Being both the firm disciplinarian and the loving nurturer is part of finding the balance in single motherhood.
So said Wanda Pratt, the mother of NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who will share her insights at a statewide conference for single moms in June.
Pratt, mother of the Oklahoma City Thunder's star forward, said she has much to say to single mothers who attend Arise Ministry's “Survive ‘N' Thrive Single Moms' Conference” set for June 21-22 at Crossings Community Church, 14600 N Portland. About 900 single mothers are expected to attend the statewide conference, Pam Kanaly, co-founder of Arise, said recently.
Kanaly, of Edmond, said Pratt was chosen as guest speaker for the conference because she was well received at the ministry's “Jingle Jangle” Christmas season event for single mothers in November. Kanaly said Pratt spoke to 1,000 moms at that event, which was co-hosted by People's Church.
“We just wanted her to have the experience of the statewide conference and we wanted the single moms to hear from her,” Kanaly said. “She's a very genuine person.”
In an interview with The Oklahoman, Pratt said there were challenges and rewards of being a single mom to sons Kevin and Tony, Kevin's younger brother.
“The difficult part was having to handle everything on my own and initially, trying to figure that out,” she said. “But once I realized that was our life, we just lived our life and I did the best I could.”
Pratt said finding a balance played a key part of parenting her sons as a single mom.
“Sometimes, I had to be the ‘good' parent and the ‘bad' parent in a split second and so sometimes that was difficult because as a mother you always want to be the one to give the hugs and the kisses and let them know that everything is going to be OK, and on the other hand, I had to be the disciplinarian and make the hard choices, punish sometimes and take away some of their activities,” she said. “It was just balancing being the ‘good' and the ‘bad' parent, or the ‘nice' and the ‘mean' parent, so to speak.”
Pratt said Kevin was even-tempered as a young child.
She said people always ask her if he always had the pleasant personality he displays much of the time as an NBA star, and she is quick to tell them that the humble hoops star has been that way since childhood.
Pratt said she had her worries, like anxiety about Kevin sucking his finger as a toddler. She said her pediatrician told her that thumb suckers were very self-sufficient and that he would grow out of it.
“I just kind of let it be,” she said. “As far as his temperament, he's always been a mild-mannered guy. He was a self-sufficient baby.”
Pratt said many people helped her as she navigated her way through single parenthood. She said her mother, sister and other members of her extended family were always helpful. Then there were the men and women who ran the Seat Pleasant Activity Center in Seat Pleasant, Md., which her sons frequented growing up.
Pratt said various people at the center, including a basketball coach, a student mentor, a man who liked to joke with the boys and a physical trainer, all seemed to help her parent the boys in their own way.
She said she did not have problems raising boys alone, something she attributed to her own personality.
“I think I have that personality of being somewhat firm when I want to be, so it wasn't difficult at all,” she said.
Pratt said guiding her sons to wholesome activities took prayer and some parenting skills honed over the years.
“In every young life there will be positive and negative influences, you just pray that they gravitate toward the positive experiences and influences. As a single parent, you try to direct them toward the positive influences and that's what I tried to do,” she said.
Pratt said she is reaping the rewards of her efforts as a mom these days.
“My reward is that they are providing for themselves, that they are becoming the kind of men that they would want to look up to. I see them still as young men at this point. They may beg to differ and say that they are men, but I still see them as young men,” she said, chuckling.
“I see them growing and becoming more confident in themselves every day and I find pleasure when we talk and they say ‘Mom, you taught me this. You taught me how to trust my decisions, even if I make mistakes. You taught me to believe in myself and never give up.' Those are the rewards I see when we talk and interact.”
Pratt said she is looking forward to speaking to single mothers at the statewide conference because she wants to tell them not to give up on their own dreams.
“I think it's important because sometimes, you really have to dig deep to find the hope in your dreams as a single parent,” she said. “Even though you are a single parent and you face all of the life situations, the ups and downs of your life and your children's lives, it's still important to you as a single parent to know that you, as a woman, are just as important as you, the single mother,” she said.
“It took me a while to learn that and I'd like to convey that message to single mothers.”