every romantic relationship should be. They do not play mind games, tease and mislead like most worldly, playful men do.
And as taught by my mentor, I am free to probe and inquire and ask what we are, sort of the “label,” which I exercised.
But when I did, the answers I got were sugar-coated and not truthful. One of the ways you can test a true man is if they can give a truthful honest answer to a very honest question. No beating around the bush. Truth hurts, and it will hurt just the same so why conceal it with flowery words? Real men have that audacity to be straightforward and truthful.
To cut the dramatic story short, the “thing” ended shortly when my probing revealed his vague intentions.
So what can you learn from my disappointing dating experience?
1. Guard your heart. Pray for wisdom and discernment to determine if the person in front of you has clean intentions.
2. Don’t fall too hard too early. It may be natural to fall for sweet gestures, regular calls and sweet nothings, but never assume it means something more than the gesture itself. It is safer to think of them as gestures of kindness.
3. As a single parent, it helped that I did not connect my child to the man I was dating, unless I was sure of his sincerity and intention to pursue. It saved her from disappointment.
4. Never let anyone make you question your worth as a person, especially as a woman. Your worth is in being a child of God and that alone should be enough to be loved, respected and accepted.
5. Did I mention that my college friends did not believe it is possible to without kissing or even holding hands? Do not let other people’s opinion or reaction make you second-guess your dating beliefs.
6. Do not be affected by what the world says. What’s important is what Your Father in Heaven says and thinks of you.
7. If a man really wants to get your heart, he will work for it, look for it, even if it may be hard. Don’t cave in. Don’t compromise. Stick to your beliefs and convictions. If it is God’s will for you to be married, He will send that person who will pursue you His way.
8. Always remember the order of your priorities. As a single parent, next to God is your child, not your potential future spouse. You may be dating with the hopes of marrying but neglecting your child in the process.
9. Pray over everything. Do not rush analyzing and deciphering things. God will reveal in His time. Time is a good teller and revealer of intentions.
10. Choose whom you will give your precious yeses to.
To close and just to clarify, I am not shutting my doors to dating. Of course, I still want to get married but I also know the way to that may disappointing and painful at times. I believe if it is truly God’s will, He will make it happen, in His time.
For now, I continue to focus on my child until someone brave and bold enough comes along, steps up and verbalizes his clear intentions of pursuing this single working momma.
“Mom, who’s your partner making me?”
This question was a follow up to one of her favorite how questions: “How do you make babies?”
She started asking me how babies are made when she was just three, which sprung from her desire to have a baby brother and a baby sister. Because she thought babies can be bought, I had to enlighten and explain to her how—in the most straightforward way.
I did not want to make magical stories so at three, she already knew the words love, get married, intercourse and partner.
After the nth answer to “How do you make babies?” and her follow up question, which caught me so off guard, I found myself saying “Anak, there are things Mummy will tell you when you are older, and that is one of those.”
“When Mummy, when I’m four?” she asked again know that it was only three weeks away before her fourth birthday.
Understanding that it was the curious, clueless and naïve child in her asking, I answered, “No Gummy, maybe when you’re seven or ten or 18. I don’t know!”
And then, in my desperation to end the conversation, I diverted and asked for the name of Barbie’s dog. To most parents, diversion is the go-to move to avoid answering the most sensitive questions.
From day one that Gummy’s biological father and I parted ways, I have always prayed that the Lord will prepare me for the day when she would ask. I prayed for forgiveness and, most importantly, wisdom to be able to say the right things, the right way.
I never want to lie to her. Although at that particular instance, I had to buy time and delay telling the truth. I prayed about it and knew in my heart it was not yet time.
A few months later, she would randomly tease me, “Mummy, who’s your partner nga making me?” and I would give an outright “Gum!” with that look on my face. She did that for two to three more times but my big eyes and stern voice would suffice.
From that February 14, 2015 incident I had been praying for God’s wisdom to be upon me when she would seriously inquire about her father.
That did come but she only asked for his name. I praise God because by the time she asked, I have already read up much about parenting issues specific to solo parents, such as this one.
I learned from the book, Single Parenting That Works by Kevin Leman that the parent must only answer what the child asks.
Leman says that parents tend to overanalyze and panic over their child’s single question; it’s not like they will instantly unearth all the questions you wish she would never ask. That would happen but definitely not in one go; and not when your child is only four- or five years old.
So I just gave the name and then there was no response other than, “Ok.”
To this day, Gummy has not asked anything more about her father.
From this specific matter, I learned to
1. Relax. Us solo parents must relax when our children start probing and asking about the identity of their unknown parent. We must prepare ourselves for that day because it is sure to come. We cannot forever hide the truth from them. In our fear to hurt them, we may be doing just that by withholding the truth for too long. The who is an integral piece of the puzzle that is crucial to complete their identity.
2. Never lie. We tend to underestimate our little children and throw a white lie here and there. But we would not want the day to come when they discover the truth for themselves and accuse us of deliberately hiding it from them. Feelings of resentment and bitterness are inevitable to follow. The damage then would be irreversible. Let us not start a string of lies.
3. Be truthful always. When you have no answer, tell your child. Don’t just shoo them away. When you are not ready, tell them too. When you do have the answer, you have the power and the freedom to relay it in bits, pieces or in full, depending on your child’s emotional capacity.
4. Forgive. Our passions and strong [negative]emotions about our former partners have no place in our responsibility of raising our Godly and whole children. If we truly only want our children’s best interest, then we will deal with our personal issues with that person, even without an actual encounter or conversation with them. As our ill feelings will affect the overall well being of our kids, please remember that forgiveness is a gift we are free to give. People do not need to ask for forgiveness before they are forgiven. A parent needs to be whole, and reconciled with God, in order to be a successful and powerful influence in her child’s life.
If you ask me today, I have long forgiven my child’s father, before he may even ask. Dealing with unforgiveness frees you.
5. Pray. Cover your solo parenting in prayer. For the most part of it, the strength, counsel and wisdom we need in order to supposedly play two parts in just one body, relies heavily on our prayer life. Pray and ask the Lord for everything. God is both our provider and partner in everything.
Playmates or classmates who ask this question to your child come from their observation that the mother is the only present parent they see with your child. None from the opposite sex drives them to school, brings them to class, or goes to the mall with them and their parents. They may have also noticed that in your ring-less ring finger or in group photos they see a pair with every child but yours only has one. Now, how do you explain?
The first time my daughter was asked this, she was almost two years old. She was asked by a playmate two years her senior.
Innocently her playmate whispered, “Gummy look that’s my Papa. How about you, where is your papa? Who is your papa?”
And my daughter, who knew then that her daddies are my brothers, answered “Uhm, Daddy Ali,” then she walked away, as if she wanted to exit herself from the moment.
This first time shocked me but at the same time made me realize that I need to start preparing for answers to such identity-related questions.
Until Gummy was three years old, I taught her that her Daddies are my two brothers. That was my attempt at filling her young mind with a complete Mommy and Daddy. Also, I taught her that when someone asks who her Papa was, her answer would be her grandfather, my dad.
I, however, enlightened her that I am her only parent; I am her mother and father. That’s why in church during Father’s Day, when all fathers are asked to stand to be prayed for, she would push me to stand up because to her, I am a father too. It was based on roles more than gender.
The last change that I did to fill in the identity of who her father really is, is God—when I myself realized and have accepted that I am really only the mother and God is and wants to be the Father, Our Provider.
I taught her that her Father is Papa God, because God is the source of everything that we have. In fact when she was asked to fill out a diagram in school, under mkother she wrote my name, under father she put “God.” To this day, that is what she knows. And this is absolutely true.
Now to those who may be negatively reacting, this is why despite divulging the truth a piece at a time my daughter has no confusion, nor repulsiveness towards the idea of “changing fathers”—from uncles, to grandfather, to her very own mother and now to God: I give her answers apt for her age and limited emotional maturity.
At ages one to three years old, we lived in the same house as my brothers, who voluntarily took on the role as fathers, bringing her out on dates and dropping or picking her up from school. They were present. A small child, I believe needs a “daddy” whom she sees daily, has breakfast with, takes her for a walk, can run to for rougher play, time-off mommy dates and for security (little girls need that “protector”).
I vividly remember that when Gummy was just a little over two and just started playschool, every time her classmates get picked up by their Dads, she would always ask me to stop the car to observe, unsure of how to make sense of what she’s seeing. I knew that was a prompting for my brothers to step in and play that daddy role more evidently. I did not want my daughter to start having feelings of insecurity and incompleteness that early.
Now when she discovered that her two daddies were apparently my brothers, and her papa was her lolo and I then became both her mother and father and I explained it in the light of roles—mother as nurturer who takes care of her child and their home and father as provider.
During this time when she was four, she would complain a lot why I have to leave and work. That’s when I told her that as her only parent, I am also the Father who needs to provide for food, her school, for our travel, her toys, among other things. Very early on, she learned that it is the father’s role/job to provide for their families. Therefore, Mummy is also her Daddy.
When Gummy started to be asked where her dad was and how come she has two dads, as well as when her very close friends in kindergarten directly asked me, this is how I taught Gummy to answer: God loves me so much that He gave me two daddies. And then they were silenced. As to weather they will run to their own parents to ask for clarification, and what answers their parents provide them, I believe is within their own judgment, wisdom and discernment.
The follow up question to that would always be for me: “Mummy Bettinna, why aren’t you married?” I mean, how did these five- to six-year olds come up with such questions from mere observations?
I tried to brush it off once by saying, “I also don’t know why!” But when they turned serious, I answer thoughtfully, “It’s because God has not yet blessed me with my best partner.” And such answer, by far, has sufficed.
You see, my answers as to who Gummy’s dad/s are changes with time. As the needs change, so do the answers.
Some of you may be concerned that my daughter may feel betrayed when she is bigger and finds out the whole truth. I beg to disagree. In my heart, my intention is neither to trick her nor lie to her, it is to protect her heart from unnecessary pain sher could not handle just yet.
Imagine, what would have been the effect on my child if as early as one or two I told her that her father did not look for her, did not remember her first birthday, or first Christmas, or did not support her in any way? How do you think she would feel?
Arguably, she might have told herself that she is not love and that will be the last thing any parent would want their children to feel.
I know that when the proper time comes, God will prepare her heart to receive the answers and my mouth with the right words to say. For now, we are both quiet and settled with God as her Father. Besides, He is both Our Father.
Most of the time, it is the curious child who prompts out of their making sense of the world and themselves. On rare occasions, the father reaches out.
As the mother, it is our job to bridge and introduce the two but before getting into the whole “meet the parent,” ask yourself first: Is this man ready to be a father to my child?
Now, how do you go about assessing?
Forgive the father—and yourself too. I have discussed this three weeks ago and elaborated on that forgiveness is a vital factor to fully move forward and communicate better with your former partner whom you have to accept as a “permanent fixture” in the life of your child. There should be nothing you two cannot talk about with regards to your child. And forgiveness is the key to this.
Meet the father first. Discuss the delicate nature of what he or your child wants to happen. Enlighten him that meeting his child is not a walk in the park and must not be rushed.
Check his heart. This is truer if it is the father who initiated the meeting. Ask why he wants to meet your child especially if it is after a long absence. Interrogate why after all these years, he finally summed up the courage to step up. Recognize his desire but carefully know the motive and intention.
Discren. Guilt is usually what prompts them. Assure that it that it is understandable but cannot be the primary reason for wanting to meet the child.
Observe his emotional maturity to forgive you. That includes your past with him and himself for his mistakes. His openness to communicate comfortably about your previous relationship, mistakes and shortcomings will reveal a lot about his readiness to talk about everything taboo and sensitive about your child—yes, that includes financial support eventually.
Check his character. How is his life now? Is he working? Is he responsible? Does he have vices? Does he have a personal relationship with Jesus? These are things most mothers tend to overlook but these are essential to find out. The father’s character, habits and belief system will influence your child once you allow them to meet and spend time together. And you only want a good model for your child, right? Simply ask yourself: What can this man teach my child?
Give the father time to heal himself fully. Let him work on what he has to so he can be a whole person first in order to become a good father to your child. Give him time to prove to you that he can be that father your child needs. Give it time because time is the best revealer if his intentions are pure and if he is committed to becoming a good father.
As the mother and sole parental authority in your child’s life, you must assess and discern first if introducing the father to your child will be for your child’s best interest.
Will the father be able to play paternal role in your child’s life or will he just be a weekend father?
Us single moms do not need just another “generous person” taking our kids out on dates or buying them toys. We have a lot of those already in our support group.
What our children need is a father who will lead them and teach them the way they should go. This father need not consequently become your husband (that is another topic on God’s will for restoring your family) nor be required to be living in the same house. But he must be present, visible and tangible in order to successfully play the part.
Introducing his/her father to a child is definitely not as simple as other people think. It is more than having a face to a name. It is a process that requires time, preparation and prayer.
If our sole reason for withholding the father’s identity from our children is to protect them from unnecessary hurt, make sure that that anticipated introduction will only happen because it is for your child’s best interest.
Think about it and prepare for it as the effects can be irreversible if the father is unprepared.