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?
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