My son calls me Mama or Mum. He calls my Mom Mamama. His Uncle Douglas is Dougie- sometimes. His Grandfather is Dada. I read someplace that every child, regardless of whether their father is in their life or not, goes through a phase where they ask for “Dada.” Intellectually, it makes perfect sense that he would call my Dad Dada because all he ever hears him referred to is “Dad.” Emotionally, however, it kills me just a little bit. I want my son to have positive male role models in his life- that’s one big reason why we moved here. I just don’t want his to refer to that role model as “Dad.” But it’s not like I could ever tell him that his biological father is a deadbeat, that he was cast aside for some childish pipedream.
I discussed with my mother what I would tell Elijah when he is old enough to realize that other children go home to two parents but he only goes home to one, or some of his friends may see a parent on the weekends but his Dad might come around every couple of years (don’t hold your breath for even that sort of regularity). How can you be truthful without speaking poorly of the other person or making a child feel bad? You can’t tell a six year old “Your Dad was asked to choose between you and music and he chose music” or “Well, he was given the chance to see you ever week but he decided against it because he needed time to himself.” I settled on, “Your Dad loves you very much but he can’t be a Dad so we came to family that also loves you very much.”
I never had any illusions about the difficulties of being a single Mom. It’s a tough thing to do on your own. If it weren’t, we’d not revere the “Mommy + Daddy + Child = Family” equation so much. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or my son, either, because the divorce was the absolute best thing that could have happened to Elijah and me. Nonetheless, I find myself wondering how I’m going to manage the two of us living on our own, going to school, working full time, and being the best Mom I can be. It would be so much easier to have someone share in the responsibilities of raising my son. But this isn’t about what is easy; it’s about what’s right. It’s always been about what’s right and what’s best and that has lead to some horribly difficult decisions. So, I made the choices, prayed for the best, and live with the results.
Because of that, I get to watch my son grow up in this loving environment. I get to watch his interact with people who, a year ago, were never sure when they would see him again. Of course this was done at the expense of others’ abilities to see Elijah regularly but, unless I somehow figured out how to move everyone to the same region, something was going to give and I had the ability to choose what it would be.
That, I think, is why it is so frustrating to hear the self pitying caterwauling of Elijah’s father. “Oh, I miss my boy so much!” “Oh, I wish I could hug him!” “Oh, I feel like such a bad Dad because I can’t do anything for my boy!” Well, he could start by making the attempt. It’s so far above and beyond the child support he doesn’t pay. It’s about sending a letter or a picture on occasion so Elijah will have something to look back on later on. It’s about doing little things to have a positive effect on Elijah’s life. But if he doesn’t send letters or pictures or child support or inquire about his son’s well being unless it’s saddled onto some other conversation, he really don’t have a right to say he wishes he could do more. I honestly wish that he would either step up and show the interest he says he has or just drop off the face of the planet so we can move on. This “I’m a deadbeat dad in every sense of the word but feel sorry for me” bullshit has got to stop.