Big and unconditional. That’s what you learn about how love is supposed to be. You learn that it comes from the person you know you can depend on, who will be there to fill – or try to fill – every family role you need in your life
You learn that love transforms. You learn that it evolves, and changes with age and experience. Your relationship to a parent at a young age – when they were your caretaker, and the only love you really knew – doesn’t stay that way. But sometimes you’ll grow up and you’ll wish it did. You’ll wish you still looked at them as if they had all the answers.
Only then you grow up, and realize they don’t. And that’s when you learn that sometimes – even for no reason – love can get tangled with other emotions, like resentment. When you have one person who raised you through everything, even when there wasn’t a lot of money or time or energy, you feel that their love is unconditional. The only problem is, that makes you feel like you can test it, because you know it will still be there. Because you know that it will never abandon you.
And it is too easy to grow resentful of a single parent as you grew up, even though most of the things you got upset about were out of your parent’s control. They didn’t have a spouse to turn to, so they turned to you, and it forced you to grow up quickly. It forced you to be an adult long before you needed to be an adult for yourself. It forced you to accept how the world actually is at a young age, instead of being shielded from it for as long as possible. And that will upset you when you’re growing up, so you take it out on the only person you know how to, but ultimately feel guilty.
And that’s how you learn that love comes with challenges, but it’s still unconditional. The act of loving your parent, even when it is simply assumed and unspoken, will always come with challenges. This is what happens when it is just you and them against the world — even if you have siblings, or even if you are lucky enough to have two single parents who just aren’t together anymore. It still feels like it’s just you and them, at least sometimes.
You learn that love can do anything, because that’s something your parent taught you. That together, you were capable of getting anything done, because you had to be. When you are on a team with a single parent, you are each other’s first line of defense. You are each other’s be all and end all. And you learn that no matter what happens, and no matter who else comes into their life, that you are always their number one. Even if they get remarried, or have more children, you have learned to be loved as one of their very first loves. And there is nothing that beats that. They were the first person to show you love, and the first person to teach you to reciprocate it.
So if you’re the child of a single parent, you know how to love big. You know how to give ‘all’ and not just ‘some,’ and love with your full heart. And you also know that there will be challenge, but with someone you love, you can get through it, and you can help them through it. You learn to care and take care, because they took care of you, and you always knew it was part of the bargain that you’d take care of them. You wouldn’t have it any other way.