The Question Gets Asked

If you are a Single Mother by Choice (SMC), you know the question to which refer. I’ve waited anxiously for my son to ask the Daddy Question. Everything I’ve read says our young children are eager to know more about their unique family structure and origins. As soon as they learn the name for people in their home and for the people in their friends’ homes, children are supposed to ask. So I waited. I prepared. I rehearsed. You wouldn’t think it would take this much planning just to present the truth. I came up with my script. I wrote out the words. I revised them as I practiced the conversation. I bought picture books that other moms said were good for telling and talking. I read those books to Henry. He much preferred The Cat in the Hat and Goodnight Moon. I waited some more. When would he ask? When would he want those questions answered that I just knew were on his mind?

When he was three years, seven months and one week old. When we were at Target. When it was 5 pm and the store’s smoothie machine was broken. When everyone had had a long day and no one had eaten for hours. When his toddler brother was having an ear-shattering, no-holes-barred tantrum in the peanut butter aisle. That’s when.

Why do we just have a mommy in our family?

His voice was barely above a whisper. Or maybe his normal volume was muffled by his brother’s screams. I heard him clearly though. For a split second, I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t. This can’t be happening here. This is not how I planned it. Just to be sure, I got down to his eye level and asked him to repeat himself. As much as I hated that it was happening in this setting, I wanted to make sure Henry knew it was okay to ask. It’s okay even if people are staring at us while our cart and a bellowing toddler block aisle 8.

Why do we just have a mommy in our family?

I prayed that I would remember my lines. The truth as told in developmentally appropriate language. All I needed to do was to say the words I’d rehearsed for years. All of Henry’s caregivers have a copy of the script typed and ready at a moment’s notice in case I wasn’t around when he asked The Question. Why hadn’t I stuck a copy in my purse? Now I was going to have to improvise and hope I didn’t ruin the entire scene.

“Well Henry,” I squeaked, still crouched down near his face. “Some families have a mommy and a daddy in their house, some families have just a mommy in their house or just a daddy in their house. And some children have two mommies in their house.”

“Or two daddies,” he interjected.

“Or two daddies. In our family we have a mommy in our house. That’s because your mommy wanted a baby to love. I wanted one very much. But I didn’t find a daddy. So I went to the doctor.” At this point, Henry actually turns to his screaming sibling and says,

“Yeeeuhm, sshhhh, I can’t hear mommy.” Talk about pressure; he really wanted to hear this.

I cleared my throat and continued, “The doctor gave me some medicine so I could have a baby. I was very, very happy when I had my baby: YOU! (Big kiss.) Then I went back to the doctor for some more medicine and had another baby.”

“Leeeuhm!” “Yes, Liam. And I love him very much.” But I really wish he’d be quiet right now.

And that was that. If I had it to do all over again, I would have said some things differently. I would not have said “medicine”. Where did that word come from? It wasn’t in the script. I would not have used the word “just” repeatedly implying only or lacking. But we were in Target surrounded by shelves of processed foods and weary shoppers. I did my best in the moment.

The moment passed and Henry became distracted by the macaroni and cheese boxes. I have a case of organic white cheddar dinners in our garage but when Henry asked for Kraft Toy Story 3 mac ‘n cheese, I couldn’t get it in our cart fast enough. Then he asked for a second box for Liam. Yes, of course you can get another one. Anything you want. Please let’s just get our little family out of this store and back to our tiny home. Let’s eat tv dinners, watch cartoons and act like nothing has changed. Because, when you think about it, nothing has.


12 thoughts on “The Question Gets Asked”

  1. Thank you to everyone that shared their story. My three year insisted that my dad is her dad. I tried explaining things to her in much the same way that others have, but she keeps insisting that her grandfather is her dad. I am just leaving it alone for now, but would like others input. Thanks

    1. Hi (sorry, I don’t know your name),

      This is very common, and is something we discuss on our SMC Forum, along with so many related questions. However, the blog is not for discussion. Are you a member of SMC? If so, you can post the question on our discussion Forum, and if you’re not a member, perhaps you’d like to join us? You can do that on our website, Let us know if you have any questions:


    2. My daughter did the same thing! until one day I asked her why do you think grandpa is your dad? And, honestly, be careful what you ask kids! My daughter simply replied, well he is a man, big, stong and he helps me with my homework. If he is not my dad, who is? Her dad has never been involved in her life, only my dad was. I think is a great thing for kids to have a father figure that they can look up to. Maybe one day you will be able to explain other facts, but for now just enjoy the happiness your son or daughter is having!

  2. My 2yr 2mo. daughter asked about a daddy and i told her i am mommy and daddy. Now she says mommy is daddy. Then we were reading Cinderella tonight and she pointed to the prince and called him daddy. Does she think adult males are daddy? I don’t know. We’ll take it one day and one question at a time. To further complicate, my 12 yr old often talks to her dad on the phone long distance, so the toddler gets a little confused sometimes. Have to make it very clear that he’s not her daddy too. I love the adventures I’ve signed up for!

  3. I was just asked the question today while driving home from day care for the second time. The first time was when she was 2 1/2 in the laundry room “where is my daddy?”. Today, she is barely 3 and this time it was a whole conversation. “where is my daddy?, I want my daddy…” – she is adopted, I am single. I did the whole, there are lot’s of different kinds of families, etc and you just need your mommy right now. It was hard, especially since we were driving and I couldn’t face her. I REALLY didn’t expect her to ask this young. I guess I am going to have to start talking about it more, she it obviously on her mind. Very hard, thanks for the story, I think you did a good job

  4. Thanks for sharing– I think you did a great job! My very-verbal 2 1/2 year-old twin daughters talk about daddies constantly; it’s the daycare influence. Even the rubber duckies in our tub are a traditional family, with a mommy and a daddy and two babies! At the Mothers’ Day Tea, I listened to Maia tell another mother that “My daddy is coming soon!” Yep, it breaks my heart, but right now I just kind of play along with it, not commenting. I do tell them frequently that we’re a Mommy-and-kids-and-Grandma-and-Grandpa family. All of their teachers are well-versed regarding our family structure (and there are two other SMCs/kids in their class!). I just wasn’t expecting it this young.

  5. Great Job Mom! Very Inspiring…. as I need all the inspiration I can get as I raise my twins who just turned one a few weeks ago!

  6. This didn’t happen for us until 5. The question gets continually asked phrased in different ways. The last time I was just told that he wants a dad. It’s hard. Breaks my heart.

  7. My son is now 13 years old and I did the same thing that you did in terms of planning and wanting to make sure he understood our family structure. That question came up and I answered it to the best of my ability when he was about 6 years old. He was fine. The father question rarely comes up now from him. Others ask that question and I answer it the same way and most of the time everyone is fine and the conversation ends within a few minutes without discomfort.

    However, yesterday I got annoyed when I tried to renew my son’s passport in the post office and was asked for a waiver from his father! I will have to show proof that there is no father in our family structure which of course I have! Be prepared for those times when our legal system requires an explanation because they are not fully educated in the various legal family structures!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. Because I had talked to my daughter from day one about how different various families are, this question never came up. She knew children from all types of households, and even understood that childless families were still families. The question of a “Daddy” didn’t really come up until she understood the biology of procreation.
    She’s 23 now and has always felt a mild curiosity about the other half of her DNA, but has never felt a lack because there was no Daddy in the picture.

  9. I’ve been waiting for the “question”and it will likely be coming very soon. Reading about the way you handled it has helped me and my own rehersal for it.

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