09 November 2007


Little A calls Big A's dad "Daddy".

"Hi Daddy", she says when he walks in to pick up Big A.
"Bye Daddy", she says when they are leaving. Sometimes she even tosses in an "I love you", when she doesn't say, "Peace out".

It was awkward, the first few times, but now it's just something we laugh off when she says it. I personally have a habit of laughing or smiling even when I feel as though my heart is being wrenched from within my chest.

Big A is happy to share, to an extent. I believe above the extent that a nine year old who has been thrust into that position would be. She'll show Little A pictures, talk about her daddy, and hug her a little tighter when they are sitting on the couch and she says, "No, Little A, he's my daddy. You don't have a daddy". I smile sweetly and get up and go into the bathroom off the kitchen and look in the mirror and say, "You will not cry" until I don't.

She's getting so much bigger and smarter now, Little A is, and I feel that as she does, I'm getting smaller and more scared.

I'm unsure of what to say to Big A when she expresses her anger at Little A's father. Her face turns to stone when she speaks of him, her eyes raging with an inferno of hurt and loss and not understanding. Mine wasn't the only heart he broke.

"Who wouldn't want to see their kid"? She'll ask, angrily. "I wish I could see him, because I'd tell him. Tell him what I think of him". Other times, she'll lay her head on my chest and cry for Little A. "What's life going to be like for her? To not even have a dad"?

"She has us", I'll say, and smile, and then Big A will tell me that I'm squeezing her hand too hard.

She's wise beyond her years, Big A, and she has a dad that is amazingly good to her. He coaches her ball teams, helps her with homework and genuinely enjoys her. I don't ever feel as though I'm a single parent to Big A. He knows her in and out, to the point that at times, I'm jealous.

They have the same demeanor and views on how life looks to them. If there are issues with Big A, I can call him at anytime of the day or night to discuss them; there is nothing more important than his child, and she knows that. I have to think that the security in that knowledge gives her things that Little A will not have, and somehow, intrinsically, Big A knows it, too.

I've been thinking of sending a letter and photos to his family, to let them know that his lack of acknowledgement of her hasn't bolted the door on their opportunity to know her, to be sure that they are aware that they are welcome in her life. I don't know what he's told them, but I cannot imagine my parents or siblings not wanting to know an extension of themselves, so it makes it hard (perhaps delusionally so) for me to envision them being that way.

I suppose I haven't sent them in fear of what they would or wouldn't respond. In fear that someday, I'll have to tell Little A that I did try, that her grandparents and aunt and uncle do know, but they didn't want to know her. I don't think I'm capable of saying those things to her.

Recently when I was cleaning out a drawer, I opened an envelope from one of my friends, expecting to find a letter from her. Instead, I found a handful of photos of Little A's dad. My intake of breath was audible and one of my hands rose to my chest, a reflex of the human body, to draw our hands to the spot that aches; to attempt to cover the wound that slowly seeps.

I wasn't sure what to do with them, those photos, for I'm in most of them as well, and we look very happy in those images. I want her to have the truth, but I don't know what the truth is. I know that the night that I told him over the phone (he was states away, snowboarding), he told me we'd get through it and that he loved me and he'd see me the next day.

I know when he left my house the next night, he said he'd be back, we'd go talk to my parents, he'd be moving in. There was no way in hell he was going to let me do this alone. I know I believed him.

I know that when I looked at those pictures, I recognized that I still don't understand. He was one of my best friends. He did love me. I have no doubt of that. Sadly, I have no doubt that if Little A were not to have existed, we would still be those friends, those people in those pictures. And that makes me angry, beyond words.

I'm angry that I spend so much time preparing for the explanation of his departure. Big A has committed to memory the events; she will undoubtedly chronicle what she witnessed to her sister one day, and the recollection won't be kind to him.

He doesn't deserve kindness; that isn't my worry. My worry is what scar his cowardice will leave upon Little A.

My worry is that someday, Little A will pick up those photos of her father, and her hand will rise to her chest, a small sob escaping her as she tries to cover the wound that lies beneath, and that I will be completely unable to help her, my own hands covering hers, frantically trying to ebb the bleeding.


InTheFastLane said...

this made me cry. It made me cry for little A, but even more that Big A recognizes the wrongness of it all. What a wise sister. Hopefully her wiseness will continue on so that she can help little A in the years to come.

Kat said...

I know I don't comment much, and maybe this would be better as an email, but I'm a single mom of two amazing teenage boys who have a father who does not see them, speak to them, write them, anything.
It has been this way for 14 years now.

I want you to know that these feelings you and your girls have will always be there, but they will lessen in time.

I want you to know that it's ok to cry for this. That it's ok for the girls to question and wonder, and it's ok for you to not have the answers.

I want you to know that writing to his family, sending pictures of Little A to them, and just a general letter to let them know they are welcome in her life, in yours, is ok.
You would be very surprised how receptive grandparents can be when they learn of this darling little one and know that they are welcome to be in her life.
And if they aren't?
That's ok too, you tried.

The questions will come, the tears will come, and it will hurt her and you, but it is something that you will get through, I promise you.

I cried when I read this post because I've been where you are, I know the exact pain you have, the fears, the worry, I know it all so well, but I promise you, it will get easier in time.
You and Little A will get through it all.
The best way to deal with it is to be honest. Never lie to her or her anger at him will turn on you.
Always be honest, always be there with open arms. When she cries, it's ok to cry with her.
I wish I could be there to hug you and say these words in person, to let you know that you are not alone, that this will be the toughest thing you ever do in your whole life, but you WILL get through it, she WILL get through it.
I promise you the pain will eventually lessen.

WhyMommy said...

Oh! Break my heart. I think you're being a wonderful mom to Little A -- she is very lucky to have you and Big A in her life!

I don't understand how men can not be involved with their children ... I'm so, so sorry.

NotAMeanGirl said...

She's so lucky to have you hon. I know its hard watching her struggle with it and knowing that a part of her needs aren't/can't be met by you but you're doing a teriffic job. Hang in there hon.

luckyzmom said...

My daughter had just turned a year old when her father left us for another woman. He saw her twice in the next couple of months before our divorce was final. No visits, calls, cards or gifts til she reconnected with him through his mother, who we had kept in touch with, more than 25 years later. She called him her 'sperm dad'. It took four years for me to get over this loss. Four years before I decided to stop allowing this self centered man who had deceived me with lies of commitment and love to continue to control my and my daughters life. He was not and never was the bestfriend he pretended to be.

slouching mom said...

I know that sometimes it feels unbearable -- and I was so moved to read about Big A's fierce devotion to and concern for her little sister.

But. But.

Little A has SO many people in her life who care about her.

She's gonna be OK. Really.

Loralee Choate said...

This post killed me.


MY heart is a little broken because of him and I have never met any of you!!!! I cannot imagine the hurt. Or maybe I can, which is why my chest hurts.

You are a better woman than I. I could not contain my fury. My heart breaks for both of you, but I think your girls are blessed to have you and each others.

I would send updates and photos to his family if ONLY to say to your adult little A that you did everything you could to foster that relationship. Hopefully they will be interested and stave off some of the damage of her father.

painted maypole said...

Oh Jenn... I wish I could hold my hand over your hearts and heal them.

Jennifer W said...

I'm going through this now with my almost-ex-husband. And my heart breaks in the same way when I think about the future. Even worse will be trying to explain why his older son, my son's half brother, has a relationship with their dad and my son doesn't.

Please don't be too angry or hurt if the family don't respond how you want them to. My ex in-laws just hung up on me when I called to talk about my son visiting. You just don't know what they've been told, if anything and they're loyalty will be with him always. It sucks and I pray they aren't as ignorant as my in-laws are.

It's exhausting and it hurts, and it breaks my heart that your older daughter is angry and hurt for her sister. It's so incomprehensible why or how a father can just not care. I wish I had a nickel for everyone who said that to me.

Janet said...

I don't know the right words to express my sadness for what you are feeling but I do know that Little A is damn lucky to have a big sister and mama who love her so fiercely.

Amy Y said...

You know... I think because the three of you have been wounded by this man, you will be able to offer Little A an understanding that few will be able to. And though you can't undo what happened in the past, just being there, understanding... loving her... that WILL help!

And like the others have said... she'll be Ok. You all will.

Jennifer said...

Do you know how lucky Big A and Little A are? To have you? Lucky little girls. I hope you know.

Redsy (formerly CrankMama) said...

All I know is this, Jenn: You are a wonderful, sensitive mother.. and just by being you, you have been more than two parents for your daughters and more parents than most kids have the luck of having...

You are a truly gifted writer.

Nancy said...

So very heart breaking.

I know a guy who has a daughter and the Mom had another daughter by a different man who also denies her. This guy has taken the 2nd little girl under his wing as if she were his own. It started as you described ... he'd go to pick up his child and see the little sister with no "Daddy" ... he couldn't bear it... that was over 16 years ago, and both girls call him Dad and if you ask him ... he says he has 2 daughters.

Could Big A's daddy open up like that?

Christy said...

I have been thinking about what to say all afternoon. My heart breaks for both Little A and Big A. Little A because of what she does not know and Big A for what she does. You are an amazing mom and both of your children are very blessed to have you.

I hesitate here, but at the same time want to share. As I read you describe telling him about Little A; it brought back so many memories for me of telling my now Hubby about our own child. I remembered the feeling in my chest like it was yesterday, this uncertainty and over whelming fear. It was something that I did not deal very well with, and it took me quite a bit of time to accept things. It is not something I am proud of, and tend to block out now. I was not as strong as you. I have been blessed though with my husband as it was he who kept me going, but most of all with my daughter. I didn't know love until I held her in my arms the day she was born. Thank you for making me remember again.

flutter said...


I know you worry for the effect his absence will have on her that his lack of attention will somehow damage her.

I think the opposite is true. I think more damage is done when a man who is ill equipped to be a father inflicts himself on a little girl who deserves to be loved. I wish my father had never been around.

I wish her no hurt. I wish you none. I just wish it wasn't this way.

amanda said...

I cried for all three of you- but mostly for you. Little A will miss her father (you notice their are no capital letters used) but will be a strong independant woman by your example. I know your heart must be breaking and wish I could make it go away for you.....

Amanda said...

Sisters will defend, it's what makes them priceless. And moms, well, we will bleed, and fuck it all if our daughters won't do the same. I have a confidence deep in my soul that your A's will be ok. And, I for one, will offer to be a crazy surrogate aunt who watched from afar as their mama did her damndest to give them all that she could and protect them from as much as she could.

I pledge to keep the cursing and debauchery to a minimum as they get older and I feel increased urgency to remain hip and relevant.

I adore you.

T with Honey said...

So many times I come to your blog and it leaves me speechless. There are and will be tough times with the queens and I don't envy you one bit. But if she has any of your strength and sarcastic wit Little A will find peace with her lack of a relationship with her dad.... eventually.

Even good dads leave unexpectedly. I got through knowing I was still surrounded by people that love me by the tons. That's all you can do. Love her and be honest. And then love her some more.

Anonymous said...

If only we could stop the world from hurting our children. My son knows his father but his dad is a severe alcoholic, who at 44 will probably not see 50 unless his stops drinking. His father has been a source of constant disappointment to my son, I wish it wasn't so but I can't change it. I know it's hurt my son but there was nothing I could do about it. My son knows I love him, he knows he can count on me, that's all I could give him and I did.

Christy said...

Your daughters are lucky to have you. He is obviously an idiot and will regret his decision (or indecision) all his life.

Send the pictures and letter to his family. Even if they don't respond, I think that one day it will be SO important for Little A to know that you tried. "What ifs" can destroy a person and I speak from personal experience.

You write beautifully and I always enjoy your posts- even if they make me cry. :)

Becc said...

(my hand also to my chest)

Beautifully written, Love.

Hold onto those pictures for her. You'll know what to do with them when the time is right.

You KNOW it's not your fault, or Big A's, or Little A's... I don't think the understanding will ever come to you. You know my circumstances, the answers will never come. The "why's" are there for us every day, every night, every year for as long as God wants us here. We wish that we could wash the dreams away, but they won't go away and we can't.

Love them. Love her. I love you.

Single Mom Seeking said...

Indeed, little A is in such good hands with you two... and it sounds like Big A's Daddy doesn't mind having this title with your Little one, too?

The fact that you're giving both of your girls the space to talk about their feelings is very big of you.

justabeachkat said...

I love your heart.
I love your honesty.
I love your strength.
I love how much you love your girls.
I love your writing.


Christine said...

you write so eloquently about such a painful subject.

i have no advice, except to say that she has enough love coming from you to fill that hole.

Chaotic Joy said...

This was hard to read. I am angry and sad right there with you. But I have no advice, except that I think SM is right. That she will be okay.

I do know that I have a strong relationship with many people on my dad's side of the family while I haven't seen my dad in 20 years. They waited for me to invite them in and then were happy to be there. So maybe that avenue is worth persuing.

Family Adventure said...

I'm sorry for Little A. My sister's sons have gone through what she will go through. It hurts to see that pain. But she will get through it, with her fiercely protective sister and her loving and insightful mother by her side.
Hugs to you! Heidi

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

I love your writing, your words. I'm sending this to my Sis, as my Niece does not know her father. She's 9.
This touched me.

Jonas said...

I thought, maybe, I could offer some sage advice. But after reading all the comments, you have had the benefit of hearing from others far wiser than I.

It's a difficult and sad situation. Life tends to throw a bunch of those our way just to test our character, I suppose.

Lauren said...

I know what it is like to not have a father want to know you. To not have his family want to know you. I personally know what that is like. And I think I would think it was much worse had I not had such a great family on my mother's side. I still think about him sometimes but mostly not.

Does it suck - yes but not really as bad as you are imagining it.

What is worse is that I remember small things about him like he used to come and get me regularly and we would go have a pancake breakfast and then he would take me home again. Until one day he just didn't come ever again. I don't know if my mother knew he wouldn't be coming or not. She never told me much and I think that was worse. Tell Little A everything you can when she is old enough to understand. It will help her not wonder.

Sorry this is so long.

KC said...

Jenn, you are such a wonderful loving mother. Many children don't have half the love you give to your girls. And I can't help thinking about what Flutter said and maybe it would do more harm if it were another way.

b*babbler said...

It will be hard for Little A. There will be moments with tears and moments of doubts. I speak as someone who had not just one parent abandon them, but both, by the time I was eight.

I do know that with you, who so deeply loves Little A, and her amazing big sister, and all the rest of her family, she will survive, and she will hurt less because of it.

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh, Little A. I know you wish you could take that pain away for her. And it will be pain. But with it will come the joy of knowing how lucky she is to have you and Big A. Perhaps she will appreciate her family in a way many don't simply because she knows what she could be missing?

And her father? Oy. I don't understand. Any more than you or Big A do. I just don't get it.

bgirl said...

heavy sigh. there is just nothing easy about this. big A is incredible and clearly has your heart, so little A is getting a double dose!

this may sound completely weird, but in some ways i envy your situation with the girls. Big A has a great dad, so much so that you have a parenting partner...i'd give anything to have that. someone to confide in, someone to love and know him and share the good and hard times you face as a parent. then with little A, no contact... more often than not, i wish for that for my little dude. because the random flurries of calls and weak attempts to "get involved" which usually equal a lunch once a month, are much more hassle then they are worth. they cause so much stress for my little dude, he is more than reluctant to go and THRILLED to return. for the most part these visits make my job even harder.

there is just no easy outcome and certainly no way to know how the different scenarios would play out.