Tuesday, June 14, 2011

how we talk about the absent father

Ah, yes. Father's Day.

As a single mom of a burgeoning little girl, I forget that our situation in life holds unexpected potholes. I only know *this* life. The one I have. I don't know otherwise. So I don't think about her experience with Father's Day, or her asking about it, or her witnessing it in other families.

I'm still tackling this one, and I think this will be a topic of discussion throughout the next 20+ years of life. Mostly because she asks. She's two for heaven's sake. TWO. I thought I had until at least 4.

A bit of back story for you: Madeleine's father (my former husband) is in another state right now. No, we don't see him. It's best to say at this point, their interactions are sparse. Distance + life + different ideas of how things should work. I'll leave it at that.

(Side note: You will not find a bitter ex-wife tirade here. Or a "men are jerks" rant. 
Nor will you find me saying, "I am superwoman." I will say that being a single mom has some incredible, beautiful, hard, challenging moments... just as I know "regular" family situations have.

Mothering is mothering

There is no guide book for it. And whether you're single or with someone, us moms are still figuring this thing out...day by day, sometimes minute by minute.)

She often mistakes strangers for him, or musicians on stage who have dark hair hanging over their eyes. She'll sometimes ask my guy friends if they're her dad. Or she'll start calling her uncles "dad", or her grandfather "dad". She's even been known to walk up to a male friend and ask them to marry me. (*dying of embarrassment over here*)

I do correct her, and never leave a doubt in her mind. Her father is real, just not here.

At night, when I'm tucking her tiny body into bed, and her arms wrap tight around my arm, she'll ask:
"Where's Daddy? I miss him."

I usually pause, and pull myself down to my knees next to her.

"Daddy doesn't live here," she says and looks at the ceiling of silk scarves and green glowing stars. "Daddy lives in his house in Texas."

"Yup, that's right," I say, stroking her feathery curls behind her ears.

(Side note #2: I don't talk trash about him, especially to her. I just don't.
Not at all,
not ever,
and by God's grace, never will.

I have my own issues, but hurting her by speaking things, and hurting him back by dragging his name through the mud does nothing good.

There is no freedom in that. There is no spirit of redemption in that. And by redemption I mean, I am not going to sling mud at his invisible presence until she's 18. She will grow up and decide for herself how she feels about it. Him. Them. I will not lie, but I will not grow hard to her tender, searching heart. The story that exploded into a million shards between him and I does not need to gut her out before she has a chance to see it for herself.)

"Your father lives far away, but he loves you very much," I say.

"I want a daddy," she says, her eyelids drooping heavy. "I want two daddies."

I tell her about the men who love her who she sees all the time.
My dad.
My brothers.
Her older cousins.

Boys and men who love God, and love her like their own. I tell her that God will take care of us, and what He has given us now is good for us now. And should He decide someday to bring another Daddy, then we will be happy.

But even if he doesn't, we will be happy then too. 

She smiles, "I love you." And her eyes drift off to the side wall, marking the stars that glow with her fingers.

I can't fix the hole that is gaping in her. I'm not to fill it with wishful thinking for a future I don't know, or burning ashes of a past I can't change.

I'm not supposed to be her hero. That's not my job. That's not her father's job. That's not the job of some man who could be another father in her life.

That belongs to God. Just like the air in her lungs, and the rhythm of her heart. The song on her lips and the tears on her cheeks. She is not mine to own, fix or mold.

I close the door as she drifts off to sleep, one small speed bump gone under our feet and into the dark.

His grace is good.


{linking up with these girls today}


  1. Beautiful writing. I've never thought about Father's Day being a hard time for some children. Thank you for helping me be aware so I can be more caring. Praying God will be with your daughter and you,as well.


  2. pamela — thank you for your prayers, and for your kind note =)

  3. WOW. The grace with which you approach life, and the wisdom you bring to your little girl's heart...w-o-w. He is so present with you, and I am thankful. I learned a lot from this post. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jenny - I am so grateful that He is present here. Grace is the only reason I am where I am now. Thank you so much for your encouragement and for stopping by!

  5. wow this post was like some weird emotional roller-coaster...it made me remember, reflect, and at the end feel so grateful that God has blessed me with you and the little bird. you two will always be family to me...and to mike:) so proud of you andrea! and so proud of the friendship that we have poured so much time, sweat, tears, and joy into. you are a precious gem, through and through:)

  6. katy - you and mike have been two of the best people in the world to do this journey with. i love you guys. you're grace to me.

  7. You are a very strong woman and it will show in your daughter as she grows. Keep the faith and keep up the good work with her. She will understand once all is said and done.

  8. oh, andrea. I think of Solomon and all his wisdom and I see is splayed out here. God has given you a tender heart, wisdom, and a love that is amazing...

  9. I know you don't know me. Lore does, a little.
    May I suggest (I was going to say "correct"-but it's not my place or right) that she *is* yours to mold, and mold you are doing. You are molding her in the most loving, grace-filled, God-centered way you know how.

    I want to praise you for your thoughtfulness on how to treat a very tender subject for you both. I grew up with a part time dad who later left. Now, I have neither father nor mother, for cancer has stolen them both from us.

    Thank you for sharing this so that I can remember compassion toward the "fatherless" in my circle. May grace and peace be yours on your journey.

  10. thank you Debbie! i completely understand and agree with what you're saying by molding her :) i was more implying that she's not *mine* to create/mold/change. i'm her mom, yes, but ultimately, she's God's and i pray for his complete work of grace in her life and heart. i am a steward of this life, and hopefully, she'll grow to see Him. i was meaning that i don't want a mini-version of me. and i can't just take away the parts of her heart that hurt. that kind of molding happens on the potter's wheel; not the mama's wheel :) i think we are perhaps thinking the same thing, but it's just a mixing of words :)

    and your story is more than i can simply imagine. that's a lot of sad, but i hope God's grace was rich.

    thank you so much for your encouraging words. they are honey to my soul.

  11. Andrea,

    I suspect that we are mostly on the same page with the 'molding' term. I agree that our children are only ours to care for in proxy for God. Ultimately they are His. If we understand this, it makes it easier to see them grow away from us, as they must in time.

    Losing parents too early is sad, and continues to be. Not a week goes by (and it's been 11 years and counting) when I don't wish that they could see their grandkids and great-grands growing up, or wish that I could ask Mom about gardening or Dad about nature or car repairs. God's grace is there, though, and I feel the Comforter with me.

    I'm glad that I encouraged you. I look forward to learning more about you and your wonderful life and family, so full of grace, and the path that choosing forgiveness has led you on.

    Be blessed!

  12. Andrea - Thanks for sharing your heart in this way. Beautifully and sensitively written. So much is written about how little boys need their dads, but so little is made of a girls' father void (until it's too late anyway). And you're right - this is the way God has made this period to be and it's clear He's giving you two the grace to walk through it with strength. It's very clear from this that He's at work, in your little angel and in you.

    Keep writing! You're really talented!

    Be blessed -


  13. Darren - thank you for stopping by! not having a dad around is more impacting in her life than i ever imagined it would be. i think everyone assumes that a little girl has her mom, but a good dad is a force to be reckoned with in a girl's life (in a good way!). i'm thankful for God's grace as it has been a lifeline for us, for me. thank you so much for your encouragement! it means so much! :)

  14. debbie - my heart hurts with the reality of your story... not having them around for those reasons. wow. once again, thanks for coming here today and being a part of this conversation. much love.

  15. What a good thing: "I'm not supposed to be her hero. That's not my job. That's not her father's job...That belongs to God."

    You are one amazing momma, and you do things that most will never venture to do.

    When I have children, remind me of these sweet and precious ways, ok?! :)

    Love you!