October 6, 2010

The Question Gets Asked...

If you are an SMC, you know the question to which refer. I've waited anxiously for my son to ask the Daddy Question.  Everything I've read says our young children are eager to know more about their unique family structure and origins.  As soon as they learn the name for people in their home and for the people in their friends' homes, children are supposed to ask. So I waited.  I prepared. I rehearsed. You wouldn't think it would take this much planning just to present the truth. I came up with my script. I wrote out the words. I revised them as I practiced the conversation. I bought picture books that other moms said were good for telling and talking. I read those books to Henry. He much preferred The Cat in the Hat and Goodnight Moon. I waited some more. When would he ask? When would he want those questions answered that I just knew were on his mind?

When he was three years, seven months and one week old. When we were at Target. When it was 5 pm and the store's smoothie machine was broken. When everyone had had a long day and no one had eaten for hours. When his toddler brother was having an ear-shattering, no-holes-barred tantrum in the peanut butter aisle. That's when.

Why do we just have a mommy in our family?

His voice was barely above a whisper. Or maybe his normal volume was muffled by his brother's screams. I heard him clearly though. For a split second, I tried to convince myself that I hadn't. This can't be happening here. This is not how I planned it.  Just to be sure, I got down to his eye level and asked him to repeat himself.  As much as I hated that it was happening in this setting, I wanted to make sure Henry knew it was okay to ask. It's okay even if people are staring at us while our cart and a bellowing toddler block aisle 8.

Why do we just have a mommy in our family?

I prayed that I would remember my lines. The truth as told in developmentally appropriate language. All I needed to do was to say the words I'd rehearsed for years. All of Henry's caregivers have a copy of the script typed and ready at a moment's notice in case I wasn't around when he asked The Question. Why hadn't I stuck a copy in my purse? Now I was going to have to  improvise and hope I didn't ruin the entire scene.

"Well Henry,” I squeaked, still crouched down near his face. "Some families have a mommy and a daddy in their house, some families have just a mommy in their house or just a daddy in their house. And some children have two mommies in their house."

"Or two daddies," he interjected.

"Or two daddies. In our family we have a mommy in our house. That's because your mommy wanted a baby to love. I wanted one very much. But I didn't find a daddy. So I went to the doctor." At this point, Henry actually turns to his screaming sibling and says,

"Yeeeuhm, sshhhh, I can't hear mommy." Talk about pressure;  he really wanted to hear this.

I cleared my throat and continued, "The doctor gave me some medicine so I could have a baby.  I was very, very happy when I  had my baby:  YOU!   (Big kiss.) Then I went back to the doctor for some more medicine and had another baby."


"Yes, Liam. And I love him very much."  But I really wish he'd be quiet right now.

And that was that.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have said some things differently. I would not have said "medicine". Where did that word come from? It wasn't in the script. I would not have used the word "just" repeatedly implying only or lacking.  But we were in Target surrounded by shelves of processed foods and weary shoppers.  I did my best in the moment.

The moment passed and Henry became distracted by the macaroni and cheese boxes. I have a case of organic white cheddar dinners in our garage but when Henry asked for Kraft Toy Story 3 mac 'n cheese, I couldn't get it in our cart fast enough. Then he asked for a second box for Liam.  Yes, of course you can get another one.  Anything you want.  Please let's just get our little family out of this store and back to our tiny home. Let's eat tv dinners, watch cartoons and act like nothing has changed.  Because, when you think about it, nothing has.


  1. Ok, this is my worst fear.

    I'm totally bawling in my office now.

    I hope when my time comes, that I deliver an amazing answer just like you did.

    I, too, struggle with the "just" part. In fact, I'm about to do a post on some of the qualifiers. That's one little pet peeve about The Family Book, the page about single mamas says "instead of two parents".

    I've got the "mommy wanted a baby" part down. But in my case, I had changed my mind and changed it back so many times that it happened on accident - with the person who said he would give me a baby originally. How the he-- do you explain ambivalence and a drunken escapade to a three-year-old? I'm SO going to have to practice this.

    I LOVE the script thing. Can I cheat off you?

  2. You are so inspiring! You handled the situation with absolute grace & Henry is so lucky (Liam too)! It just goes to show that no matter how prepared you are, it can happen at the most unexpected time!

  3. Oh, wow, never works out as planned.. But good for you for stopping there and then and answering him. I would probably have said I'll answer you at home and totally miss the oppertunity.

  4. Good job! It reminds me of when I was a kid/ teen and would always bring up "deep topics" when we were in the car. It sounds like you handled it wonderfully!

  5. Good for you. My son is 4 1/2 so we have had LOTS of conversations about this. Plus my son was conceived with a known donor and he has spent time with him probably 10 times over his life span. His donor now lives in another state so when he talks about his "Daddy" he always follows it up with "but he lives in Texas." I don't know if he really gets that even if he lived here he wouldn't live with us.

    I think the most important thing is being honest. From the very beginning. As long as you're honest about it to your kids there will never be some huge "reveal" moment. But it's always nerve wracking when the conversation comes up.

  6. What an honest and heart warming post. These moments in life never come when they are 'supposed to', yet you do a fantastic job. Don't be too hard on yourself for not using the 'right' words. Like FTLH said, you will probably have this conversation again, numerous times!

    Big hugs xo

  7. thanks so much for sharing that. good job, mama! and what a sweet little thinker you have!

  8. All I can say is AMAZING. And you will always remember that.. But like others have said I am
    sure he will ask again.. I know that he is a deep thinker that is for sure! Such a wonderful family that I am so glad to call friends.

  9. Great job! Haven't had to tackle that here yet but I am sure it will come.

  10. Wow you are an inspiration! I'm just in the "trying" stage, but already worry about "the question". I think you handled it beautifully!

  11. Awesome! You couldn't have done it better! Now, all the following conversations will be easier. Good for you! BTW I heard an interesting statistic: only 32% of families are formed the conventional way (mom, dad and kids) we are part of the larger ever increasing majority.

  12. Wow, that's a very powerful and inspiring post!

    My mum is a single mum, so I have experienced being on the other side of it. And you know, I was always affraid to ask my mum this question.
    But you have done very well with the answer!
    Good luck to you and thanks for sharing it!


  13. Sorry its taken so long to find your blog! You are an inspiration to me! I have yet to sit down and figure out my plan (though Max is only 16 months!). Thank you for being so open and sharing your experience. =)

  14. I just stumbled onto your blog this evening, and I'm so glad I did. For some reason "The Question" has been haunting me lately and it's nice to read how another SMC has handled it. Thank you!