I’m a single mom to a very inquisitive 2 ½ year old little girl, who has been askingquestions about family dynamics since she was 18-months-old. If I told you that this didn’t bother me, I would be lying. There have been evenings where I have barely kept it together while she asks question after question – comparing our family to others, and not accepting any answer I give as a way to clear up the questions she has in her head, and very likely in her heart. I am not trying to be melodramatic, but I do recognize when my child is having trouble making sense of the world around her – and the fact that she just has me is befuddling to her.
As a writer and a journalist, I truly appreciate the power of the written word – which is why I began to look for books that would show my daughter that she is just like other kids. Kids who have a mommy that loves them more than words will ever be able to accurately capture. I came across a few about single mother households, but the tone wasn’t completely right for my taste – and many of them were centered around divorce which would introduce themes that aren’t really relevant in our family.
I found a number of books about how all families are different, and decided to purchase, The Family Book, By Todd Parr, which nicely shows the many different combinations of people that can make a family. But, unfortunately, when I would read it to her, she would just point out the pictures where there were two parents. And it started to become clear that it’s not necessarily the sex of the parents in the house, but the number of parents (one) in our home, that she is trying to make sense of.
So I gave another book a shot titled, Who’s In Our Family? by Robie H. Harris. As soon as it arrived from Amazon, I opened the package up and told her that there was a new book to read! She sat down in my lap as excited as could be, and I read her the title, “Who’s In My Family?” and she looked at the cover of the book, which has a man and a woman holding hands, walking behind two little kids and a dog, and said, “A Mommy and a Daddy!”
I choked back tears. And took a very deep breath, and said, “Ellie honey, we are a family. You and Mommy are a family. Some people have a Mommy and a Daddy, and some people have one Mommy…and that is what you have.”
And she looked at me puzzled and said, “But we need a Daddy.”
So I did what anyone in my position would do. I posted a pleading message on Facebook, asking for suggestions for books that would be specific to our family, poured myself a large glass of wine, and did the bedtime routine. Then I put her to bed and I cried. Hard. I cried for her, and honestly, I also cried for me.
This conversation was something that I feared and stressed about when I was single and pregnant, and I can tell you that it is as painful and as difficult as I had imagined it would be. I try to stop myself from heading down the path of worry that has no end, where I think of all of the life events my daughter will experience when it becomes obvious to her, and everyone around her, that there is something different. But those worries are not ones that are easy to push aside, because they don’t live in my head – they live in my heart.
A number of people from my Facebook family suggested I write a book myself, for children of single moms. And initially, I thought it was an excellent idea – I am a writer, I will write something.
But just because I know how to write, doesn’t mean I know what to say. And when I sat down at the computer to begin writing, I realized that I don’t know how to explain this – to myself, or to my daughter. Adult relationships are so complicated and complex, and I am slowly beginning to accept in life that there aren’t always concrete answers and reasons in black or white – and that so much of life happens in the grey.
That is way too complicated to explain to a toddler, so after my pity party was over, I pushed myself to focus on what is there, instead of what isn’t.
And what is there is a home that Mommy made – actually a home that Mommy made and continues to make. A home filled with love, and acceptance and laughter. A home that asks all who enter to lead with love and open arms, and to smile when they do so. A home that is neither perfect nor picturesque, but one that is cozy and welcoming, and warm and messy, and most importantly – one that belongs to our family.
I suppose that is a good start. At least I hope and pray it is.