Single Parent Power: A Trip to Neverland
Parenting is one giant paradox.
It is completely overwhelming AND indescribably beautiful; gut-wrenching and spiritually enriching; energy-draining and energy-giving.
I’ve been a mom for the past 16 years, and a single parent (to three kids, now ages 16, 13 and 8) for the past 3.5 years. Their dad lives out of town, and all the day-to-day parenting business is mine to manage, along with a full-time job. I’m glad to say life has grown much sweeter and happier lately, but there are still some days that are so overwhelming and exhausting I feel like I’m totally losing it.
Here’s something I hear a lot: “I have no idea how you single parents do it.” But here’s something I almost never hear: “Being a single parent can be the most empowering experience in the world.”
That’s what I want others in similar situations to know: Whether or not this is something you envisioned when you dreamed about how your life would be, YES, you can do this solo parenting thing, and YES, it can be AMAZING.
On my most overwhelming days, when I’m still in my work clothes at 9 p.m. and nowhere near the finish line, I remind myself of a few things. 1.) I have the great privilege of being a mother to these amazing kids. 2.) I am strong, brave and fierce enough to do this. 3.) I would not choose to be anywhere but at the center of their lives. 4.) I’m allowed to fall apart sometimes as long as I get it back together!
Today, I want to share an empowering single mom story I never want to forget – the time I got determined and made some magic happen.
It was 2015, an intense, tough year for our family. I was adjusting to being single again. During some of the most painful months, nothing sounded more appealing than an escape to somewhere magical. A place free from pain, grief and worry. A place like Neverland.
It just so happened that right around that time, my dear friends David and Tony introduced me to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical “Finding Neverland.” It’s the story of how a widow and her sons inspired James Barrie to write “Peter Pan,” and how he in turn helped them find joy during a dark time in their lives. As Mr. Barrie sings to them: “Picture a land that you never have seen, where life is eternal and evergreen – a future of happiness all in your hands, all in this place of your dreams, here inside Neverland…”
My daughter Clara (who was 10 at the time) memorized every word to that soundtrack. As Christmas approached, she told me her biggest wish: “All I want is to go to New York and see “Finding Neverland” on Broadway.”
It seemed kind of far-fetched and crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t resist the idea. She’s the middle child. She has taken everything the hardest. We had never done something special like this together, just the two of us. I’d never been to New York. This felt like the time.
I scrapped and saved, accepted extra freelance work, and found a great deal on an apartment rental through Air B&B. I figured if I couldn’t save enough for plane tickets, we would get in the car and drive there. I recruited my mom to help with the other kids.
I cried when I bought the tickets.
The trip was unforgettable. In spite of record-breaking windchills, Clara was a dream traveler, handling the cold with hardly a complaint. I loved watching her wide-eyed reaction to the sea of humanity (and the occasional rat) in the subways. We tasted the best pizza and best Chinese food we’d ever experienced. We met wax celebrities galore at Madame Tussaud’s.
And we saw not one, but TWO Broadway musicals, Les Miserables, and Finding Neverland. From the first notes of the orchestras, we were blown away. (Clara actually had to close my jaw for me at one moment when special effects created a stunning moment of Neverland magic!)
I stood with Clara outside the stage door after both performances in the FRIGID weather, and she was beyond thrilled that the leading men of both productions (Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and Kevin Kern as James Barrie in Finding Neverland) stopped to give her autographs. Both men were so charming and sweet to her as she chatted with them. I could tell that meeting them made her feel more than excited – she felt SPECIAL. I couldn’t find enough words to express my gratitude to them – forever a fan!
It meant the world to me to make this dream come true for my kid, especially in such a tough time.
The experience was a priceless gift for a mother and daughter who desperately needed an escape.
We made it to Neverland.
Trisha Shepherd is a mother of three who works in non-profit marketing communications as the Lead Storyteller for Riley Children’s Foundation in Indianapolis (the fundraising arm of Riley Hospital for Children.)
After 15 years as a television news journalist in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, Trisha published a book about her experience with career burnout and making a big change: “Know When to Run: Lessons from the Diary of a Gen X Mom” (available on Amazon). She is also a freelance writer for publications including Indy’s Child, where she contributes to the “Trisha’s Wishes” blog.
In her spare time Trisha loves singing, participating in and watching theatre productions, spending time outdoors, watching baseball games, and visiting family in her hometown near Chicago. Twitter: @TrishaShepherd