“How long do you think it’ll be before I have a boyfriend?” I asked.
“Never,” my daughter replied. “You’re gonna live with me for the rest of your life and change diapers, and no one will like you because you’ll smell like poop.”
That’s how my morning started today. My daughter likes to crawl in bed with me when she wakes up – inevitably before me – and make small talk ’til I’m no longer groggy. Boyfriends were on my mind, I guess, because last night my daughter and I sat playing with the Magic 8 Ball online, asking it whether or not I’d find love again. (Ewwww!)
When I asked my 5-year-old if she thought she’d get married someday, she shook her head no. “I’m just gonna buy my own house and get some kitties,” she said. So I guess that means we’ll be crazy old cat ladies together – wheee! Crazy old cat ladies raising babies, for some reason, if the diaper changing comment stands. I’m not sure how we’re going to “get” those babies. (At 5, my daughter thankfully doesn’t have a really solid understanding of human reproduction. She thinks that once a girl gets her period she just magically gets a baby sprung on her at some point.) She’s told me in the past, “Ooh, I hope I don’t get a baby when I’m a teenager.” Trust me, kid – you’re not alone in that wish.
My 5-year-old obviously has no idea what her future will bring, and neither do I. I spend lots of time asking the Magic 8 Ball when my true love will appear – and so far all I’ve gotten in return is a resounding, “Ask Again Later.” That’s just as well, I suppose, since I’ve got enough on my plate being a single mom with two jobs in a demanding industry. But I would like to fall in love again someday, and not just with my daughter. Sure, the love I feel for her could fill 20 oceans, and it was my desire to heal – for her sake – that remained my sole inspiration in my darkest moments of despair after my divorce. But much as it might make me feel guilty, I need more than the love of a child to feel satisfied. As much as I enjoy our time together, being a mommy alone just isn’t enough. I sometimes think, as my daughter and I are out and about, “Would this be more fun if I had a boyfriend? Someone here I could smile at and share this moment with?”
And then I worry about my daughter feeling excluded; I worry that she might feel like the theoretical relationship I’ve concocted solely in my mind with this mythical boyfriend is more important to me than my relationship with her. (It happens a lot, given that I rotate casting for the boyfriend role at least once a week.) It’s a strange position to be in, since married parents never have to worry that their children might accuse them of paying too much attention to each other. (1. Because married people with kids often don’t pay enough attention to each other, and 2. If they do show affection towards each other, their kids think it’s grossly adorable.) I’d like to find someone to exchange barf-inducing affection with, but I have no way of knowing if that’ll happen or not. My fellow Strollerderby blogger John married a single mom and is raising her daughter from a previous marriage as if she were his own, so maybe there’s hope. Maybe I’ll meet someone who can love me and my kid.
Which makes me think of my Dad. I met my Dad when I was 4 and instantly fell in love. He was so charming, so kind, so funny. God, was my Dad funny. And he loved kids. He was great with kids. In fact, just the other day I was thinking about how good my Dad was at making me and my friends feel welcome in his presence. I never felt like I was in his way. He’d come home from work, shower, and then shout to me and whoever else was over, “Come on, kids! Let’s go downtown.” We’d pile into his work truck, one of us sitting on the passenger’s side and the rest crammed in on the cooler he kept between the seats, heading down to the “coffee shop” to inhale donuts and play video games as my father’s hearty ha-HAAAAA rang through the air.
Sometimes I fantasize about meeting a guy like my Dad. Someone with a mind-blowing dedication to the comfort and safety of the people he loves. Someone with an enormous work ethic, a jovial disposition and a huge heart. Then I realize, my Dad was one in a million. There’s no one out there like him. Which is how a lot of little girls feel about their fathers, including my daughter. I know my daughter loves her Dad, and despite my feelings about our marriage, I would never ask my daughter to deny herself that relationship. I know how important it is for a little girl to have a grown-up man to look up to, and how wonderful and necessary the dynamic between Dads and daughters is. I only wonder if my daughter is yet to have another father figure in her life. According to the Magic 8 Ball, signs point to yes.
“Will I get married again someday?,” I typed into the question box last night. “Yes,” the 8 Ball flashed back. My daughter turned to me with her hands on her hips, giving me the mildly-disapproving-yet-bemused look of a sitcom character whose inner-monologue cries, “Oh, you!” She didn’t need to say a word. I know I’m a hopeless romantic. But I’m trying to be a hopeful one, too.
Photo: istockphoto / © druvo