Every couple of weeks I see Alicia, a cousin of mine who planned on becoming a mother the way a lot of teenagers do. In other words, she didn't. I guess her boyfriend must not have given a lot of thought to being a parent, either. I used to see him all the time at family functions with Alicia. Now I never do. Alicia is raising her 6-month-old son, Logan, on her own.
This sounds like a sad story, but in many ways it isn't. A little over a year ago, Alicia, now 20, looked like she was preparing for a role on the reality show Cops -- and not as one of the cops. She was hanging out with the wrong crowd, experimenting with things she shouldn't experiment with, and everyone in my family was doubtful that she would even finish high school. But something wonderful happened the moment she became pregnant. She grew up.
An unplanned pregnancy can really test a person. Too many fathers disappear, not wanting to change diapers, alter their lifestyle, or send child support. Too many mothers look at their baby as a burden and pawn the child off to as many relatives as they can find. But fortunately, many more single parents summon an inner strength that they probably never knew they had.
Alicia not only graduated from high school, she takes Logan almost everywhere she goes, is studying business in college, and is getting better grades than I did when all I had were a few unfortunate houseplants depending on me (not to mention the fact that I majored in screenwriting, which meant that I got to watch a lot of movies for college credit). Frankly, I'm beginning to think Alicia's a bit of a show-off.
But she -- and every other single mother in the world who has cared for and loved and sacrificed for her child -- is an inspiration to me, and I think she should be to all of us. Because during the first week after my elder daughter, Isabelle, arrived -- and ever since -- in the midst of the feedings and crying and diapers, Susan and I regularly traded desperate glances and asked each other, "How do single moms do this?" Really, neither of us gets it. We've often felt completely overwhelmed, and we were two grown-ups versus one baby (and now, a preschooler and another baby). But one thing I do get is that I need to appreciate my wife more, and, yes, she needs to appreciate me more. (You hear that, honey?)