The Only One With A Step-Daddy
As I've mentioned, my daughter started at a new school this year for Kindergarten. Things have been really smooth so far, which is amazing in and of itself - I expected a few tears, or hiccups - but aside from practically having to drag her out of the bed each morning (it's like having a teenager) the year has started off exceptionally well.
One of the first things that the new teacher introduced was the idea of bringing in a "Me Bag" - a paper lunch bag that the kids and parents are supposed to fill with things that represent them and their lives. We were encouraged to get creative and to use photographs as well because of their manageable size. So yesterday Audrey Grace and I went around the house gathering items for her "Me Bag". We chose a pair of Mardi Gras beads to represent the fact that she is from New Orleans and still has family there. We put in a small stuffed Tigger because she has carried a Tigger around since she was 6 months old - he is her best friend and she still loves anything with Tigger on it. We included her pocket-sized devotional so she could share her faith with her class. We also included a ribbon from her graduation from swim school. And then we went out to the living room to look through photographs.
First we chose a photo of Audrey Grace, her dad, and a horse that she had the chance to ride named Cactus. Then she wanted to include a photo of her and Banks, her almost-stepbrother that she simply calls "my brother". I came across a photo of myself and my fiance' and I offhandedly asked her if she wanted to include that photo in her bag as well - and she shook her head no. Honestly, I had expected her to excitedly take it from me and put it in the bag, so I felt a bit stunned. I asked her again and she shook her head no emphatically then took it out of my hands and put it on the table, out of my reach.
"Kids don't want to see some step-daddy" she said. "They only want to see REAL daddies."
"But honey" I protested "Mr. Morgan is a real daddy. And it's ok that you have two - you can explain who your daddy is, and who Mr. Morgan is."
"No. Kids don't want to see that. They only want the other daddy - the daddy you started with."
I wish that I could say that I was prepared for that moment. But the truth is that I wasn't. She has adjusted so well to living in California and having both her dad and Morgan in her life that it never occurred to me that she realized that her normal was not the same normal that everyone else was living. She loves her daddy with all of her heart, but I also know that she loves my fiance' and his son with all of her heart too. Just yesterday she was begging Morgan to stay home and not go to work so he could play with her. She snuggles up next to him on the couch, asks him to pick her up when she is sleepy, and won't go to bed without telling him that she loves him. So what gives?
I got online last night and checked the class roster - sure enough, we are the only divorced couple in her class. I was floored. I mean, that's wonderful and all, but where are these huge percentages of divorced couples that we always hear about? How can it be that thus far we are the only ones in the group who have been dysfunctional in that department?
My heart aches for her. I've felt so proud that thus far, I've mostly protected her from the pain of divorce. Her father and I get along really well. My fiance' and her father get along well too. I know she loves our little family here in California and honestly - I thought she was happy as a clam. But clearly she realizes that not only is there a distinction between daddy and step-daddy - but she realizes that she is the odd one out.
And there is nothing I can do about it except help her to deal with it the best that I can. That feeling of being helpless when you know your kid is hurting? It's awful, and I carry a lot of guilt around that. All I can do is love her and be there for her - and hope that the rest will sort itself out.
For all of our sakes.