“Where’d Daddy Go?”
I’ve been struggling with whether or not to write this post for a while now, and then I struggled with whether or not I should write it for this site of for Lifetime Moms. And I realized that that month long debate in my head was a nice little avoidance tactic. If I stress about where to write the post, then I can avoid actually writing the post…about the fact that my daughter, now 22-months-old, has been asking for her absentee father for over a month now. And that avoidance helps dull the pain in my heart that breaks for her.
I have always heard from the experts that when explaining things to littles, it is important to keep the explanation very simple and answer their exact question in an age appropriate fashion. So when Ellie asked for Daddy a month or so ago, I simply said, “Honey, Daddy doesn’t live with us. But Mommy is here and she can do anything you need her to do.” And her response was, “Okay, ice cream?”
Like I am going to say no to ice cream after that.
But the more Ellie is around my wonderful friends, and their spouses, the more Ellie appears to really grasp the fact that every child in her life has a father present, and in Ellie’s life there is a father missing. And it kills me.
When Ellie’s biological father left me when I was 5 weeks pregnant, the thing I was most worried about was how I was going to explain this situation to an innocent child who didn’t ask for either of her parent’s crazy. I felt horribly guilty for doing something that created an innocent life in less than perfect circumstances. I obsessed about the potential conversations I’d have with her down the road…the pain of Father’s Day…the fact that it would look really silly if she danced with me at her first dance at her wedding…the questions from other kids…
I played then out in my head nearly every waking hour of my pregnancy.
And then my beautiful little girl was born, and I became very focused on surviving, and managing the logistics of being a single parent in New York City, while working full-time. The breastfeeding…the pumping scheduled around meetings…the constant fear I’d forget to buy diapers…the 3am feedings when I had to be up for work at 5am…coming to terms with having someone else spend more time with my child because I have no choice but to work…the vaccination schedule…the 104 fevers, and double ear infections and trips to the emergency room because of an 8 day marathon of vomiting…moving to an apartment and a neighborhood that is better for her…feeling pressure to look both ways 16 times before I cross the street because I am the only parent Ellie has…
All of that took priority in my brain. And maybe in some way I thought that if I made everything else in Ellie’s world picture perfect, then she wouldn’t notice that other people had a family member that she didn’t. But life and love don’t work that way. I am smart enough to know that…it is amazing what your heart can try to convince your brain of at times.
And at some point, about 6-8 weeks ago, Ellie began to ask for Daddy. And for a brief moment I thought, “I’ve failed. If I was doing a better job, she wouldn’t even notice…after all, all families are different. I have plenty of same sex couples in our life and she isn’t asking them where their opposite partner is.”
And instead of my answers satisfying her, they have only escalated her questions, because god blessed with me a child that is brilliant. It’s not enough for her to know every single one of her letters and most of her numbers, as well as her ability to recite about 10 nursery rhymes all on her own…no…she has a level of intuition that boarders on supernatural.
So this Saturday, when she said she needed Daddy, and I responded by saying, “Honey, daddy doesn’t live with us…” she cut me off and said, “Okay, I go to Daddy’s house then?”
My heart broke. For her.
“No honey. We can’t do that. But we can go to the playground, does that sound like fun?” she nodded, but all I could think was that a slide and a swing-set in no way fills the void of a missing father. And my heart broke again.
It’s not like I am gay, and there is a donor father. It’s not like I planned to raise a child on my own, and took the necessary steps to make that happen. And even when I get married and my husband is an active father figure in Ellie’s life, it won’t change the fact that there is a person who contributed their DNA to create an amazing little girl, and that person has chosen not to be a part of her life.
When I think about how she will feel when she processes that, the pain is soul crushing. When I was pregnant, I used to crave one more moment in blissful ignorance before I took that pregnancy test and felt an entirely new level of fear and responsibility and love…and I am afraid that once Ellie is able to wrap her mind around what our family dynamic is, she too will crave those moments before she felt the emotions that I fear she will feel.
And I can only pray, that she have the ability to realize what I have realized in the past 2 years…that love is by far the strongest thing on this planet, and that it is overflowing in this home, on good days and on bad. And it isn’t just overflowing in this home, it is overflowing in every room that my daughter walks into…because the day she was born, this world became a better place.