After two long, lonely, grueling years, I've finally found someone worthy of being a member of this family. He is a noble, kind hearted, and caring man who adores me and adores my kids. And we all adore him.
This is wonderful news, which has brought happiness and joy to all of our lives. I am happier. My kids are happier. I feel more secure, more stable, calmer, and I finally feel 'at peace.' And so when my son brought up the 'D' word, first to me alone and then to this wonderful man, it was a lot like being broadsided by a truck.
After only two blissful weeks of real family time together, my older boy said to me "I love him. Maybe I can make him my Daddy." Not knowing how to respond, I just hugged my boy. Two days later, as this amazing man was playing with the kids in a way that only a real "Daddy" can do, my son climbed up on his chest and said "I love you. Can I make you my Daddy?"
Being the gentleman that he is, and not wanting to put too much emphasis on the subject, he asked my son, "what about your other Daddy?" My son, a pragmatist like his mother, very matter of factly stated, "he's in the Army.' As if to say, 'he made his choice, and it wasn't me. If you choose me, then you are the man worthy of the title "Daddy."
Luckily, my son is not quite 4 yet, and so his attention span is pretty short and soon enough, he was off on another tangent, back to bugging his little brother, something as an only child, I don't think I will ever understand.
I sure didn't expect it this soon, but then again, this is a boy whose father was his whole world until he was 22 months old, when 'Dad' ran away from home just as the world fell out from underneath our feet. I was able to see firsthand the turmoil my son had to brave as this coward hid behind a GI Joe costume, pretending to be 'honorable' while his only real motivation for serving in the military was to use it to escape his obligations to the family he made in order to prove something to the family he was born to.
I know my son has looked for "Daddy" for the past two years, not understanding why he wasn't with us. "Daddy's" 'excuses' are 'Daddy's in the army' but the boy must be making the connection that when he is not 'away in Iraq' he's still not here. Readers of this blog know that I make no secret of my feelings about new age psychobabble about not badmouthing the other parent. I don't believe you can allow a child to think well of a parent who abandons the family, and not expect that child to grow up thinking that it would be ok for him to do the same to his family.
I'm very happy that we have finally found someone to become the other 'pillar' of the family, but I'm overjoyed that my son feels that this man is worthy of becoming the "Daddy" the boy has been so longing for during these past two tumultuous years.
HOWEVER... when caught off guard as we were by the boys innocent, and hopeful, question, we both found ourselves at a loss for the right answer. And of course, I've spent the past two days trying to figure out what the right answer is. And I think this is it:
Son, a "Daddy" is the man who stands by his family no matter what. Who is there every night to put you to bed and kiss you goodnight, and there every morning to have breakfast with you and kiss you goodbye for the day. Daddy is there. Always and forever. He will be there for your ballgames and school plays. He plays ball with you in the back yard and does fun stuff for you on weekends. When you think you know a man who fits that description, you have found your Daddy.'
Of course, if my son were a bit older, these explanations would be deeper. Such as:
Son, a "Daddy" is the man who stands by his family, no matter what. Who never misses your games, or any our our birthdays. Who makes sure that Mommy always has a cake on her birthday and that we all celebrate each others lives on birthdays, holidays, and special occassions. A "Daddy" stands by his family, always. And makes sacrifices for the best interest of the family.
Because my sons are so young, they will grow up with the 'example' of the ladder conversation, and the first is simplified to be age appropriate for them. But i think the main thing to remember is to figure out what kind of man you want your son to be, or your daughter to marry, and find those qualities in the mate you search for. This way, when this subject comes up, and your child wants to create a 'daddy' out of the man in your life, you don't have to answer with a yes or no, you can just say 'this is what a Daddy is, and from there,' they get to decide.