Last Friday, The Washington Post’s Jo-Ann Armao wrote an emotional and beautiful article which told the story of what happened to my son. It also included the joys of my daughter. To the surprise of nobody, trolls came out of the bowels of the Internet to shine their hate on a story that was meant to tell a story of tragedy and hope. Some folks think that I have asked for this attention. Let me assure everyone that if I could change my story, and make it less like a bad lifetime movie (particularly the part about my son being murdered by his own father) – I would in a heartbeat. Nobody wants to have something like this happen to them. That said, I will make no apologies for my decision to use what happened to my son to try and change the system and protect other children. I will also never make any apologies for my decision to keep living, and pursue a happy life despite the pain I have (and will continue) to endure.
Several of the trolls stayed along the lines of all too typical victim blame, noting that because I wanted to settle down and have a family (and chose to try online dating) I somehow deserved to run into a serial killing psychopath. The other trolls chose to preach their troubling agendas with all too familiar attacks on single motherhood. These nasty, judgmental, and flat out ignorant comments serve as a sad reminder that many Americans are still stuck in the dark ages where alternative families are shunned, and women are pressured into living through abuse for fear of becoming a pariah in society. To demonstrate what I am talking about, I thought I would highlight some of the most ignorant comments. This is not to give a platform to the ignorance, but show why there is a need for more successful single parents to speak out and call bull shit on some of this trash.
Things Folks Actually Said: ( I couldn’t have made up better examples of hate/ignorance/buffoonery if I tried)
1. “You made a terrible choice in your partner, now you want to fill your inner void with another child? I don’t get the psychology here at all. As someone said earlier, yet another public tab we have to pay for. Maybe we need to offer child parenting classes in high school, along with the academics.”
(Note: This “genius” assumes that every single parent is on welfare and will eventually force the public to pay for their child. I would like to note that I am an example of someone who has a very good job, and can afford my child all by myself. Thanks for the offer to help pay for my kid though. This person also assumes that single parents are not educated and that we need parenting classes in high school. I have a Master’s Degree in Education. I think I will pass on your offer for parenting classes as well.)
2. “Single, out of wedlock parents don’t do well historically, and for her to do this to make herself feel better, is sad. She will likely place too many expectations on this child, almost a switch in roles, from her as mother to her as child who needs to be cared for. It is of concern that this type of story with the clear message of support of out of wedlock parenting is on the front page of this newspaper.”
(Note: This person believes that all children born to single parents (or those born out of wedlock) don’t do well. He even tries to make it appear as though there is some sort of historical evidence to this claim. I guess this person didn’t get the memo that our current President was raised by a single mother. This person also must be psychic because without even knowing me, he/she seems to think it’s possible to predict my future merely based on the fact that I had another child after the loss of my son. This person seems to suggest that every parent who loses a child should never have another child for fear that this child will somehow need to take care of their grieving parent. I think there are millions of people who would disagree on this one.)
3. “Why didn’t she adopt? There are many children in desperate need of homes, particularly bi-racial children for whom this family would have been a good match. Though that child would not have had 2 parents, with McLeod’s extended family he or she could have had a real chance at a normal home life. THAT would have honored Prince.”
(Note: I agree that there are many children who are in need of being adopted. If we all listen to this person’s theory, however, we would all agree to stop having children until all of the children in the world who need homes are adopted. This person believes that if you are bi-racial like me you should always choose adoption first because there are many bi-racial children for whom your bi-racial family would be a good match. I don’t think I need to go into how racist this comment is. I have many friends who have adopted children outside of their race, and their children were perfect matches for their family regardless of ethnicity.)
4. “… its terrible to purposely bring a child into a single family home. Not wanting to come off as judgemental, but it is fact that it is more difficult to raise a child by one’s self. Have many single mom friends, and not one of them did it intentionally, and all of them, to varying degrees, have issues with the lack of support, whether its presence, money, support, or all three… Not sure why someone of sound mind and clear thought would purposely do this.”
(Note: Mr “not wanting to come off as judgmental” is coming across as just that – judgmental. This is the type of person who thinks he knows what it is like to be a single parent because he has “single mom friends.” He also seems to think that all single parents are in need of financial support, and none of us have family support around to help out. Since Mr. “not wanting to come off as judgmental” can’t seem to understand what it is like to be financially independent and have a strong family support system as a single mother, I would suggest that HE (or she) never try it.)
I don’t expect everyone to follow in my footsteps, and I don’t claim to have lived a life without mistakes. That said, my daughter isn’t one of them. I often hear people argue that there are all these “statistics” of how poorly children do in single parent homes. Those who make this argument, however, feel perfectly comfortable painting all single parents with the same brush. There are also ugly statistics showing that prisons are made up of a disproportional amount of black men. Does this mean that we should all assume that every black male will become a criminal?
Choosing single parenthood is becoming something that many women choose to do. There will always be people for whom this decision is intimidating. Single parenthood isn’t easy, but neither is co-parenting. Parenting is challenging. Every child, regardless of their family dynamic, will have to face challenges in life. If you ignore that reality just because you happen to have two parents living under the same roof with your children, your child might soon become one of those ugly statistics that you rely upon when launching your judgements against single parents.
And to all my fellow single parents, whether by circumstance or by choice, don’t listen to the trolls of our society. There are just as many successful people in the world who were raised by single parents as those who had two parents. Children need a loving and safe environment. They need to know they are special, and they need to be allowed to grow into healthy individuals. Just because you are a single parent, doesn’t mean you cannot create a healthy environment for your child. Just because you have a spouse, doesn’t not mean you have automatically created a healthy environment for your child.
If you don’t have haters, it means you aren’t being loud enough about what you believe in.