“I have a surprise for you!” My daughter beamed as I picked her up from daycare one day. She gripped my hand and pulled me to her cubby, where she had a drawing waiting to be oooohed and awwwwed over.
“I love this!” I said. “Can you tell me about it?”
It’s the standard line I give when presented with her artwork, usually because I have no idea what I’m looking at. She’s only 3, after all.
“This is my mama,” she said, pointing to a random blob. “And this is me,” another random blob. “And this is my daddy,” she pointed to the last blob.
You see, my daughter doesn’t have a daddy. She never has. I adopted her on my own at birth, and while I have spoken to her biological father a handful of times over the phone, I’ve never met him. Neither has my little girl.
Still … she’s been obsessed with him as of late. Or at least, obsessed with the idea of him.
This isn’t the first time she’s drawn a picture of our fictional family of three. It’s not the first time she’s randomly inserted this man who doesn’t actually exist into our lives. There have even been multiple occasions when, in the middle of a fit, she’s cried out to me, “I want my daddy!” Which is just … so uncomfortable, to say the least.
Some of this I have to assume comes from daycare. She has to see other kids regularly bringing up the presence of “daddy” for it to be something that sticks with her, right?
But how much else is she actually processing at this point? Is she simply mimicking something she’s heard and seen, or is there more to this obsession of hers?
I honestly don’t know. But when she hands me a doll and says, “You be the mommy, I be the daddy,” I can’t help but wonder if the time has maybe come to have a talk.
A talk about the fact that she doesn’t have a daddy, and about why that is.
The answer isn’t simple, of course. Even if she had been raised by her biological mother, the man who helped to create her likely wouldn’t have been a big part of that picture. There isn’t an alternate reality in which my girl has a strong father figure. And while I still sometimes find myself hoping the right man will eventually turn up in our lives, stepping into the role of my partner and her father, I haven’t ever really held my breath for that. If it happens, great. If not … we’ll continue to be just fine.
Except, are we just fine? My daughter is bright and funny. She is sweet and loving. And anyone who has ever met her would tell you that she is, above and beyond all else, happy.
This is a child who knows she is loved.
But she is also a child who has already experienced far too much loss in her young life. Loss that she likely doesn’t even understand yet (after all, I’m the only mom she’s ever really know) but that she will, inevitably, have to process at some point.
Maybe this is all part of her trying to do that?
Of course, she’s never outright asked about him. There’s never been a question of, “Where is my daddy?” or, “Why don’t I have a daddy?” Other kids in our circle of friends have certainly picked up on the fact that something is different about our family, and have even commented to that effect … but so far, my daughter’s observations are mainly housed in the realm of pretend.
In the pictures she draws and the random stories she tells.
For what it’s worth, she’ll also sometimes point out a brother and two sisters in those pictures she draws. But that makes more sense to me — she has a biological brother and two sisters we often talk about. Their pictures are displayed in her room, and even though she’s only met them a few times, they still hold a more concrete presence in her life than any “daddy” ever has.
And yet … he, whoever he may be, bears a stronger presence in her imaginary world than they do.
Honestly, it guts me. Maybe more so because it seems to be something she is increasingly focused on with age. And I’m not sure how to address it; how to talk to her about this absence at an age-appropriate level. Which just makes me feel like a failure. Because I’ve had years to figure this out (I began pursuing single motherhood three years before she was even born), so … how have I not come up with a more solid plan at this stage in the game?
Or maybe this is the plan. Maybe my daughter isn’t struggling with what’s not there so much as she’s just trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. So maybe I’m doing all the right things by allowing her to explore that at her level, without correcting her or pushing for further explanations?
The truth is, I always knew the conversations of loss and what is not there would take place eventually. I just didn’t really expect them to happen so young, or so vaguely. I was prepared for open and honest sit down talks with my grade-schooler.
Not so much art interpretation with my preschooler.
And so, I wait … smiling and nodding as she tells her tales, holding my breath for the day more concrete questions may come.
Praying all the while that there’s not something more I may be missing along the way.More On