Unlikely Places a Single Mom Can Find a Stand-in Dad
As a single mom of a 15-month-old, there are days I would do anything so that Ellie could have a regular father figure in her life, in her home, and in her heart. But as the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” And there have been a number of places Dads have been popping up, giving Ellie what she needs, instead of what I want.
1. Music Class
Every Saturday morning, Ellie and I head out to her 9:30am music class. Typically, I’m a five on the irritation scale about having to get out of the house on deadline on Day 6. But once we arrive, we both are happy to be surrounded by other toddlers and their cheerfully bleary-eyed moms and dads.
Ellie has taken particular interest in the dads. And this past Saturday, two of the dads went out of their way to introduce themselves to me, and to comment on how amazing Ellie is. Their wives were present; so calm yourself if you are thinking it was anything other than a friendly gesture - a friendly gesture to a single mom and her very cool daughter.
I realized that they have probably picked up on my single mom status, and I flashed forward to Ellie playing softball in ten years, and some of the other dads cheering for her as she hit the triple, yelling from the sidelines “Run!!! Run!!! Run!!!” just like my dad did for me when I was little.
I was grateful – for the introduction - as well as for what I saw as a small bit of divine intervention to remind me that I am not in this alone.
2. Friends and Husbands of Friends
One of my closest friends is a gay man, and the fact that he married an amazing guy means that in one couple – I have two great men that love my daughter. They invite us over for brunch, they let Ellie flip through their with their old magazines, while they share celebrity news and fashion with her, and they love her. I know she can feel it when we walk into their apartment. And that is only the beginning.
I’ve found great male role models for my daughter in the great men my friends have married. They come over for dinner, they meet us for brunch, they say hi to Ellie, they pick her up and give her kisses as she tries to squirm out of their arms back to me. They get down on her level and play with her toys, read her books, and they make her feel important. I know they go out of their way to do so. And it means a lot to me.
3. My Brother-in-law
There really isn’t enough I can say about my brother-in-law. I frequently ask him if he knew he was marrying both my sister and I, when he walked down that aisle a few years ago. Only on rare occasions does he become annoyed with his “two wives,” and it’s usually when we are nagging him in unison.
When I found out I was pregnant and having a hard time wrapping my mind around how I was going to manage my life, my brother-in-law offered to let me come live with my he and my sister, so I could have help parenting.
I remember crying to him and saying, “This isn’t your mess, you shouldn’t have to clean it up.”
And he said, “It’s not a mess, it’s a baby, and we love you so we will do anything you need us to do. That’s what family is for.”
Since then he has proven to be a great uncle-dad to Ellie, picking out the outfit that she came home from the hospital in, and recently writing her a poem about how much she is loved. He framed it for her, so I could hang it in her room and she can always be reminded of where she comes from – a place of love.
4. My Dad
When I had Ellie, I remember being in the recovering room after my c-section, going in and out of it, and hearing my dad say, “Anabelle, Anabelle…you are perfect. Car, she is perfect. Oh my god, she is just perfect.” (Btw…Ellie’s birth name is Anabelle.)
Well I think Ellie ‘s memory serves her well, because she remembers the man that thinks she is perfect. About a month ago my dad was on his way into the city to pick Ellie and I up for a long weekend in Connecticut. When we were getting ready to go, I said, “Ellie, come on, we have to get ready. Papa is on his way.”
And Ellie looked up at me and said, clear as a bell, “Papa.”
I said, “Yes! Yes! You said it, Papa!”
The entire time we were in Connecticut, Ellie would walk around the house calling out to him, and trying to find him. When he would leave to go to work, she would stand by the door and repeat over and over, “Papa? Papa? Papa?”
And when he would come home, she would say, “Papa,” and he would pick her up and tell her how special she is.
Since returning to New York City, she has asked for Papa every single morning. When I go in her room to get her out of her crib, she asks for him, when she sees the family picture I have in my room she asks for him, and sometimes out of nowhere, she will just come up to me ask for him. I promised her we would see him as soon as tax season is over (he is a CPA).
I was telling someone close to me about this ongoing Papa request and they smiled and said, “Oh, she loves your dad, and it’s her way of telling you that she has everything she needs. She is not asking for something she needs. She is asking for something she has.”