06 August, 2008

The Things Kids Talk About

"Why does your mom always pick you up?  Why doesn't your dad pick you up?"
The Diva has been asked this twice in the past six months, both times by her 8 year old peers. 
She says she answers the question honestly, "Because I live with my mom."
"Your parents are divorced."  the very knowledgeable 8 year old girls can understand this as divorce is something they have heard about.
"No," my honest daughter responds.  "They were never married."
At this point the argument begins.  "Then you don't have a dad."
The Diva insists that she does, that her dad just doesn't live with us.  The other girls insist that she doesn't. 
I was stunned the first time I heard about this conversation.  Of course you have a dad, just like they have dads.  I figured it was an isolated incident.  When it happened again last week, I wasn't sure exactly what to say or to do. 
My "neighborhood" seems to defy the national statistics regarding families and divorce.  Throughout the Diva's experience in school, she has known just 3 other children with non-traditional family structures; 3 of over 100 kids.  Her experience as a child who rarely sees her dad makes her that much more unique in the eyes of her peers.  Add to this that her friends never see her dad as he doesn't attend her performances or events, and to them it appears that she doesn't have a dad.
But she does - a dad she loves very much.  I can't imagine what it would be like to walk in her shoes sometimes.  To have to argue with friends over the reality that you have a dad.  Sometimes I wonder just how this is impacting her life.  
From the time she was 5, her teachers have asked the children what they want to be when they grow up.  While her female peers wanted to be wives and mothers, the Diva announced that she wanted to be a ballerina - a dream that has not changed.  
When she was in kindergarten she came home to tell me that she was never going to fall in love again.  I smiled and asked why.  Apparently one of the little boys at school broke her heart and, that was that.  No moor love for her.  I am waiting and watching to see how this one plays out as boys like the Diva even though she doesn't really want to be around them.  Of late, she has suggested that she doesn't know what the future holds, so love might be okay but... she is not having kids!
Before she dances, falls in love, or determines whether or not she really wants to be a parent, she has to survive her peers and her parents! 
Thankfully my daughter has always been self assured, confident, and well adjusted as I have a feeling that finding her path is going to be quite the challenge in the next few years.  Not only does she have to come to terms with her family and herself, but she is fielding questions already that I could never have foreseen. 
At some point, she may find herself attempting to figure out what "dad" means and how it means so many different things to so many different people.  Her life and her experience, along with the different things that I have read, have challenged me to reexamine my own definition of "dad." 
There are dads that live in the home and dads that don't.  Dads that work and dads that stay at home.  There are involved dads and those that are disengaged.  There are dads that fight to be a part of their kids lives and some that are given carte blanch and yet take very little. 
For the Diva, dad is someone who laughs and plays games, who should open his own cafe, and who works or is traveling all the time.  What she doesn't know is that her dad knows everything that goes on in her life because that is the kind of mom I am (except the girl stuff that is private.)  She doesn't realize all the contributions he makes to the family, nor that to the best of my ability, I attempt to maintain a stable  flow of communication with him and encourage their relationship with all my heart. 
"I do have a dad" she tells the other girls. 
Someday, at some point, those girls might understand.  A dad is not about marriage or living in the same house, it is a relationship that is defined only by those involved. 


syd said...

Oh boy, do I hear you. We have a similar family situation, plus an older sister who has a dad that I *was* married to. A little bit too close to Jerry Springer material for comfort - but we're just a normal, average family otherwise - who all gets along fine, and even has family picnics all together. My 7 year old is already starting to get the questions from her peers as well, and I wish I knew how to better prepare her. So far she just answers matter of factly. Like, of course this is how our family works. Doesn't yours?

justrun said...

Oh, boy, do I hear this. I was that kid, my sister and I both. And though we knew, it was nearly impossible to explain to everyone else. It almost felt as though we had to prove ourselves more. It's a struggle, yes, but I think it also taught us a lot about judging people.

I think the best thing you can reinforce, that I'm not sure my mom did enough, is that it's OKAY. That different household structures do not make us more or less valuable as a person. I'm not meaning to give advice here, it's just that not having dad at home is nothing to be ashamed of (obviously you know this), but there were times as a child when I felt just that.

T said...

Oh wow. You are an amazing mother to her. She is fortunate that you do all that you do! You see her and teach her in a way that speaks volumes about your relationship.

I love the last line. That is how I describe any relationship. People want to give their own definition to relationships be it between parent and child or two people falling in love with each other. Only the people involved know the truth of it.

What a sweet post!

dadshouse said...

You don't have a dad - I actually laughed when I first read that. Kids say the darndest things. But then I realized your daughter didn't laugh when it was said to her. Those are very unkind words for a child to hear. It's a real problem that you might address beyond your own home.

Have you called their mom or dad to have a chat about it? Maybe if those kids got some information and positive reinforement at their home from their family, they'd be nicer to your daughter.

My kids are similar in that there are hardly any divorced families where we live. But just having a few means my kids aren't alone. And as they grow, they meet more and more kids from non-traditional families.

I think it's great how you are interacting with your daughter, and not teaching her to be bitter about her dad. Those other kids will fade away eventually, and hopefully their attitudes will change toward your girl.

Anonymous said...

You have a very unique child who will grow up wise and with her eyes wide open because she has a loving wonderful and supportive mother like you. I always notice how in your posts you try to take things as they come, make the best choices possible along the way, and I think the Diva does and will notice this. Hopefully her difference will be something she embraces, and that she learns that her own relationship with her father is what counts, not what the other kids think.

The Exception said...

Syd - Honesty is the only way I fly with her... and so it is what she tells her friends and other kids. Being different is hard but I am also teaching her that everyone is different despite what it might seem!

JR - I started early once I realized the make-up of our neighborhood. I can't imagine that it is easy but to survive her parents will demonstrate just how tough she is!

DH - It was funny and there are times when I wish she could just laugh it off, but she hasn't acheived that yet. It didn't hurt her as much as it puzzled her. She isn't allowed to discuss "mating" with other kids so she was left with "I do too!"

I have discussed it with other parents - and with time and sadly, more changes in family structures, things will change. Kids are amazing creatures!

Emma - I do hope that she is more understanding of diversity. She seems to be thus far but could change her mind at any moment! ;) I do the best I can to take things as hey come but... I dream too...