I love being a mother. Correction: I love love love love love being a mother. It’s just that I wasn’t planning on being a single parent, let alone an only parent. Not only do you have to actually get everything done basically by yourself (although I’ve been incredibly blessed to have helpful family and friends), but you’re the only one left to make all the decisions by yourself…
Trying to explain things, especially verbally, has not been one of my strong suits. Kids tend to ask you questions you never wanted to answer (like “How did I get in your tummy? And how did I get out?”). I have two boys, currently ages 11 and 13. The questions do not get any easier, but one of the most difficult ones came before the tween years.
I was married to their father for a short time. Before the divorce was finalized, he disappeared, and didn’t contact us for about a year. Then, he resurfaced, the divorce was finalized, and he began asking to see my boys. Legally, I was obligated to allow visitation, so I did. October of the following year was the last time they saw him, and in December of that same year was the last conversation I had with him. Mid 2007-2008, we divorced, and the last time I saw him was at end of 2009. He never called again or emailed or attempted to contact us or anyone in my family since.
It took a while before my kids stopped asking about him. It was a little longer for them to stop pointing as we drove, asking why I never turned on the street that lead to his old house. My kids began to make up reasons why they never saw him anymore, and luckily, none of those reasons blamed me. But when my oldest was about 9 years old, he asked me, “Mommy, is Daddy really dead?”
I was shocked and said, “No, baby, where did that come from?”
“That’s what he said,” he said, pointing at his little brother. I didn’t know where they would have gotten that idea. Unless they asked, everyone in my family tried to avoid even mentioning their father.
“Sweet pea, who told you your father was dead?” He looked at me, completely straight-faced, no tears nor smile.
“Well, we don’t ever see him anymore. I figured he must have died in a war.” My ex was in the military reserves, so I guess he remembered seeing him in uniform.
“In a war?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I remember seeing him in army clothes and I couldn’t imagine any other reason he hasn’t come to see us. So he must be dead.”
“No, baby, he isn’t dead. As far as I know.”
“Then why doesn’t he come to see us? Did we do something?”
That’s the worst right there. When kids start to blame themselves for the stupid mistakes adults make. “No, you didn’t do anything. I will give you an answer. Just let me think for a little bit.”
That night, I sat my boys down on the sofa to give them the best answer I could muster.
“As far as I know, your father is alive somewhere. He could be living 15 minutes away, or anywhere. I honestly do not know. You did not do anything to make him go away. Do you remember how Mommy showed you how to bake a cake?”
They looked at me a little puzzled, but said, “Yeah.”
“OK, so to make a cake, you need a lot of different parts to make a whole cake. You need the mix, the eggs, the milk, the frosting, and you need to bake it, right?”
“So, God makes us whole, but we have all these different parts that go into it. Sometimes, it takes a little time for all these parts to come together. Then we have to bake.”
“Well, in a way. It’s like we have the pieces, but God’s still working on us. You know how Mommy goes and sticks a toothpick in the middle of the cake to check and see if it’s done? Well, if the toothpick doesn’t come out clean, then it has to bake a little longer.”
“OK.” Blank stares, but they’re listening.
“So sometimes, we look like we’re ready, and we think we’re ready, but our toothpick is not quite clean yet, so God has to work on us a little longer. So maybe your dad wanted to be ready to be in your lives, but he wasn’t quite ready, so God had to go work on him a little longer. You two are amazing kids and you deserve only the best, and God knows that, so he wants you to have good people watching out for you and taking care of you, and he wants to make sure they’re ready for that. So maybe when God is through, and your father’s toothpick comes out clean, he’ll be ready for you guys. In the meantime, you have awesome grandparents and a mommy to care for you.”
My oldest one, who’s generally a very go-with-the-flow kid, said, “The cake thing is kinda weird, but OK, Mommy.”
My youngest, ever inquisitive, asked, “So your toothpick is clean?”
“I think so, but God’s still working on my frosting.”