Unintended Consequences

I have to admit – five years into this game, I’ve gotten pretty blasé about the whole “no father” thing.  So have my kids.  Claire announces it as needed, but in a very “whatevah” way.  “I told her you couldn’t find a dad,” she told me, as an aside, at a recent church lunch.  Evidently the topic had come up with her friend seated on the other side of her.  Or not.  It’s possible she just volunteered it.  We’ve known this girl’s family for years, and I’ve never seen their father, either.  Church is a mom-and-kids thing in their family, as is swimming lessons, evidently – the other place we see them.  Not a big deal, just chatter between the five-year-olds.

We’re busy, we’re happy, life is good.  Gymnastics, skating, swimming, soccer, kindergarten, cardboard-box inventions, baking projects, vacation planning.  It’s all good.  The big conversations have been had, and repeated.  The awkwardness of my children calling some random men “daddy” has faded (no, not in my bedroom – at the playground!  It’s a thing some little kids do before they realize ‘Daddy’ is not a man’s name, it is an honorific used only by that man’s children … never mind.)  My point is that the “no father” thing barely resonates right now.  Until it does, and a reminder that I’ve undertaken a social experiment hits me upside the head.

That was this morning.  I was getting dressed.  Claire and Anna were chattering away.  We have good mornings in our house – unrushed, books, conversation, relating of dreams, clothing choices.

“I’m going to have five babies,” Claire said.

“I like babies and dogs,” Anna noted (my second child will love the Internet).

“Is five good?” Claire asked.

“Five is great,” I said.  “I would love to have five grandchildren.  But babies and children are a lot of work.  They cry a lot, they need to be fed and changed, they fight, and you have to take care of all of them.  But if you get married, your husband or wife can help, and that makes it easier.”

“But I might not find a wife.  Where do you find one?” she asked.  (Oh sweetie, if only I knew).

“School maybe, or at work.  You can meet someone anywhere, and if you fall in love and want to be with them forever and ever, you can get married,” I explained.  (Please don’t let her meet her spouse at school – that is too young.)

“Maybe,” said Claire.  “But maybe I won’t find anyone, and that would be okay.”  (Good, that message has been absorbed).

A few minutes pass.  By now I’m in the bathroom putting on makeup.  Claire is still imagining her future family.

“I’ll be the mom, and you’ll be the Grandma,” she said.

“Yep,” I said.

“But who will be the Grandpa?”

And there it is.  The unintended consequence of being a single mother by choice – I’ve just deprived my five grandchildren of a grandfather.  My girls have one – my father.  For them, “Grandma and Grandpa” go together like salt and pepper.

We kept on talking (it never stops in my house).  I explained her husband or wife might have two parents, and those parents would be other grandmas and grandpas.  Hard to explain, really, how other kids have another half of their family.  I told her that her friend Kate has seven grandmas and grandpas, courtesy of divorce and remarriage.  She thought that was too many.

Life went on.  I eventually headed to work, and the girls were playing happily as I left.  But the question has followed me all day.  They seem to cope just fine, so far, without a father.  But who will be the grandpa?



10 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences”

  1. Interesting point, and something I never really thought of! But I also note that I grew up only having briefly met one of my grandparents (3 of the 4 had died before I was born), and my twins (now 5) have only known their grandmother. And I have to say that having only one grandparent for them has been like having only one parent – it’s just the way our family is, and they have taken it 100% in stride.

    The message that I try convey is that families are all different – they’re just a group of people who love each other, and it’s not about what’s missing, but what’s there. So far that’s worked, though it will get interesting as they get older and ask more questions – and also run into friends who may pose questions of their own.

  2. my son is already turning 8 years old this june and growing up, i have always been honest to him that i only wanted him, my son, not a husband, because i cannot find myself getting married.
    however, my advantage is that he knows his dad. they communicate but not regularly since his dad has his own family now. and our culture in my country is not as open as in other western countries. so, his dad needs to “sneak in” time to be with my son.
    my son also kept “bugging” me to marry because he wants his dad living with us. but i just explained it to him tenderly that it’s not possible. he also claims i “divorced’ his dad that’s why we’re not together. lol..
    it all boils down as to how we try to communicate this sensitive issues to our lovey dovies. as i always say, we should never under estimate our children’s knowledge. they are smart children. and it will also help them into maturity if we speak honestly and tenderly to them about our chosen “family” status 🙂
    kudos to all single moms by choice!! i salute each and everyone of you!

  3. My son (5 years old) just asked me this morning “who’s our Father?” And I explained that “Papa is my father.” He said, “well, who’s my father?” So, I have to come up with something further to tell him when I pick him up today. I have always told him that “in our family Mommy gets to be the Mommy and the Daddy. And that means that I am doubly blessed.” But his curiousity is peaking now. I’m nervous about talking to him about it, but I want him to know that he can come to me and talk about anything. So…..wish me luck.
    Your post was great!

  4. You never know, you may yet marry… stranger things have been known to happen :). I am dating someone very seriously whose own parents are divorced so he has two sets. It dawned on my not too long ago that if we marry my girls will gain two more sets of Grandparents (a total of three is a lot!). Even if that doesn’t happen you may well find that some additional grandparents get adopted along the way. Life has a way of evolving.

  5. Thanks for this post.
    There are lots of reasons not to have a grandpa – mine died before I was born. It’s not so uncommon to have a smaller set of grandparents.

    And, there can be grandparents who aren’t biologically related. One of my dear friends, who’s 69 years old, has claimed the position of paternal grandmother to my future children. =) Your kids could have the luck of picking their kids’ grandparents!


  6. Thanks for sharing! I’m only three years into this and that part of it has been ok while we’ve been at the same school the entire time. I’m not looking forward to the “new school” process as we head to kindergarten.

  7. nicely done, Andrea! I’m sad for my girl that she only gets one grandma. Maybe she will get some more grandparents if she finds herself a wife. One can only hope.

    (Loved the bit about the bedroom!)

  8. Very nice blog post. I enjoyed it. These are definitely issues that single mothers by choice have to think about when they pursue their plans of creating a family on their own. I look forward to reading more of your blogs!

    1. Beautifully written, Andrea. They’ll be okay without a grandpa – grandma’s are great. My Grace is 17 now and never knew a grandpa. As a teenager she’s got plenty of issues, but my choice is not one of them.

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