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Two poems about single parenting

Today, I wanted to share two poems about my experience of single parenting.  These poems chronicle the strange adjustment from being married to becoming a single parent, and how that affects both your children and your own ideas and habits about parenting.

The first poem, “Happy,” was written during lots of upheaval, when my son was very young and the going-back-and-forth between mommy and daddy was not yet routine. It’s better now, but for a while there, every exchange was heartbreaking.

I don’t have any tips to impart to make that easier. It’s just hard on everyone.

It’s like the extreme version of ending an awesome play date. Any kid has a hard time leaving somewhere he’s having fun and feeling good.  Even if both homes are positive and loving, the transition can be challenging.

I think the best thing we can do for our kids in this situation is just acknowledge aloud that we understand it’s hard to leave one home and go to another. Instead of trying to convince them it’s not a big deal to get them to calm down, communicate that it IS a big deal.

Some things are hard. It doesn’t help to pretend they should be easy.


Photo by crystal

I wrote the second poem, “News Radio,” in October of 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi was killed and there was controversy about the treatment of his dead body. The ideas of revenge,  justice and how to treat people who have hurt you were swirling in my head.

I was wrestling with how to set an example for my son through the mess. And I was trying to figure out how to be a single parent, how to forgive, how to do life and pay my bills alone. And how to experience watching my son grow up and not have a companion to share that experience with.

That is one of the unexpected griefs of being a single parent – sometimes you just want someone to witness your amazing child being amazing alongside you.

I hope you enjoy the poems.  If you’re a new single parent, I hope you’re reminded that you’re not alone.


He cries for me when he leaves
with his father, the back and forth

boomerang you never expect
your child will become. The sudden

woes of a two year old. The drama
of honey swirled incorrectly on oatmeal.

Should it have been doused
counter-clockwise? Three fires

have already been put out
in my house this morning and I speak

without metaphor, about the imagination
of a two year old who seems to know

where I break, where my patience ends
and exactly where it will hurt worst

if a plastic fire truck slams into my shin.
Then, completely human, he senses

a crack in our connection, tantrum
suddenly ends, sticky hands grasp any body

part in reach – the need to know
you are loved, even after

you’ve thrown your bowl of hot oatmeal
on the floor: “mommy, are you happy

because you love me?”

Simple Mom

Photo by rickbucich

News Radio

I turn on the news. I turn
it off. I turn it on.

Off. I cry. I call
the lawyer to find out

when the divorce documents
will be ready to sign. I turn

on the news. I turn it off.
I text him a picture of our

son in a pumpkin patch.
I turn on the news.

I text him to say that our
son cried because

the little train was too loud
and squeaky, too scary. I turn

off the news. I turn it on.
Justice is only a word.

Cruel dictators die
rarely and how

does being cruel
to their corpse

make anything

What have you learned about helping your child cope with overwhelming situations? Or what helps your children transition between parents?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Katelyn

    I had to comment on this as a former child who did the back and forth thing. Acknowledge (doesn’t have to be verbally) that it is a difficult transition from one house, routine, set of rules, people to a different house, routine, set of rules, people. Don’t take any crying personally and don’t be surprised if it occurs routinely for years. Crying is not automatically a bad thing. Often crying is an essential emotional release that a child needs to express. It allows them to purge feelings that they just cannot handle in that moment. Some initial quiet, undemanding down time and a favorite/familiar meal may help a child center themselves to their current surroundings.

  2. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    I have no personal experience with single parenting, but I’m always so amazed by the grace with which you write about the realities of your situation. Since having my first baby, I’ve imagined single parenting to be one of the most difficult roads to walk. Bless you, Crystal!

  3. Esther

    I used to be a single mom, and I just met a new one to the neighborhood yesterday. Her immediate neighbors have been cruel to her and her children. So while I’m no longer in the midst of that struggle, I want to be the one to help another mom in that difficult place.

  4. Mom off meth

    I am on the roller coaster of single parenting and then not as we are separated, except he now lives here until I’m done with school and can afford my own place. It is a hard place to be, but with acceptance, anything can work. Beautiful poems.

  5. AmyK

    Love this. I don’t have advice to give, but I hear you. As a former single parent, I can say sometimes I miss the abundance of quality time that I did not have to share. Time goes by quickly & the bond I have with my oldest has always been deeper. As an adult now, he sees more strength in me than my “round 2 kids” do. In his eyes, I am fearless & can accomplish everything. Now if I could just convince my teenage daughter that she should listen to me…

  6. jasi

    the back and forth is hard on children. try to make house rules and expectations identical and don’t throw a party when children leave or come back. make it “no big deal”, don’t clock watch, don’t call them out on acting different or being emotional. just let it roll, give hugs and make plans. be fearless and go on with normal life. it should feel more like going to school than some huge lifestyle shift. i had experience as a child passed back and forth between parents hostile toward each other. oh, and still are angry 30+ years later which is great for grand kids. just be cool with each other as hard as it is and get on with life. really sorry you’re going through this.

  7. Missy June

    The back and forth does get more predictable, but I’m not sure it is ever easier. I live with littles who visit two home and and where is home? And another who moves from condo to home every other week…and lives constantly out of a suitcase. There is not glory in this, we only do the best we can with what is required. Painful for all.

  8. Tanya

    These poems are so realistic its sad 🙁

  9. Elizabeth

    Such heartfelt and real! Thanks for sharing and getting us thinking. How difficult it must be!

  10. Sarah @ LeftBrainBuddha

    Wow, these are beautiful. I do not have experience with being a single parent ~ I imagine these transitions must be tough. I love the second poem about the cruelty of justice. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Claire

    I totally get where you are coming from… and I so appreciate your vulnerability and honesty with these poems. I have been a single mom since before my son was born. I think it is the most difficult thing in the world to place your small child in the hands of someone you do not trust. Kind of like someone asking you to place your hand on a hot stove… you know it’s going to hurt like hell and in many ways you know that’s not right but one of many injustices in this world. It’s crazy how as a mother you cannot protect your children… so many children are put into truly horrific situations because of someone else’s “rights.” What about the rights of the child!?

    Thanks again for your post. Just what I needed to hear.

  12. BlogBoldly

    It’s refreshing to read about a less than perfect scenario on a “mommy” blog. Love it even tho the content hurts.

    The #1 thing I remember I was supposed to do when divorcing: “Don’t talk bad about ex-spouse.”

    Looking back, I wish I’d been better at that.

    ~ darlene

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