I’ve recently been reminded of the challenges my son will face when his friend asked, “Kai where’s your dad?” I held my breath! What would his reaction be? I’ve never been privy to this interaction between Kai and his friend. I sat and watched as his eyes rolled, as if to say, really? Not this again!
“I don’t have a dad”.
“But, Kai, everyone has a dad? Is your dad dead?”
“Ah, you don’t understand. Mom please explain to him”
I was intrigued by his matter of fact answer, and his request for me to explain. So I told his friend that Kai has a dad, he is alive, but not in Kai’s life.
“But how can that be? Where is he? Kai do you know him?”
“Of course I know my dad! I just don’t see him, mom please explain!” asked my son, slightly annoyed, but also patient with a wisdom that exceeds his age.
Thus I continued to tell the story about his father and how he wasn’t ready to be a dad-dad. He listened while his friend looked at me in complete disbelief. “But how can your dad NOT want to see you?” asked his friend, unaware of the sensitivity of this question.
So, I laid down next to the boys on the bed, and looked at both boys as I explained.
“Kai’s dad wasn’t ready to be a dad, and just like some families only have a mom and dad, other’s only have one parent – some by choice, and others due to unfortunate circumstances. Some kids also live with grandparents or extended family, like Faith who live with us”
“But how can his dad just leave him?” Asked Kai’s friend again, unaware of the subtle change of the rooms aura as I witness the sadness creep into my son’s eyes while I gently rubbed his back.
“Some people just aren’t ready to be parents, and Kai’s dad left before Kai was born, so he’s never been part of his life”
Then the very awkward question, “but then why did you have a child if his dad wasn’t there and Kai how can your dad just leave you”. His friend was very gentle in his questioning, inquisitive and innocent.
I wasn’t quite prepared for this and explained that a parent’s love for their child is not dependent on the other parent. I could see the loss AND hope reflecting in my son’s eyes when he asked me “but is my dad ready to be a dad now?”
How do you answer this?? He is only 8 years old!!
“Kai I don’t know, but I’m sure that if he is ever ready to be a dad-dad to you then he will let you know.” Was my response as I gave him a big hug and reassured him that he is an awesome child and is loved so very much and somehow the subject changed to our dog, a topic that I realised many years ago, gives him great comfort when as the memories are of a baby loved enormously by a beautiful little dog who loved to give lots of kisses!
This left me with a deep sadness within. Knowing that growing up without a father will always leave my son with many emotionally charged questions, most of which I am ill-equipped to answer.
These moments are very brief and rare, but the impact is powerful.
I’ve always been of the opinion that you cannot miss something that you’ve never had. But as my son grows older, I realise that he is mourning the loss of something he’s never had; a dad-dad. The sadness within . . .