The Man Who Wasn’t There
Why does my son say “daddy” when he’s never even met his father? by Christine Coppa
April 14, 2009
“Dad-dee! Dad-dee!” JD, my fifteen-month-old son, yells from center parachute at Gymboree class. My stomach feels like the roller coaster just dropped. The mothers “aww” in unison. This coaxes JD to dance around in little circles yelling “Dad-dee, Dad-dee,” then stop, dead in his tracks, look at his audience, smile and wait for their reaction. They react. Over and over – and over. My face feels flush. I slip my hands inside of JD’s jean overalls to bring him closer to me. He trips over his feet, but quickly pushes himself up, proclaiming “Dad-dee,” over a gurgle of laughter, clapping his hands, then running off to a long, netted tube to crawl through.
“Daddy’s at work,” a mother in one of those matchy-match designer velour running suits calls out to him. She’s got a perfectly manicured Posh cut and a full face of makeup. She smells like Chanel No. 5 and homemade cookies. I have on chapstick. Velour-running-suit mom turns back, smiling at me. “They love their daddies!” she says, bouncing her strawberry-blonde girl in her lap. The little girl cranes her neck up and twists her body, “Daddy?” she says in a question mark, popping her finger into her mouth, sucking on it like it’s dipped in confectioners sugar.
My son doesn’t have a daddy.
I was dating someone for almost three months when I took the pregnancy test. Eleven weeks later I was single. I was living in New York City, working full-time at a magazine and living paycheck-to-paycheck like most people my age. Soon however, I found a cheap apartment in the Jersey burbs. I was having a baby in less than two months – I couldn’t share a space with strangers from Craig’s List anymore. Fifteen months later here I am – in the town I grew up in. At mommy and me class.
Hanging out with stay-at-home moms that did things “the right way.” Dated. Got Engaged. Got Married. Got mortgages. Got pregnant. Me? I work from my apartment in jeans, barefoot, as a fulltime contracted freelance writer for two big websites because working in-house meant paying $1,200 a month in daycare fees. After doing that for ten months, I left my job and make my own schedule now.
I write when JD naps or draws on the easel that is set next to my desk. Friends call me a vampire because I’ve taken to working in the night when other people are sleeping. The quiet and calm of plugging away with the night sky just outside my window is lovely, though. And I will remember the way the black wash looked and the stars, like a string of Christmas lights, in easier days to come and I will smile because I am a warrior mama. Still, every now and then someone reminds me I got “knocked up” or calls JD a horrible name, like “Devil’s spawn” on my Glamour.com blog Storked! But more often than that, people from around the world laugh with me, cry with me, ask me to be their Facebook friend; send me recipes for “to-die-for” mac ‘n cheese.
Admiring JD sharing a ball with another toddler, I think back to the first few months I was pregnant and alone. I was on a mission, telling myself everything was under control and that I could do this – distracting myself with freelance work on top of my full-time job at First magazine for extra money, laundering things in Dreft and folding them up on my belly, tucking them into the baby drawer of my dresser.