Many people end up being a single parent through circumstance -- divorce, the death of one parent, abandonment, etc. Me? I chose it. Though I came close a couple of times, no diamond has ever landed on my ring finger, and I'm honestly OK with that. To quote Sandra Bullock's character from "While You Were Sleeping:" "I have sole possession of the remote control ... very important." But I knew I wanted to be a mom. Motherhood wasn't a dream I was willing to let slip through my fingers. After a failed Russian adoption attempt, I switched to the U.S. foster care program -- and was eventually matched with an athletic 10-year-old boy with indefatigable energy and an enormous capacity to love.
My son and I have been a family for nearly three years now. My gap-toothed, just-hit-the-double-digits boy is about to become a teenager, and his interest in girls has completely overshadowed the Power Rangers. In those three years, my son and I have ridden the highs and lows of becoming a family ... not just on paper, but in our hearts as well.
Being a single parent is no easy feat. There's nobody to share discipline responsibilities with, nobody to take over when I'm exhausted, nobody who's equally invested in my son who I can consult with when difficult parenting moments come up. But single parenting is not without its perks, either. Not once will I ever have to hear, "But Dad said I could ..." nor will I ever have to deal with the adult version of my son blowing off bad behavior by saying, "Boys will be boys!" And at the end of the day, when my son and I are alone and reading a chapter in our latest library find, I can take a moment to realize how special my son and I really are. We're a team of two ... and a great team at that. My son is the ultimate reward at the end of the long journey that is adoption.
One of the first steps in adoption is completing your homestudy. After several social-worker visits, lots of paperwork and managing to jump through all the necessary hoops, you end up with a multi-page document that represents your life. It's essentially your approval to adopt, and the report details your family history, your education, your financial situation, your home and so forth. It's exciting when it's completed, but I know that I felt a certain amount of pressure with my homestudy -- pressure to keep my life exactly as it was in the document. But life is fluid.
Even stable adults ready for parenting can lose jobs, and -- as in Sandra Bullock's case -- seemingly great marriages can fall apart at the seams. And adoptions don't have to be halted when life takes an unexpected twist.
Sandra Bullock didn't start the adoption process as a single parent. She started it years ago, when her marriage seemed as likely to succeed as "Miss Congeniality 2" seemed likely to fail. But life was fluid. Tattooed mistresses weren't part of Sandra's homestudy, but nonetheless she has a beautiful baby boy in her arms. So even though it may not have been in her original plan, my hat is off to Sandra Bullock for entering into single adoptive parenting with such class.
So Sandra, get ready for scraped knees and sweet hugs. You'll want to encapsulate your boy in bubble wrap, but hold back your worries and cheer him on when he tries jumping curbs and ramps and small dogs with his bike. (OK, I'm kidding about the small dogs. Kind of.) Brace yourself for how alarmingly tender little boys can be. Talk about the tough stuff with your boy, even when it's uncomfortable and you have to talk about private "equipment" you don't happen to have. Guide him with patience, love and boundaries, and foster his unique spirit. Single parent or not, you'll do right by your boy.
And Sandra, if you have any advice for me about carrying myself with your quirky grace, looking stunningly gorgeous and yet totally approachable at the same time -- or winning an Oscar -- I'm all ears.