Seven years ago, give or take, I was this mix of pride and broken. It was National Photo of Child in Front of Door day, and my Dude was just starting in the tradition. I remember pride of his little uniform (shorts because even the smallest trousers were huge), but also the feeling that I had failed him. He should have had two of us cooing adoringly at him, not just me. How was I going to raise him into a man? Boys NEED fathers. There's studies everywhere to show that. Boys with single mums suck. They achieve less. They rob banks by the age of 8. He would probably be on crack within the week... As I was to discover though, I wasn't alone. I may have been single then, but I wasn't a lone parent. I had support from everywhere. From family to help with children, friends to help with ME, even the day a passing dad stopped to talk Dude down from a rage filled meltdown by the car. Time went on, and I was no longer even a single mum. There was that extra male support from Furball too who never once thought that he was in a relationship with only me. We've had our tough times, it's not all been easy, but he's growing into a man that I am proud to call mine (most of the time!). He has kept that caring spirit that he has always had, he has grown in confidence, he has this incredible self belief, he is learning to be a good partner (mainly by remembering the key phrase of "bitches be cray cray"). He went off to secondary school yesterday having checked his list of equipment, and standing proud having learnt to tie his tie in what I think is a Windsor (they don't teach this thing to girls... well tbf they don't teach it to most boys either), with his childhood cancer ribbon that he was fully prepared to explain to teachers if it was a uniform "breach", having worked hard to do his full amount of hours in maths over the summer (which I suspect the school only expect about half of). He's mine. But he's also ours. It has taken, and will always take, a village to raise a child, and my village is damn fine.