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The Other Woman Is Three. Notes from a Non-Breeder by Megan Haas for Babble.com.

As “Daddy’s special friend,” what’s my role? by Megan Haas

June 30, 2009

2

Tim brought Claudia over to my house today. I was sitting on my couch writing when I saw his car pull up. It took him a while to get to the door and when he finally did, I saw that it was because his daughter was with him. When I met Tim he didn’t seem like a man who had children. He seemed like a man who’d go through life never staying with anyone long enough to conceive anything permanent. He seemed like a man who had, in fact, escaped all responsibility.

The morning I woke up next to him, I still had my clothes on and my virtue intact. We lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, talking about this and that. For some reason, I jokingly asked how many children he had, not thinking there was any answer. He told me five hundred, which he then modified to three, and then told me their ages. Twenty-one. Eighteen. Two. I lay there shocked for a few seconds, but adjusted quickly and looked up at the ceiling some more. Then he mentioned Claudia and her age, again, and asked if this was scary for me. At that point he could have told me that he was married and it wouldn’t have shocked me and so, when he told me he was still married, it was par for the course. Claudia was born after they’d separated. They didn’t want to stay together, but they didn’t want to leave her behind.

Tim and I have now been dating for a year. His divorce papers have finally been signed and Tim is ready to ease me into the role of Daddy’s special friend. I’ve only seen Claudia twice, for a few moments in passing. Today is the third time. Our day started with her nap – her sleepy, soft self and blond braid, lying still on my bed where he’d arranged her on top of a towel over a sheet of plastic because she is learning to do without diapers. After the nap, and some playtime, we head out for a picnic at Gasworks Park, and watch the boats sliding back and forth on their tacks. The wind is warm, the sun carries the scent of blackberries. Claudia, after her short coloring session on the floor of my kitchen, is curious about everything, especially me.

We head over to the swings and the slides. I am surrounded by the normal, non-inquiring glances of children and parents. Here we are, just another family on the playground: Tim, a marked baby boomer dad with his silver and dark hair, taut legs in khaki shorts and no inhibitions, paired with me, a twenty-something version of Claudia. And Claudia, running free, easy, wild, and independent, rosy as an apricot, a gypsy child whose hair must be taken out of barrettes at her own insistence so that she can feel it in the wind. She knows the sensuality of this feeling at age three. I hold back, having never spent a full day with her, and I’m still sensitive of making my mark and upsetting the fragile ecosystem of it all. I like the two of them together, and I know that he should have this kind of carefree activity every day but doesn’t. I watch how free he is with her and how every interaction is a subtle lesson. “How many geese are over there by the stone wall?” he asks her. “Count them for me!” And she does.

At the playground I see the happy babies and parents and I wonder why I’m so ill at ease. There are so many reasons that could answer it, but they aren’t my reasons exactly, they are the reasons someone else would think of. I try them on for size. One is that I loved this when I was little and that my father was every bit as loving and attentive as Tim. Am I pining for my childhood? Next is the baby I haven’t had. This man, my lover, would love my child just as much as he loves Claudia. This idea feels tempting but in a slightly queasy way. I’m not eager to give birth. Perhaps, I think, it is because I love to watch her love him, and depend upon him with perfect confidence. Maybe it is the fact that they’re part of a family that’s breaking up but because of this little girl will still be ironclad, even if they are divorcing. Claudia gives me little looks and questioning glances, shy smiles and bold grins. She’s a tiny chameleon with flowing blond hair, wearing nothing but a shirt and panties.

As “Daddy’s special friend,” what’s my role? by Megan Haas

June 30, 2009

2

Our next stop is Murphy’s restaurant, where Claudia is in a touching mood. She is all over Tim. We eat French fries together and Tim and I drink beer. Across the table, they are in another world from me – sitting next to each other and loving each other. I listen to Tim say that she is his baby, that she is so pretty. He lets her put his glasses on him backwards and upside down. I see him run his finger in a straight line from the top of her forehead to the end of her nose. It is a familiar gesture, an absentminded caress that he performs on my face as well. I see the gestures, hear the cadences of his voice with her, the same ones he uses on me, and wonder if he treats everyone like a child or does he love me because I am childlike?

And we sit in Murphy’s, a group of three that is broken up into two and one. I think that Tim really must be okay with everything ending if he’s bringing the three of us to a public place, a bar where his friends go. Is this his first rebellious act of freedom after signing away his home to his ex-wife? I am thinking all sorts of things, and watching a boxing show on the twin TVs, when Tim prompts Claudia to come sit on my lap. This would have been nice if she’d thought of it herself, but I don’t believe she did. Soft and warm, the baby is on my lap for a mere second or two before she reaches out for the man whose duty she has done. Not a good way to teach a child to be true to herself, even if he thought it would please me.

Was I ready to have a child in my life? Tim called immediately after dropping me off at home. When I answered the phone, he said, “I worry about you when you’re quiet.” I told him I wished he hadn’t prompted her to sit on me. He swore that she did it all on her own, and that she had total trust in me. I lay back on my couch. Was I ready to have a child in my life?

Ultimately, I made the leap. Falling in love with a man means embracing his world. My sense of unease disappeared. Claudia and I developed a mutual adoration for each other, and for the following two years Tim and I stayed together, she and I spent a great deal of time together on our own. The problem was that I eventually fell out of love with Tim. When I left him, he disallowed all contact between me and his daughter, which was his right, but truly painful. I heard from a mutual friend that finally, after a year, Claudia stopped asking for me, but I still think about her. Perhaps the root of the unease I sensed upon meeting her was that leaving Claudia would be a thousand times more painful than leaving Tim.

Article Posted 6 years Ago
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