One of my nieces, now aged four, is asking about her dad’s whereabouts. She was asking her grandmother, my aunt, “Do I have a dad?”
Her grandmother replied, “Yes, he came to see you when you were slightly younger. Don’t you remember?”
Obstinately she asked, “That far back? I don’t remember him.” I understand her. She’s only four; how much could she possibly remember from her past?
A few months after she was born I met her dad. He’d accompanied me and her mom to the clinic for her monthly post-natal check-up. At the time he seemed like just a teenager, and judging by the daughter’s queries, I’m assuming he’s joined the league of absentee dads.
My niece is currently in kindergarten. She’s starting to ask questions that all kids in her situation are bound to ask at some point. Sometimes single parents hope their kids will skip that phase because it poses many challenges in terms of what answers should be given and it’s difficult to ascertain if the answers given are age-appropriate. With my niece for instance, how does one begin to tell her that her parents conceived her when they were themselves very young so it would have been almost impossible for them to end up together then?
When I saw the guy who was said to have fathered her, I couldn’t believe it. He was so young; one could tell he wasn’t fully grown yet. I didn’t ask, but I presumed he was still in his teens. I commended him at the time for standing by his baby mama because many guys his age would just have ‘hit and run’. I don’t know when he started drifting away but nowadays it turns out he’s a complete no-show.
Now the girl is at that stage where she’s starting to realize that children should have a father and a mother and unfortunately her dad’s missing in the picture. Plus there’s that awful possibility that sometimes kids make fun of each other and she might not be an exception to the ridicule. Those little people could be nasty at times… but we love them still. One could hope that their kids wouldn’t have to ask those questions, but how does someone hope for such when in school one of the primary things children learn is about the family.
When I was still a small child, in my first year of primary school, I remember being asked by my teacher to draw and name the members of my family. I had an amazing time drawing and colouring them. With that in mind, I find myself lost when I try to think what a child in my niece’s situation would do. She would probably draw herself, her mom, her grandmother and her nanny; because those are the people she’s grown around. And I’m assuming there would atleast be one of her classmates who, in her innocence, would ask, “Where is your dad?”
I empathize with my niece; she’s only four. At what age will her mother or grandmother feel confident she’s old enough to learn the truth? And until that time comes, what is she supposed to tell other kids her age? Those kids who don’t understand that sometimes it’s impossible to have both parents around. How will she handle the vicious remarks other kids utter sometimes? I don’t know really if it’s possible to tell children not to worry or give much thought to such brutality, all I know is that for them, before it gets better, it will get worse.