As my children grow older I find myself constantly caught off guard by the maturity and insight they have into issues I think, and may always think, are too mature for them to worry about. Growing up in the south provided a lot of core values that I later on found out aren’t shared around the world… or even in this country. Divorce was not a common occurrence in the bubble I was brought up in, but it did happen occasionally and was talked about in hushed tones. Now my children come home and discuss how some of their friends have two families and how cool it is they have two sets of stuff, not to mention the two Christmases and two birthdays they also receive. This of course introduces more topics to the table.
It was while explaining why this happens to my children that my daughter Anna asked the question I wasn’t expecting. “Daddy, do you have another Mommy?” It was an innocent question from the most innocent mouth. The words struck me like a dagger and for a second I failed to formulate a response. I finally found the letters of the only language I know and said to her “Yes, Daddy has another Mommy.”
It didn’t end there of course. Even from a 6 and 7 year old the silence was palpable… actually ESPECIALLY because it was a 6 and a 7 year old the moment was rare.
“Where is your other Mommy?” the inevitable second question came. I loved her tenacious nature even as I wished for a way out of the conversation. I struggle with explaining “it all” to adults… how could my young daughter understand what I still didn’t get? What was the right answer here and how do I reassure her that what happened to her father would never happen to her? How do I let her know that only some children are left on a street or are unwanted by their mothers? Only “those” children have such things happen to them…
I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I told them both that their father was adopted by Susu and Pops and that my mother did not want me. I quickly reassured them they didn’t have to worry. That this only happens in movies and to unlucky children. It was all a balance you see, a balance against the fortunes I would have later on in life.
The fortune of having both of them in my life.
I told them I would always love them and that their mother and father aren’t going anywhere soon. Only some mothers and some fathers leave their children forever.
I will never leave either of you until I die and even then I won’t be far. I will always be close to your heart.
Jason Chandler Cushman