Love letter to a single parent

Emily Diehl

7 mins
We didn’t have it all. I know raising me wasn’t the way you pictured it. You thought you’d have a partner.

I saw the way you beat yourself up for not doing things according to plan. I hated knowing you were lonely, and it hurt even more knowing I couldn’t make it better.

You didn’t always know how to do my hair; it wasn’t supposed to be your job. You seriously didn’t know how to teach me to throw a ball; you were supposed to have someone else for that. And our family photos took up less space in the frame than designed.

We didn’t have the coolest car, and I’m sorry for all the times I reminded you of it. I didn’t have brand names or the latest gaming system. I’m sorry for feeling like it wasn’t enough. I watched you work multiple jobs and pinch pennies. I watched you give up more and more of what you wanted and never stop sacrificing.

I didn’t get to go to camp as much as other kids. But you always found a way to make it happen at the last minute. You picked up extra shifts. Worked doubles. Applied for scholarships for me.

I didn’t have a Sweet 16. Birthdays were always less extravagant than those of my friends. You made the cake, and it always tasted better than the ones from Costco. You stayed up late at night making goodie bags and decorating. You did the job of two people. I’m sorry you didn’t have someone to carry the heavy stuff.

You snuck home-popped popcorn into the movies. I told you it was embarrassing. But now I realize your heart. We didn’t miss out on things the way I thought we did. Santa and the Easter Bunny came every year. So did the Tooth Fairy. I always had a Halloween costume. Everyone knew you made the best Thanksgiving dinner, even if it came out of the tiniest kitchen.

There were times life was hard. Impossible even. I know you felt it too. I had to take on more responsibility at a younger age than most kids. I’m sorry for blaming you. For all the times I said, “I hate you.” And especially for the times I felt sorry for myself.

But it was everything I needed.

What you didn’t know, was while you were struggling, I was watching. I learned about independence because of you. You taught me strength in the face of adversity. I know how to fight because you lead by example. No matter how many times you got knocked down, you always got back up. I know you think you gave me half a home. But what the world called broken, I knew was filled with love. You loved me enough to fight for me. You were mom AND dad. Thank you for double dipping. For going to the dad and daughter dances AND the mother-daughter brunches.

You thought you were giving me less by being a single parent, but you gave me more than I could ask. You gave me hope. You gave me a loving home. It might have needed a paint job and some serious upgrades, but it was a home. I’m sorry for the times I told you about how big someone else’s house was. Yes, it was bigger. But what I know now is that it often was empty. It didn’t have the laughter our smaller home had. You were there for all the moments because they took place close together. We only had one TV which meant watching it was a family activity. I know I complained about the one bathroom. And don’t get me wrong, it still wasn’t ideal. But I wouldn’t trade the memories I have of fighting about who got to shower next, hogging the mirror, and making fun of who spent the longest in there. You filled our home with something money can’t buy, and it was the feeling of comfort and safety. And it was felt by everyone who walked in our door. They knew that when they were there, they were home.

I am a smarter shopper because I grew up watching you find the best deals. I know how to save money because you showed me how quickly it goes away. I don’t worry about material things because I know real joy doesn’t come from them. Because we drove an old car, I knew how to invest in the right one as an adult. All the times I saw you struggle made me work harder so I don’t have to. Since we didn’t have the cool electronics, I spent more time outside. Thank you for that. Not having money for ice cream all the time, made the times we got it even sweeter. You made the little things the big things.

Here’s the bottom line, I am better because you raised me. I may have had to grow up faster, but it taught me early how to appreciate the good in life. I had to learn to live with less, and it shaped me into someone who is savvy. I didn’t have another parent to go to when you didn’t give me the answer I wanted, and it taught me how to communicate better. There wasn’t another parent, and it made me love the one I had twice as much. The hole in my heart of having parents who were together was filled with my love for you.

I know you think you didn’t give me everything, but it’s just not true. I am the person I am today because of your influence. I grew up being raised by my hero and tucked in by my best friend. The anger I had over wanting two parents is gone. So is the idea that I wish you would have had me with someone else. That’s because I realize that all those things make me, me. And without me, you wouldn’t be you.

I know having a single parent wasn’t God’s design. It wasn’t how He intended a family to be. He meant for me to have a mom and a dad who were present and loving. But the thing is—we live in a world that is broken. It doesn’t give us everything we want, including the things God intended for us to have. I’m sorry you drew the short stick. But don’t ever think that it wasn’t enough for me. That you weren’t enough. God chose you as my parent. He picked you to show me his love, his grace, his abundance.

I need you to know you didn’t just do that—you excelled in it, you perfected it, you were exceptional at being my parent. You were more than enough even when the world looked at us differently. You were more than enough when others judged. With you as my parent, I had everything. You took our family from the ashes and raised it into a culture of love and support that most people with two parents don’t get to experience. Because of you, our family flourished. It prospered. And I know more than anything, it was redeemed.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it differently. I had everything I needed in you. Even when it seemed like less. You are more than enough. You are constant. You are there for everything, in the front row. You are my best friend. My biggest supporter. The person to whom I know I’ll never measure up. Thank you for the life you gave me. I know it didn’t come easy. But know that it was more than enough.

Emily Diehl
Meet the author

Emily Diehl

Redhead. Cupcake snob. Scared of fire; obsessed with candles. Really into cheese. Embarrassed Millennial. Kicked out of Girl Scouts for being too competitive.

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