Forever Grateful: What I Learned About Family Values From My Single Mom

by Alexandra Napoli
Castle Rock Entertainment

She is the strongest person I know, and I sincerely mean that. She has taught me how to handle myself, how to express myself and how to better myself.

While we're getting our nails done, she’ll serve up some wise parenting advice. As she cooks me dinner, she will share a funny story from work that day.

She is my mother, and for the past 14 years, it has been her, my sister and myself.

Every Father’s Day, I consider posting an Instragram picture dedicated to the man who passed away when I was 8 years old. But something always holds me back. It’s not like I feel that honoring his memory on such a holiday is an injustice to my mother (it wouldn’t be).

I just always think of her, and how she deserves more credit for fulfilling that fatherly role for quite some time now. She's stepped into a position never intended for her, and for that, I think she deserves recognition.

I remember my father fondly, but what my mother has given me in the past 14 years is more than I could ever ask for.

Being raised by a single mother has made me immensely stronger than I ever imagined I could be. She gave me every opportunity to enjoy my childhood, and not grow up before my years. Inevitably, I was exposed to things before the age-appropriate time.

I miss my father, and often, I watch my close friends interact with theirs. I wonder what it is like to have such a relationship. I sometimes consider what my wedding day will be like, when someone has to walk me down the aisle.

As these thoughts cross my mind, I feel a twinge deep in my stomach for someone who is not present, but that doesn’t last long.

My single mother has taught me life is ridiculously uncertain and wildly unpredictable. She's taught me to always take a babysitting job when offered, because spending time with kids will lighten my spirits tenfold. She's taught me how to check the oil in a car. She's taught me how to speak up for myself when I'm dealing with an unruly college roommate.

She's taught me to be a fighter, to not be guarded, but to be aggressive when necessary. She's taught me how to bargain for a lower price when I'm buying a car. She's taught me how to cook a mean marinara sauce for family Sunday dinner, and because of that, I will never be hungry or alone.

Children who have both parents are just as blessed. Their childhood is no less than mine, but what I've realized from being raised by just her is sometimes, one is enough. Never in the past 14 years have I felt she is not enough, and because of it, I’ve never felt underappreciated or neglected.

Because of her, I’ve been able to mourn a loss in my life. Instead of feeling grief-stricken by it, I feel healed. She's nursed more than just my physical wounds; she's healed my family.

As I get older, I look forward to the things that would typically call for a father figure, because I know she will be there. I know I’ve been given the education and materials to advance myself in whatever career I choose.

I also know I have the family behind me to support my decisions.

Being raised by a single mother did not diminish the relationship I had with my father. It gave me perspective on life, taught me real strength and blessed me with the woman I call "mom" every single day.