A few months after my daughter was born, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is also a Single Mother By Choice (SMBC). I told her I was thinking about what it would be like for my daughter when Father’s Day rolled around each year, or when her school has Daddy-Daughter dances. While I have a father, and a brother, Uncles, and male cousins who would all gladly go to school with Stela on those days, I still wonder how she will feel about just having a Mama. After explaining to my friend that I had been thinking about these “deep thoughts”, she said to me, “Well, I am going to go to school on Daddy-Daughter days. I am not going to send anyone else, because I am Mommy and Daddy.”
After this conversation with my friend, I thought, ‘she is totally right! Why can’t I go to the Daddy-Daughter dances along with all the guys? Why can’t my daughter make me a card at school for Father’s Day?’
While I fully intend on showing up for both Mother’s and Father’s events at Stela’s school one day, I am also aware that it takes a village to raise a child. In my village, there are lots of men – my father, my brother, uncles, and cousins. When I made the decision to have Stela on my own, I also made the decision that I would always validate my daughter’s experience. I plan to show her the world, and I can appreciate the “father figures” she will have in her life.
“Not The Mama”:
Lately, my sister has been joking that Stela looks like the baby from the old television show Dinosaurs who used to scream, “Not the Mama!” My sister is even showing Stela the videos in an attempt to get her to actually scream that phrase. Up until this week, my daughter was not a fan of my father. I was sure that one day Stela would start to scream, “Not the Mama” whenever he would walk into the room. It had gotten to the point where I almost felt bad for my father. He and Prince were so close, yet for some reason Stela would cry when he walked in the room.
Prince used to crawl to my father as soon as he would walk through the door from work. None of us could understand why Prince could be in the worst mood, but when Grandpa walked in he was ready to be picked up for his evening walk.
Today, I learned my father’s secret to both my children’s hearts. While Prince and my father never told anyone the secret to their walks, Stela came in today with it written all over her face. At first, when my father wanted to take her for a walk, Stela gave him her usual stink eye. Despite Stela’s protest, my father insisted that she take a walk with him. About 20 minutes later, they came back inside and the dynamic between then had obviously changed.
When my mother went take Stela from grandpa, Stela put her head on his shoulder. Then, when my sister went to try and take her from grandpa, she put her hand on his shoulder as to say, “no thanks – me and Grandpa are hanging out.” Just when we were all scratching our heads as to what had occurred, Stela gave us all a huge smile that revealed that she had just eaten some berries with Grandpa. He had found the key to their hearts. Apparently both of my kids enjoy sour wild berries from my Father’s yard.
I am fully willing to admit that I would likely not give my children sour berries from the sketchy bush in my Father’s yard. That said, the berries can be a representation of the unique parenting style my father brings to the village of people raising my daughter. Prince grew to love Grandpa because Grandpa would let Prince do things that nobody else would let him do – such as: tear up books, taste strange foods, or get extremely dirty playing outside. I feel like I was always taking things away from Prince that I worried would hurt him, and my father was always giving him things to let him try it out.
I am confident in my decision to have Stela on my own. While her experience will not be traditional, she will have her own experiences of value that will write her story on life. And for this Father’s Day, I am going to celebrate being a single mother. I am going to celebrate being Mommy and being Daddy.
We will also make sure we go visit grandpa so that Stela can have some of those nasty sour berries.