Fatherless or fathered: It can be magnificent and hard all at once

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.

Sam: Oh.

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?

Sam: Yes.

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?

Me: Yes.


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.


  1. My oldest daughter was Marcel’s age when my husband and I met. She was hesitant to call him Dad, but I could almost see her tasting the word in her mouth. What it would feel like to finally say that word to someone who would embrace her as a daughter.

    Beautiful post.

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