Single parents may be overlooked, derided and discriminated against, but many of us are amazing contributors to our communities.
In this occasional series, I will be highlighting their accomplishments, big and small, to reveal that single parents are incredible individuals with amazing superpowers.
Below are single parents among whose accomplishments include his determination to flee war and find asylum for him and his daughters and her desire to bring one last Christmas to her dying son:
His superpower? Empowering through words.
Michael Ray and his daughter, Charlie, have been their own little family unit since she was 2 years old and her mother was no longer on the scene. This bond in which they describe each other affectionately as “partners in crime” has grown stronger during the past six years through the exchange of little notes.
When Charlie began attending kindergarten, Ray missed the time he spent with her during the day. He described feeling a “little bit lost” and was determined to connect with her in some way while she was in school. One evening, the idea struck him: Leave a sweet note in her lunchbox.
Although Ray cannot recall the first note he nestled in her lunchbox, he did share one note on pink construction paper cut and folded into the shape of a star where he scribbles “You are a star because.” Inside he wrote “you are kind, you are brave, you are clever, you are funny, you are polite.”
As time passed his notes increased in number. Eventually, Charlie took over preparing her own lunches and continued the tradition by leaving notes for him with leftovers in the refrigerator. Ray has kept them all and his this hope:
“We’re going to put them all on the wall and keep them. Hopefully, it’s something she’ll do with her kids one day as well,” he said in an article on 9honey.
Ray lives with his daughter, her new sibling and a new partner in Australia.
His superpower? Fighting for human rights.
Youssef Al-Khoudor cannot return to Syria. In a country ravaged by civil war, he could be “forcibly conscripted, imprisoned, or worse.” The conflict has already taken the lives of four of Al-Khoudor’s brothers and estranged him from his wife, who abandoned him and their children. As a journalist, he fears his writings, including poetry, which have been critical of the regime, could put him in the crosshairs of the Syrian government.
The plight of Al-Khoudor and his two daughters, 6-year-old Rouaa and 3-year-old Diala, was brought to the attention of the Rev. Thomas Kim, head minister at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, by lead refugee sponsor and organizer Noel Paul. Al-Khoudor describes the chance meeting that could mean a new life for his small family:
“I met Noel about 10 years ago in Beirut where I was working with my younger brother, selling flowers on the streets of the city. At that time, Noel approached us and offered to hire us to act in a video project. I felt that he was a person who could be trusted, and we began working together, and eventually became friends,” he said in an article on Castanet.
As a Syrian refugee without legal status, Al-Khoudor was discriminated against by employers in Lebanon and its labor laws that were created to push Syrians back across the border. Paul’s help was a lifeline for Al-Khoudor.
He and his daughters must wait as the church works to raise funds to sponsor them. Their refugee application has been tentatively approved based on this anticipated sponsorship.
More than 60,00 new Syrian-born refugees have been admitted into Canada from 2016 to 2021.
Al-Khoudor is living with his daughters in Lebanon.
Her superpower? Loving despite the fear.
Jenny Moon never imagined her 7-year-old son would pass so quickly. After six years, Gavin’s little body could no longer stave off the aggressive cancer that ravaged him and he died on Christmas, Dec. 25, 2022. Moon described the next morning:
“I just remember rolling over and feeling him so cold and just like, I knew then, that’s what was going on. Nobody ever dreams of their kids passing away, but really I thought Gavin was doing fine,” she said in an article on KSL.com.
That day was truly devastating, but their Christmas Eve was a celebration of family and joy. Moon had reached out to the nonprofit, Christmas for Cancer Families, an organization that supports families suffering from the effects of cancer.
Nonprofit founder Jackie Culley arrived on Christmas Eve at the cabin where Moon, Gavin and her two other children were spending the holiday. Among the gifts Culley brought them were the family photos taken of them that evening, the last ones of a family whole.
Culley started Christmas for Cancer Families following the death of her son, Riley, from cancer.
Gavin lost his battle against juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, a rare cancer of the blood that young children are susceptible to.
Moon lives with her two children in South Jordan, UT.
Her superpower? Building a business of her own.
Cassandra Tiensivu decided the time had come — after 18 years of being a stay-at-home mom — to practice what she has preached to her two daughters: going to college.
Since her daughters were young, she had impressed upon them the value of an education and her love for science and art. Over the years, Tiensivu’s dream of pursuing her degree never faded. Eventually, she decided to join her two daughters and attend a local community college.
While taking courses in geology and art, Tiensivu discovered her passion for fossils while taking courses in geology and art. She drew a Petoskey stone and created an enamel pin for a geology conference she was attending and decided she could make a business creating these items. Tiensivu searched for a vendor who wanted to sell them until she found on in an unsuspecting place:
“I had just gotten through taking it to another place where the person there was not interested at all, and it was a complete flip. When I went to the Public Museum, they were like, ‘These are super cool! We’re so interested in these!'” Tiensivu said in an article on WZZM13.com.
Her pins found new owners, but her creative energy did not stop there. Tiensivu embarked on a new project: Celestial Kittens, space-themed kittens with scientific backstories on various products.
Even with these projects and still others in her pipeline, Tiensivu still carves out time to work on homework with her daughters at the kitchen table.
Tiensivu lives with her daughters in Comstock Park, MI.
If you know of a single parent with superpowers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursdays, I share a blog about being a single parent; some are about my personal experiences and those of other single mothers and single fathers, and others focus on news featuring single parents and the political, social and economic issues impacting them in the United States and globally.