The theme the last couple of weeks in our house has been abba (daddy).
While I have prepared myself endlessly for the question "why don’t we have an abba" or “where is our abba"? I was completely unprepared for the statement, "My abba is…..”
I had no idea how to respond and so I did the next best thing, I completely ignored it.
The next day, I took out our book about the different kinds of families and read it to them and talked with them about who is in our family and who is in their friends' families, even though I was pretty sure this was not what they were asking. Since a statement was made, I presumed, it was clear to my little girl that she has one. She didn’t inquire as to his whereabouts he or his identity. In her mind he exists. Not that I know what that actually means. I am guessing he exists in a vague story book way, since at gan (nursery school) and at home all the books have a mommy and a daddy.
Several days later a male friend of mine was over. She kept coming over and asking to sit on his lap. Instead of listening to him I was watching my little girl. She was looking at his face and his chest. I could just tell that had she been less shy she would’ve reached out and touched him. Another male friend told me that my baby keeps asking him about his chest hairs and why he has them.
When I was a little girl, I remember sitting with my dad on Fridays in the bathroom watching him get ready for shul (synagogue). I remember being fascinated with watching him shave. It was part of our pre-shabat ritual. I also recall watching my grandfather shave. So, when we are in America, or when my dad is here, I invite the girls to sit with him and watch.
I have recently been forced to contemplate who isn’t in our family. In the last few weeks a lack of male presence is definitely noticeable. I guess it is true, that a mother (father too?!) can feel their children's pain or in this case non-verbalized question. It has made me confront a self-declared uncle and tell him he needs to continue his commitment to my kids, even if it is 10 minutes a month. They need it, want it, and deserve it. So maybe these men are friends and they will never be an abba replacement but some male presence is necessary even mandatory. This is not to say that children who grow up with no males whatsoever are not emotionally stable or successful people. But I'm beginning to see and not just philosophize how important it really is and to understand far better the choice to not have kids if a male figure isn’t present. Or women who choose to have a child with a gay man. I don’t regret my very conscious choice to do it on my own. These other options weren’t suitable for me. Frankly, having had a difficult relationship with my own dad as a child, I never gave too much thought to the value of the male figure, and so, absent a love partner, I didn’t want a business partner.
Kids do need a mother and a father. This is not to say they can't manage without one or the other. Kids are adaptable…everyone says that. But lately, I look at other kids who are with their dads or with both parents and I wonder if my girls are suffering and what the long term implications are for a dad-less existence? Is it like taking the highway or surface streets; you never know which way is faster if you can't drive them simultaneously? I don't never really know how this has impacted them.As a child, my dad was my least favorite person. As a forty plus woman, he is my hero. My dad, even at his worst, always took care of us. He was always committed to our family. He has always been there for me although not in that “Father knows Best”, “Brady Bunch” or Dr. Huxtable way. His child rearing methods lacked warmth and sensitivity in the best of times.
But as a grown woman, my dad rocks. He has stepped outside his comfort zone to provide support, love and assistance. He has spent extended periods of time here, in Israel, out of love for his daughter and granddaughters.
I am dating a widower. He too is a dad who rocks. While some of his parenting methods are outside my scope and do not mesh with what I “assume” I will do when my kids are teenagers, his commitment to and love for his children is clear. He is there for them and I guess that is all any of us can really provide.
When I see these men in my life, I feel sad that my girls don’t have a daddy to provide them with this perspective. I am sad that my girls won’t have a man to walk to shul with on Friday nights, down the alley, holding pinkys like I did with my dad.
I try to be the best mom I can. But no matter how hard I try to fill that void, I know I can never fill it. I cannot be what I am not. It will just have to do.