Two years ago I posted this conversation with Sam:
Sam: What are you doing?
Me: writing a poem about what it might be like to not have a dad.
Me: Does it suck today?
Sam: A little bit.
Me: I can’t imagine.
Sam: It’s kind of OK though too. Because we have you. And I like having you all to myself with my brother.
Me: It’s OK for it to suck. What can be hard about it?
Sam: Because a daddy can’t play with me.
Me: Do kids ever give you a hard time about not having a daddy?
Sam: They ask me sometimes why I don’t have one.
Me: What do you tell them?
Sam: I don’t know.
Me: You don’t know why you don’t have a daddy?
Me: It’s kind of like you don’t have a daddy twice isn’t it? Once because I’m not married, and once because your birth father wasn’t ready or able to be a parent when you were born.
Sam: That’s what I should tell them?
Me: You don’t have to tell them anything. Or you can say; My family has an Uncle, a Mommy, and lots and lots of other people who love me too.
Sam: OK. Can I go play my guitar now?
Two years later and the fatherhood story has changed dramatically for us with Shrek in our lives, and all the beautiful parenting and loving he brings. On the table is a huge envelope full of cards that Marcel crafted over the last month for him. On the door is one I asked Sam to write. For Sam and Marcel the story of “the father” or not “the father” is very different. It is complex, layered. Shrek, of course embraces it all.
Marcel adores Shrek, and feels fully empowered and excited to call him “Dad” to the world. My dad is coming to pick me up after the birthday party. You’ll get to meet him. He is cool. While he doesn’t call him “Dad” he loves that he has an invitation to try on the word.
For Sam, Shrek perhaps at times represents a loss as much as a gain? I can only imagine if I was being raised by a single father, and then a woman he loved came into the picture, that I might like her a heap, but she could really feel like she was taking away something I enjoyed–a place of importance? A role? A balance I knew? That for me the embracing of her, would take a whole lot more time.
I have explained to Sam that he does, and always will have many fathers in his life–fathers he will choose-like Uncle, or a coach, a teacher, a minister, or the father of a good friend. I give him full permission to not embrace Shrek as a dad, but instead to notice and enjoy the fatherly things he does do that Sam as evidenced above imagined a dad might do: take him to the skate park, to the movies with friends, cheer him at his game, pick him up from school, launch a rocket with him on a Sunday afternoon.
Then there is the part where Shrek has his own amazing, generous, loving, grown children who are scattered about the country and who are his universe. The integration of the two families piece is of course layered and complex. But it is not my place to speak to his experience. Let’s encourage him to start his own blog…Needless to say today feels full, charged, and bold. Shortly, we are off on a little adventure in a blended family way. So sweet to spend the morning thinking a little bit more about it here with you.
Finally, I’ll close with this edited version from two years ago as it all pertains today:
We have amazing men in our life. I write about them all the time: older ones, younger ones, Black ones, and creamy ones. Constant ones, sporadic ones. Sporty ones, and bookish ones. There are the theatrical ones, and the serious ones. The stop your foolishness ones, and the foolish ones. And there will always be missing ones. To all our many papas we cherish you. To the ones we don’t really know, or don’t get to see enough we hold you close always too. We honor all the magnificent talent,charisma and love you brought into our lives today.
When you are twelve, fifteen, twenty-one, or forty will you remember? Will you have the moment etched in your memory when Mama picked you up at school after the call from the principal’s office-and did not even raise my voice when we got in the car? Will you remember how I almost cracked up when you asked with a big toothless forced smile; “So, how was your day before the call? Want to act all nice until we reach that part of the day?” I wish you could know how much your confidence, and curiosity at that moment affirmed my decision. I knew without a doubt that we had both arrived at the right place. You are ready, I whispered to myself. You are ready.
Will you recall how I very calmly said to you; “I love you babe. I’ll always love you. And, I can be really perplexed and even disappointed with the things you do some times. I might even worry a little that some of your choices, like laughing non stop in class, really get in your way. But Sam, today I have arrived at a new place. I have realized that as an almost third grader, as a musician, athlete, math wiz, and reader-you are ready. As an eight year old who has everything he needs in his heart and his mind to make good choices with yourself, your friends, your teachers, your coaches, your community, and your family-you are ready.”
Will you know what it felt like in your body when you asked me; “Ready for what?”
Will you feel that sense of wonder, awe, excitement, and that little twinge of concern your eyes seemed to convey when I answered while looking at you squarely in the rear view mirror: “Ready to decide who you really are.”
I am writing to tell you how freeing it is for me to release all the fear, anxiety, shame I occasionally feel when you get in trouble. How freeing it is to decide to just trust, love, and believe in you. To let go of all the pressure I put on you all the time, to be the version of you, I want to you be. You are not an eight year old me. You are you, Sam. You. Amazing.
You, son, are more than magnificent. You are a beautiful, talented, loving, curious, engaging, athletic, scientific, funny, relational, compassionate, magnificent YOU. There is nothing missing there.
Oh yes, I’ll still insist you write a public apology for any foolishness, and demand that you exhibit respect for your teachers, your friends, and most importantly yourself. I’ll still see to it that there are logical consequences when I can’t see you in the store, or you figure out how to buy games on my phone without asking. I’ll still expect the world of you. I’ll still deliver the part of it I can for your perusal, and participation. Bottom line Sam is that I will always love and adore you. This is what I believe they call; “Unconditional”. I’m sorry it took me this long to get that.
I hope I never convey to you any other message than this: everything is right with you.
How remarkable an opportunity we all have to journey with you in the life,
Love from Mom
“Superman is having a very busy day,” Marcel observed with empathy while watching Superman last night. There were bad guys being foiled and heroic feats of Lois Lane savings going on about the time he matter of factly declared this. I might conclude the kid can relate. With a few weeks left of kindergarten, a newly developed penchant for gymnastics class, a very fast big brother to keep up with, several good friends to connect with, and all the father’s day cards he’s working on, the kid is busy. (Yes, I said all these Father’s Day cards. We have about sixteen in a large brown envelope waiting to be delivered. But this may require a post of it’s own.) There are also Nana’s to play with, new walls to scale, flowers to water, lettuce to pick, and lots of things to build. Superman is having a very busy day indeed.
What am I looking at? Where do your eyes fall when they have the space to just gaze? Focus is a metaphor and our recollection of our focus can become a daily record of today. Read more…