"I feel sick" my daughter stood next to me in the hall as we waited with others to be called into the back room. Her stuffed dog held tightly in one arm, she buried her head into my chest. I could feel her shaking as we waited.
"We don't have to do this. We can turn around right now and leave." I explained with great sincerity. This test, requested by her dad, was supposed to be no big deal. 7 weeks earlier, it was no big deal. But after 2 months of waiting and waiting to find out, for sure, that her dad is her dad, I finally realized the gravity of the situation.
For weeks she had internalized. For weeks she had asked, off handedly as to when she would take the test. Here, this Monday in early June, we stood, ready to take the test. Frustration started building inside me as I held her close listening to her breathe.
"We don't have to stay sweetie. We can leave."
"But Daddy needs me to take this test."
"No, Daddy doesn't need you to take this test. We don't need to take this test. Daddy wants you to take it and if you don't. so be it."
"I want to take it for daddy."
Within a few minutes - very long minutes - a nurse approached. "We are ready for you now." I silently thanked her for her calm and her poise. She didn't call for us to come to the door, but she walked out to find us. (The anxiety emanating from each of us must have been palatable)
As we sat waiting for the technician to fill out the necessary forms, I reflected on the past few weeks and the questions that increased in frequency. "What if Daddy isn't my Daddy?" "Who is my daddy if Daddy isn't?" "How do you know Daddy is my Daddy?" Echoes of her increasing doubt based upon her dad's desire to ensure that yes, this child was his. For 10 years, he accepted her as his child but suddenly.. the seed of doubt was planted. and our daughter felt it more powerfully than either of us.
For the next twenty minutes, I rubbed her arms and back, reminded her that it would be okay and that she is loved, and attempted to joke around a little bit. I held my 9.5 year old daughter on my lap and attempted to do all that I could to assure her that it is okay; that it doesn't matter what this test says, it is all going to be okay.
"I need to take your picture," the technician stated pulling out an old camera.
I wrapped my arms around my heart while she held on tightly to me and her dog.
"Move the dog out of the picture," the technician requested. "We aren't taking his DNA."
"Maybe he is your dad?!" I suggested regarding the dog. which finally brought the desired . "Mawm" from the child on my lap and laughter from all in the room.
Soon the appointment ended. Forms signed. evidence gathered. Pictures attached to files. We grabbed our stuff and the beloved dog and headed to the coffee shop.
My daughter didn't leave with a spring in her step and a feeling that everything would be better now. Instead, she asked not to go to school. She appeared deflated and completely exhausted. The end of the testn didn't equal the end of the situation. Anxiety lifted from her shoulders a tad, but not to the extent I think she had anticipated. Now she will have proof that her dad is her dad. How many kids can actually say that?
Unlike most kids, she will know her parents through their DNA. The challenge is now learning to accept the role that her dad chooses to play in her life - how big or how small; how consistent or inconsistent.
My daughter walked up the stairs of her school as if the world rested on her shoulders.
I wanted to cry. This is not what I wanted for my child. Anger welled inside me. Why did I put my daughter through this? Why did I think it was okay to let her live with that doubt and then have to prove her identity? She is this amazing child surrounded by love and yet, to look at her this morning, she is a child being asked to grow up and find herself. She is a child who is, in a way, no longer a child because of the requests and actions of the adults around her who she loves.
I made her return to school because she needed to return to her normal life to the extent that her life is normal. She needed the familiar and the known and the laughter of her friends. What I wanted to do was grab her into the biggest hug possible and take her home to snuggle in bed and just be. I wanted to surround her with all the love possible in the world and tell her just how sorry I am for everything I have done and will do in the next years. I wanted to make it all better and put the laughter back in her life..
And I can't because it isn't about my relationship with her. She knows that she is my daughter heart and soul. I would never ask her to prove that just as I can never ask her to prove that she is worthy of my love and attention. My daughter is surrounded by love. I just hope that it will be all the support she needs to get her through the next few months if not years.