Addressing the Issue of a Non-Existent Parent - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 11-21-2010, 06:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is 3.5 years old and during that time, his father has never laid eyes on him by his own choice. I told him that I was pregnant immediately after discovering I was; we have spoken on the phone twice since then - once right after my call to him and another about 2 years ago. I have never talked about him to my son as he is basically a non-entity in our life - a sperm donor. I have been pensively awaiting "the day" when he would as about his dad, but so far, he has not said one thing directly to me.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in a restaurant that we frequent often, where the waitresses have become close to both of us (birthday parties, exchanging gifts, etc. - close acquaintances, I suppose), and one mentioned to me a conversation they had when I was not right there. The waitress had mentioned her son's father; to which my son replied, "I don't have one of those." She said, "One what?" He said, "A daddy - I don't have one of those." (She told me about this later).

 

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, I mentioned something to another waitress about the conversation (out of earshot of my son) saying I was surprised he hasn't said anything to me about it. Later the same night, she (within earshot of my son) asked just a general, cryptic (well, she thought she was) about his dad and whether or not I had heard from him, etc. Micah pipes up and says, "I don't have one of those!!" Very adamant, very "confident."

 

My question is....do I talk to him about it? What the heck do I say? Immediately following the "incident," I was too stunned and just didn't say anything. With him verbalizing the missing parental figure, I am wondering if it is bothering him but he is just bottling it up. He has in the past referenced other people's daddies, and if he sees a group of animals in a book, in life, or in pretend, he will name one of the larger animals Daddy along with Baby and Mommy. It seems he understands that most families include a father but not his. Overall, I have not seen it outwardly bother him that he has a lack of information or parental figure for that matter.

 

Do I wait for a direct question, or take this as an opening for a conversation? If I should say something, any ideas?


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#2 of 14 Old 11-21-2010, 09:30 AM
 
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From my own experience with my ds and his partially (visits every 2+ years) non-existent father, I have corrected him and told (and reminded) him that he does have a dad.  Then, I answer any of his questions very directly... making sure I ONLY answer exactly what he asks.  As adults, we tend to give children more information than they are truly ready for... plus, we also put "our stories and feelings" into the answers.  It's hard not too, but it is worth it to try to disconnect yourself from the answers about the their relationship (or lack of their relationship). 

 

Additionally, I try to validate his feelings, wishes and longings.  They are real to him and very understandable. 

 

Examples from some of my past conversations with ds -- in his younger years:

 

Ds:  Mommy, do I have a dad?

Me:  Yes.

Ds:  Where is he? 

Me:  He lives in Holland.

Ds:  (look of puzzlement) OK.  How come?

Me:  Because that is where he lives.   

 

Another conversation, a little older and after one of his father's one week visits:

 

Ds:  How come my dad doesn't live with me?

Me:  Because he lives in Holland.

Ds:  I wish he lived with us.

Me:  That would be a very nice for you, I can understand why you'd wish for that.

 

In the beginning, those conversations were so difficult and heart-breaking for me.  But, I realized after each conversation... ds felt a little more confident in himself and also in me.  He started telling people, "I have a dad, but he lives in Holland."  And, he feel comfortable coming to me with more questions.  There were times, though, where I didn't feel up to answering the questions or I needed some time to contemplate, or try to disconnect my story, from the answer. I would just tell him... " Can we talk about this later?  Mommy needs to think about this question."  Ds was OK with that answer and I would always bring it up again, so as he would trust that I wasn't trying to avoid the question.     

 

Hope this helps.  It is not always easy, but I truly believe children only ask questions in which they are able to handle the truth.  That is why it is so important to answer their direct question... not adding any additional information.  If they want additional information... they will ask for it.       

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#3 of 14 Old 11-21-2010, 09:58 AM
 
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In the case of a bio dad who literally has had no contact or interest in the child ever and does not appear to want contact in the future (the sperm donor in action, if not by planning), I think the answer depends on how you define parenthood.

I've known enough non-traditional families to believe that biology does not equal parenthood, so for me, I would be okay with saying "no, you don't have a dad, but you were made by two people. the other person who helped me make you (and insert your chosen level of detail in describing reproduction here) was not able to be a parent, so you have me". I would probably talk about all the different kinds of families that are out there: two mom, two dad, single parent, grandparents, etc etc, so that your kid knows he's not missing something. I wouldn't be comfortable just saying "no, you have no dad" with no further explanation of the matter, especially since this was the age my son started getting interested in babies and how they grew and stuff. Unless you want to claim an immaculate conception orngtongue.gif. OTOH, If you do consider bio-sperm-donor as a "dad" even if not present or involved, then, no, don't lie, you can just say "Your dad is XXXlocationXXX, and he was not ready to take care of you" and perhaps share any other information you know about him, if it is positive.

eta: my kid does have a semi involved father, so this is more a theoretical discussion i had with myself during the period when i was considering single motherhood by choice via sperm donor. not claiming any personal experience here!
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#4 of 14 Old 11-22-2010, 03:16 PM
 
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My daughter is four and I have been parenting her solo from the beginning.  I mostly have and continue to address my daughter' s absent father in the same manner Holland73 describes. Our 1st two conversations:

 

1st conversation she was 3.5 years (as we are driving down the street)

 

Dd: Where is my dad?

Me: He moved far away

Dd: Is he coming back?

Me: I am not sure how to answer this can we chat about it later?

Dd: Ok

Dd: Look mom it's a truck that looks like Grandpa's.....

 

(I had court the next day so the timing of this conversation was a shock. At court, I was granted sole legal and physical custody with no visitation to her dad)

 

2nd conversation, about a week later

 

Me: Dd the other day you asked if your dad is coming back and honestly I don't know

Dd: Where is he?

Me: He moved far away but I will always be here and I love you

Dd: I love you too mama! ((((HUG)))) Can we play Candyland?

Me: Of course!

 

While I only answer the direct question my daughter ask, I also know that her emotional intelligence is very high and she is deeply sensitive so I am a bit more proactive in letting her know I am here if she wants to talk about "anything"..... I feel the foundation of this comes from her and I just chatting about her day, her interest, her thoughts and feelings as well as mine on a day-to-day basis. My hope is that this will allow her to also come to me with thoughts/feelings/questions about more challenging issues.  I also find picture books to be a great starting out point for possible conversations - but I don't push conversations.  I read the book and ask her about the books the same way I do with most of the books we read.  With regard to families I like books that encourage diverse families, acceptance of people being different and books that directly address single parenting..... really anything to boost her self-esteem about herself as an individual and about our family of two!

 

A good book that addresses the absent father is  "Do I have a Daddy" (which had to grow on me, but really connects for dd in a positive way).  I also LOVE the Todd Parr books such as "The Family Book" and "It's Okay To Be Different" which are not for single parents but all families about acceptance (the kids love these because of the colors and simple illustrations) and I also really like the book "I Like Myself" which has little to do with "family" and alot to do with loving yourself the way you are and to love the differences that make you special!  On the book note, while we read all sort of books including those with "traditional families", I'm also sensitive to books that may give false hope ---- books that are like the Parent Trap movie in nature, so I'm learning to pre-screen books before reading them to dd and to "alter" the story if I see they are going in that direction when I was not expecting it.

 

I don't think it's a good idea to support the idea that your son "has no dad" because unless you terminate that parents' rights he can most likely get visitation simply by asking for it in court ---- even if he has been absent for years.  And then your son may feel as though you have lied to him and his trust in your word might be shaken all at the same time as he has to learn to accept this new "father" figure.....  You may think this will never happen but time, new girlfriends, etc. can make an "old dog do new tricks" so then you are rolling the dice on IF he will be in your son's life at some point.  While I do get the sentiment of you feeling that way the truth is that he does have a dad but his dad was not yet ready to be a father or whatever reason relates to your case.  Also in the near future your son will know it takes two people (one male and one female) to create a child so again you just don't want to risk your son feeling lied to by you the person he should trust most. 

 

My advice since your son has not brought it up to you is to wait until your son brings up the subject.  Or if you feel like you should do "something" then go get books like the ones I mention above and then see if they spark your son to open up to you.  More than anything be available for her to talk to about anything from legos and toy cars to his thoughts on his dad or not having a dad.  And of course you have us here to support you!!!!


"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting." - Buddha.
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#5 of 14 Old 11-22-2010, 09:37 PM
 
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Could books that would be helpful be listed?  Or should it be it's own thread?  I would really like books that address the diversity of families, and that also address the totally single parent life.  I'm going to be addressing this in the near future too and would appreciate suggestions.  I haven't had to address this yet, but I know it's coming.

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#6 of 14 Old 11-23-2010, 07:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Theia View Post

Could books that would be helpful be listed?  Or should it be it's own thread?  I would really like books that address the diversity of families, and that also address the totally single parent life.  I'm going to be addressing this in the near future too and would appreciate suggestions.  I haven't had to address this yet, but I know it's coming.



I mentioned a couple of titles in my post above, but I don't want to loose sight of what the OP was addressing in this thread because I it's a valid question and many of us can learn for the different thoughts mama's share on this subject.  (Myself included)

 

There was actually a media / book thread a little while back..... I will try to pull it up and bump it higher so you can see it or I will start a new one. 


"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting." - Buddha.
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#7 of 14 Old 11-23-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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Great, thank you LoveOhm.  

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#8 of 14 Old 11-29-2010, 09:08 AM
 
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my daughter has had to deal with this issue since 3.5-yr-old. her dad isn't allowed any visitation, not even supervised, for difficult reasons to talk about. she's very sensitive and compassionate, also very intelligent and curious. whenever the subject of her dad is brought up - by counselors, investigators or her guardian ad litem, she's frankly revolted just by the mention of him as an individual. she still has nightmares, even though she's been safe for 3.5 years. yet, she naturally wants to talk about families as she sees her friends interacting with their varied families. since there are court cases every 6 months, i've tried so hard to be careful and subtle and not influence her thinking, only answering direct questions, and like the answers above, only for her level of understanding. i'm so grateful she has a wonderful therapist she can open up to privately if she wishes!

 

as for daddies in general, she seems ok talking about the subject. she has friends who are parented by single moms, so that's a comfort. we've talked about "every family is made in different ways and the important thing is that they love each other," and she likes drawing pictures of the possible ways a family could be. 

 

books with animal families have helped the most, because it helps her open up a conversation if she needs to talk about things. we do informal art therapy where she can "draw her feelings" if she can't articulate them.

 

in my case, my girl has a quite large extended family on her dad's side, with cousins near her age. the family says they want to visit her or set up play-dates "soon," so i email to confirm dates and times, but nothing ever happens. i feel so badly for her!mecry.gif i wish i had family to offer her. if i had the money and a dependable car, i'd be driving all the way out there and hopefully get a system of family visits going. but then there's the reasonable chance a "family date" could be a way for her dad to take her (he threatened to take her so many times, even listing Canada as a location, that i honestly believe him), or much more likely, for him to sneak in a visit with her if i wasn't physically with her every moment.

 

when she was 5 i signed her up for a Big Sister, and it's worked so wonderfully! it's a great program, you might have it available in your area. also, volunteering at nursing homes is a wonderful way to develop relationships with people of grandparenting age. sometimes people hit it off and unofficially "adopt" each other.


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#9 of 14 Old 12-06-2010, 11:31 AM
 
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I have this situation and I THINK I've done an okay job addressing it thus far.  THINK!  :)  We never know until it's NOT okay, ya know?  My daughter is 10.  Her dad was in her life sporadically until we moved several states away when she was 2 and he dropped out of her life at that point.  We moved back a number of years ago and he and I have had phone contact(because I ALWAYS let him know our new address when we move so that he can never say he couldnt' find us) but he chooses not to see her.  He hasn't seen her since before her 2nd birthday and doesn't even send a card on her birthday or talk to her on the phone.  His choice. 

When she was about 2, she asked if she had a dad.  I told her of course she had a dad because everyone has a dad.  Where does he live?  He lives in Massachusetts.  Oh okay.  Great.  End of story.

Fast forward another 6 months and she's asking why her dad doesn't live iwth her.  Well, because he lives with his family in Massachusetts and she lives with her family in _____________.   Again, end of story.  Case closed.  I did take different moments throughout that year to point out different family structures like grandparents raising the kids or mommies living with aunties raising kids or daddies raising kids with no mommy around, etc.

Then she turns 4 and I marry a few days later.  I knew it was going to be a teachable moment.  She asks if she can call my new husband daddy.  Of course.  She's thrilled.  Can't stop smiling.  I think she finally felt like all her friends from the typical nuclear family and she's SO happy.  Then she asks about her "other dad."  Mentions that she has a dad who lives in Massachusetts.  And my new husband, in all his wisdom being a child of divorced parents, he says, "M you are so lucky.  You have two daddies.  You have the daddy who made you who lives in Massachusetts.  His name is _______________.  And you have me, the daddy who takes care of you and raises you and lives with you.  Did you know I have two daddies too?"  Beautiful beautiful moment.  To this day she'l tell you she is SO lucky to have two daddies.  And her little sister will pout and tell you that she wishes she had two daddies.  :) lol.  So she hasn't asked much about him but she'll mention from time to time that he lives in Massachusetts when that state comes up in conversation.  And she had a school project recently about tracing your history to look at your ancestors and we talked about how her dad is irish.  But she didn't really get beyond that.  Some day she'll want to know.  Some day she'll ask.  But for now, we keep talking about different family structures.  We have a friend who has two mommies.  We have a friend who has a mommy and a grandma and her daddy died when she was an infant.  We have two friends who see mommy and daddy but mommy and daddy don't live together.  So it's all about those teachable moments pointing out how there are all different types of famlies and no one family is better than the other.  They are all special and good.  I think my biggest thing with this is not to badmouth her dad.  She'll realize what a total POS he is in her own time and she can make her own decision to contact him or not.  But that's her choice to make.  I don't need to push my opinion on her.  She has a daddy in her life who loves her and buys her new sneakers when she needs them and held her hand when she got stitches and comforted her to sleep when she had nightmares and who yells at her to finish her broccoli and pay attention to her homework and not the tv, etc.  She doesn't need a man in her life who abandoned her before she left the womb.


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#10 of 14 Old 01-18-2011, 07:35 PM
 
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I am bumping this old thread because it relates to my life so well.  My daughter is 3.5 years old.  Her father and I were not in a relationship when I became pregnant.  When I told him I was pregnant, he told me to get an abortion and then refused to have anything to do with either of us.  He has seen a few photos of her and I have spoken to him a few times but always initiated by me.  I don't even know his real name.  I am not happy about this or proud of myself but the situation is what it is, so I've moved forward and made a very nice life for myself and my daughter.

I hurt for her because I know she notices other kids with their dads, and we have talked about dads before and how some families have them while some families don't.    It still sucks and will probably always suck.   He lives in California while we are in North Carolina,  and I have not heard anything at all from him in a very long time.  

 

It's a very hard thing to deal with, but it is our reality and I just approach it matter of factly.  

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#11 of 14 Old 01-20-2011, 10:22 AM
 
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#12 of 14 Old 01-22-2011, 01:46 PM
 
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What a good papa!!  I am loving that you mamas are open and honest, but not to the point of giving an adult-sized portion of information.  I used to nanny for a boy who was 7 and still fully believed he had no father - immaculate conception style!  His mother refused to tell him and asked me to keep my mouth shut as well :(  Whenever she would date someone the child would just start calling him "dad" and they all thought it was cute, but relationships never lasted and it seemed to leave this boy very confused (statements like, "well, I used to have a dad, but then he moved, and I had this other dad but ... ")  I thought it was sad (well, it's current, so I still think it's sad).

 

We also have the situation of my own current partner's bio-child was hidden from DP and raised by another guy.  We only found their whereabouts last year, the child is 7 and they've been lying the whole time, telling him the other guy is actually his only dad.  So we've been trying to make some connections and it is such a struggle, on so many levels, obviously.

 

The TRUTH will set you FREE!!!

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  And my new husband, in all his wisdom being a child of divorced parents, he says, "M you are so lucky.  You have two daddies.  You have the daddy who made you who lives in Massachusetts.  His name is _______________.  And you have me, the daddy who takes care of you and raises you and lives with you.  Did you know I have two daddies too?"  Beautiful beautiful moment.  To this day she'l tell you she is SO lucky to have two daddies. 

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#13 of 14 Old 01-22-2011, 09:26 PM
 
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 Then she turns 4 and I marry a few days later.  I knew it was going to be a teachable moment.  She asks if she can call my new husband daddy.  Of course.  She's thrilled.  Can't stop smiling.  I think she finally felt like all her friends from the typical nuclear family and she's SO happy.  Then she asks about her "other dad."  Mentions that she has a dad who lives in Massachusetts.  And my new husband, in all his wisdom being a child of divorced parents, he says, "M you are so lucky.  You have two daddies.  You have the daddy who made you who lives in Massachusetts.  His name is _______________.  And you have me, the daddy who takes care of you and raises you and lives with you.  Did you know I have two daddies too?"  Beautiful beautiful moment.  To this day she'l tell you she is SO lucky to have two daddies.  And her little sister will pout and tell you that she wishes she had two daddies.  :) lol.  So she hasn't asked much about him but she'll mention from time to time that he lives in Massachusetts when that state comes up in conversation.  And she had a school project recently about tracing your history to look at your ancestors and we talked about how her dad is irish.  But she didn't really get beyond that.  Some day she'll want to know.  Some day she'll ask.  But for now, we keep talking about different family structures.  We have a friend who has two mommies.  We have a friend who has a mommy and a grandma and her daddy died when she was an infant.  We have two friends who see mommy and daddy but mommy and daddy don't live together.  So it's all about those teachable moments pointing out how there are all different types of famlies and no one family is better than the other.  They are all special and good.  I think my biggest thing with this is not to badmouth her dad.  She'll realize what a total POS he is in her own time and she can make her own decision to contact him or not.  But that's her choice to make.  I don't need to push my opinion on her.  She has a daddy in her life who loves her and buys her new sneakers when she needs them and held her hand when she got stitches and comforted her to sleep when she had nightmares and who yells at her to finish her broccoli and pay attention to her homework and not the tv, etc.  She doesn't need a man in her life who abandoned her before she left the womb.



Wow. That guy's a keeper.  Holy cow.  So sweet it made me cry.

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#14 of 14 Old 01-23-2011, 02:53 PM
 
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sometimes we make things harder than we need to.

 

my son's father has chosen not to be around since before he was born. I've invited him to be around, sent him pictures, updated him on our lives, etc

 

about 6 months ago he emailed me and told me how he was so sad and thought it so unfair that he hadn't ever seen him (he has substance abuse and mental health issues and I told him he could not  be around unless he got help with both).I again said absolutely, you can meet him, be around, be involved in his life. have you gotten help for your issues? 

no and how upsetting it was for me to say that to him, I should know he never wanted to be a father and doesnt' want to now and he will never see his son, be his friend blah blah blah

 

he just wanted to blame me rather than taking personal responsibility that he is the reason he is not around.

 

I havent' spoken to him since then. he has agreed to keep me informed of where he is, if he moves (his job has him moving around and he keeps saying he is going to relocate for better work) in case my son ever wants to meet him. 

 

my son is 3, I have always told him, you don't have a dad (because he doesn't have a dad in any sense of the word) every family is different. some have a mom and dad, some have two moms, some have two dads etc...your family is me and our dog.  I did tell him a few weeks ago, you have a father - this is his name and this is what he looks like. he didn't ask where he was or why he wasn't here...he just kinda smiled and said okay and hasn't mentioned it since. the thing is other people ask my son alot more than my son asks me. he's learned to say "I don't have a  dad" once I had an assinine older kid who told him "I don't have a mom" when my son was asking and then when my son was all "oh hey I don't have a dad" he got embarrassed and said "well really she's at home"  but kids are adaptable...they only know what they know. even in playgroups and such most parents there are only one and usually the mom. I'm sure as he gets older he'll ask more but right now this is all I've told him. when he can handle it I'll tell him more. my big thing is I don't want him to feel rejected and badly about himself because his father is a big dud. ya know? but all I can do is love him and give him everything I can and things will work out and its much better than being around a crazy, abusive, alcoholic just to say "I have a dad"

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