Maybe you know or have figured out that the man we live with is not my daughter’s biological father. He looks the part, having fairer hair than I do, and a cherubic head shape like hers. But trust me when I tell you that’s not why I picked him.
He is part of our family. And Child, when she forgets herself, calls him dad or parent. She refers to us as a unit as her parents. She thinks of him as her dad, tells him she loves him (and means it), kisses him before bed. The two of them have a man-to-child relationship that sometimes distresses me in its high levels of kinetic energy and loud laughing or squealing, but seems really normal and healthy.
For a while, she was calling him her “male role model” at his suggestion, but she seems to be at a blissfully content stage right now about her understanding of the nature of her family.
She asks every few months about her “fahder.” I suspect she’ll pronounce it correctly before she’s ready for the uncensored version of the story.
And maybe, when she gets pissed at me about it when she’s a mouthy teenager and writes some sobbing, heartfelt SpaceFace note about not knowing who she is and how I’ve lied to her all these years, I’ll shoot her computer and record it on video for all the world to see, because I’ll be embarrassed at my kid’s indiscretion and that she’s outed me for having had her under circumstances it’s not safe to discuss with all age groups.
Whenever she asks, I emphasize that it’s important to understand that there’s no “right” way to have a family. That families have any number of configurations of parents, men, women, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.
So I’m kind of delighted to report that Fella had his proper initiation the other day.
Here’s the conversation:
“Mommy, can I watch TV?”
“Is your room clean?” Fella asked. I love how native he is about this kind of stuff.
“Is your room clean?” I asked.
“Then go do it.” Fella again, and after. I tend to shut up and bow out, feeling grateful that someone else cares to have these combative conversations.
“I don’t want to right now. Right now I want to watch TV. May I please watch TV please?”
“No. I think mommy and I were talking about going to Target. Do you want to go to Target?”
“That’s okay. I’ll stay here and watch TV.”
“Child, you know that’s not how this works.”
“Ok. Can I buy a toy at Target?”
“No, but you can go get dressed. And then maybe when we get back, you can spend the whole day cleaning your room.”
“Sigh. Whatever.” And she stomped up the stairs.
I’d wandered out of the room, or to another place in my mind, so I didn’t hear the last bit. Instead, Fella walked up to me an poked my arm and said, “Hey Girlfriend, did you hear that? I got the first ‘whatever.'” And his chest puffed up like he would explode with triumph.
“Ha. That’s great.”
“Yeah. You might’ve gotten the first ‘I Hate You,’ but I got the first ‘Whatever.'”