Coach and Friend

Single parenting has its ups and downs but also many rewards, says this Ocala dad.

Matthew, Anna and Sid Schrum, with family dog, Gracie. Photo by Becky Collazo.

The consensus is unanimous. Sid Schrum is a great dad, say his 23-year-old sons, David, Matthew and Sam, and daughter Anna, 19. All four of the children were adopted as babies through overseas agencies—the three boys, unrelated, are from Kazakhstan, and Anna is from China. Raising four children, especially when they’re close in age, can be a challenge. But Sid says everyone has worked together to keep the household going—like a “well-oiled machine.”

“The kids pretty much knew how to do their laundry by the time I was divorced,” Sid notes. “They also cleaned their own rooms. We had a chore list. Typically, I would cook, but as the kids got older, I would encourage them to cook. Basically, I had a rule that whoever cooked didn’t have to clean up, so everyone else pitched in to clean up after a meal. Matthew was a natural at cleaning up the kitchen, so he kind of took the lead and still does to this day.”

Matthew, Anna, Sid, Sam and David Schrum.

As far as Sam is concerned, he learned a lot more from his dad beyond how to dry the dishes, mow the lawn and take out the garbage.

“He put us ahead of himself,” notes Sam. “He taught us that people matter and you have to put people first. He taught me how to have a servant’s mindset, that you have to get up and work hard.”

Sam recently graduated from the Valor School of Leadership, an extension of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, and has been working part-time as a youth pastor at a church in Georgia.

All four of the Schrum children have embarked on individual pursuits. Matthew is a firefighter/ paramedic with Marion County Fire Rescue, David attended the University of South Florida and works in a high-end restaurant in St. Petersburg and Anna will graduate in August from the University of Florida with plans to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology working with children.

“I feel great about the kids,” declares Sid, who until recently had to drive a great distance to his job. “It was exhausting. I would come home and a lot of times I would sleep for a good part of the day on Friday because I was so tired. My biggest challenge was keeping them on course with their schoolwork. All the boys played basketball and Anna did ballet until she went off to UF. It was tough on me at times, juggling the demands of a job, finances and having to encourage my kids, and trying to keep them from the pitfalls and temptations that high schoolers face today. My faith in Jesus Christ was definitely something that helped me during this very difficult time, where it would be easy to fall into despair and wonder, ‘Why this? Why me? Why my children?’”

But there were a few extra responsibilities that had him reeling, particularly when it came to Anna’s needs.

“It seemed like every time I went to the grocery store, I was buying shampoo and hair conditioner,” Sid recalls. “I didn’t want to go through the grocery line with watermelon and chicken legs and sanitary napkins. It was very embarrassing. Now, it’s water off a duck’s back.”

Until the children started cooking, the job usually fell to Sid.

“I often cooked at home in order to serve home-cooked meals to the kids,” he says. “I actually learned how to splay a turkey by Googling the instructions on the internet. But there was a lot I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know you shouldn’t use a metal spatula on a nonstick pan.” 

At 64, Sid continues to work as an electrical engineer but now does so mostly from home. Though two of the children have moved out to pursue their goals, Matthew still resides with his father and Anna spends time there on some weekends and during holiday breaks from college.

“He did a really good job of helping us learn everything— how to do our taxes, college applications, buying a car,” says Anna. “He also was helping us decide what to do with our future. My dad and I are very close. He’s been a role model for me to work hard in everything that I do.”

Looking back, Sid admits single parenting hasn’t been easy, but the rewards outnumber the difficulties, he insists.

“There were times when it was really tough, when I was questioning, ‘Is this going to turn out OK? Are we on the right path? Are they going to be OK?’” he shares. “I would say that I have today a closer and more positive relationship with every one of my kids. My reward, I think, is the relationship I have with them. As a parent of young adults, I’m their coach, but I’m also their friend.”  OS

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