Thursday, September 26, 2013

The First Question

For years I have read the psychology books, consulted with SMBC friends and memorized a child-friendly version of the IUI story, ready to be told when Raphaela began asking questions about her origins and her family.

Until recently the topic, "Who/Where is my father?", it had never come up, and my daughter has proven herself more than capable of expressing all of her curiosity and concerns. 

Having reached the age of four, that question still has not been asked directly.  One evening over the Succot holiday, where she and I basically spent 24/7 together and where there was no structure of Gan, I saw Raphaela sink into a chair, and she seemed...sad.  I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I want a father.  I want a father that is just mine."

After all my mental preparation for this moment and all my skill at empathy and communication, I failed at the task. I tried to tell her "story" in a positive way, ending with the promise that she is loved and will always have loving and supportive people around her.  It felt hollow to me, because inside I wanted to cry;  I should never have assumed that the lack of a father was a non-issue just because it had never came up in conversation.

I wanted to hold her and rock her and assure her, "It's OK my love, I will find you a father."  But that would have been unfair to both of us, to create expectations far beyond my ability or control.

The next day, Raphaela said to me, "Mommy, it's OK that I don't have a father because you don't have one either, right?"  Again, I was at a loss for words, how to explain that in fact I don't have one father, but rather two, that I am part of the typical divorce phenomenon that now plagues modern life and far too many families.

Later that day, after I had given her some stickers, she came over to me and said, "Look Mommy, I got these wonderful stickers from my father!"

 I know that Raphaela knows that she is loved:  I observed her playing with her Barbie dolls and saying, "I love my Mommy, she gives me lots of food and lots of hugs and she loves me as big as Space."

And yet, here I stand, speechless in the face of the First Question.

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