Sunday, May 16, 2010

Days Ahead.

Lily and I had a good weekend. We were busy, we were more social than usual, we had a good dose of outdoor fun and we visited our bench. But this last week has had it's challenges, as usual, and though they're ones I've been anticipating, they still caught me off guard. On a work call someone asked me if I was married and I stuttered with the answer. A rush of fear shot through me as I heard the question and what came out was, "sort of". The listener left it at that but I think what he imagined was that I was in one of those in limbo relationships where you might as well be married but you're not. Regardless, I felt stuck by the question - not comfortable elaborating but for me there wasn't a straight answer. That said, this same week when answering questions for my college's alumni database I was asked my marital status and again I felt trapped.

"What are my options" I asked.

I went with widow.

She was no longer interested in the age of my daughter. Must have figured Lily was now an adult.

This weekend came the big one.
A toddler asked me where Lily's dad was.
Well, I said, he can't be with us. He's in Lily, and his spirit is everywhere, but he isn't here in the same way that your dad is.
My response was accepted and back she went to her play.
I let out a sigh of relief.
Lily continued, blissfully unaware.

I have been bracing myself for all sorts of questions and this time I got off relatively easy. It was an OK first run. But as I begin considering preschools for Lily I know it's just a matter of time before she faces the same ones. When surveying a school's website recently I lingered on a photo of a classroom project. Again, my heart in my throat. It was individual houses, adorning the walls and the heading above them said "Who's in your family?". Below were photo montages of children with parents and siblings and relatives - each household reflecting something different. I imagined Lily's. One image was just of the two of us, the other required an apartment building for every extended family member and courtesy aunt and uncle. Lily will get that question and many others, and I won't always be there to help her field them.

That makes me anxious and sad.
Parents say how heartbreaking it is to watch their child through a classroom window not get a seat at a classroom table, or play alone as others pair up. What goes through my head when I envision Lily on days when they're making Father's Day projects or having a dad's visiting day, is brutal. I've already read of so many incidents of children in Lily's situation on days just like those - and many haven't been handled well. Together, we'll prepare. But there are many children missing a parent and I long for a curriculum and an understanding that thoughtfully incorporates them.

Differences for children can be alienating and no matter how thoughtful teachers will promise to be, they won't always be there for her either. I've written a couple of children's books for Lily and others in her shoes and I long for the day when we can read them together and when she can hear them during story time, listening anonymously, surrounded by others. Children are beautifully open to new ideas and if they see that Lily's dad is very much a part of her, they'll understand that he's always there. And they'll realize that about their parents too - that although they're all on their own at school, their parents are very much with them - in their mannerisms, in their coloring, sometimes in the way they see things, or in their stride. Much of growing up is based on knowing who you are, and my greatest wish for Lily is that she recognize the strength and beauty she already possesses.

She'll get through those days. We both will.
But I don't look forward to them.
At all.

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