Baby Daddy Drama Rama. [need actual advice]

Err…so…this is not a thread about deadbeat dads or anything. I’m on good terms with my son’s dad (“D.”).

When I found out I was pregnant, D. was not pleased. I was just, well, shocked. And I’m not the baby type (god I hate babies) so this really put a kink in my become a lawyer and work in the Oval Office plans. (Yeah, that’s a little bit West Wing, but a little but just me at that age.)

For whatever reason, I didn’t want to abort. I didn’t even think about it. I was OK with this. And I told D. that it was my responsibility and he was free to move about the country and not worry about putting together the baby furniture. That ended the 9 month relationship. (D. is still ranked as “the person” if someone were to ask me about what love was like. Heck, I’m not even stuck on him anymore.) We parted on good terms and we were both sad.

We didn’t talk the whole pregnancy.

Judah :D:D:D was born. We chatted to arrange, uh, logistics. He agreed to child support. He also ended up paying every medical bill I had during pregnancy when Judah was around a year old. It was like $2,800. I went to Disneyland with my son and my grandmother. Anyway. As you can see, D. is pretty good about that stuff. When we need to adjust finances – or rather, when I think we need to adjust finances, I say something like:
Hey D, ole buddy, in 2004 you paid xyz and it’s 2010 and if you adjust for rate of inflation and el Nino, you should be paying abc! Plus you make bank! Err…please? :slight_smile: *And then he grumbles for about 3 emails about my penis fly trap and women’s ways and says, "Okay. I fixed it. New amount coming in next paycheck. When are you getting married? (He set me up so his payroll deposits x into my account every two weeks.) On occasion, something extra finds its way into my account because of some bonus or incentive or whatever and he always sends an email with, “Enjoy.”

Once, I was flying into an airport and he was flying out. We met in the ticket area. He knew I’d be around, but I didn’t know if I’d have Jude with me. I did, though. They introduced each other, but not in a “dad-son” way (Judah was about 4 1/2) and D. and I chatted for a little bit and he said, “He looks like you,” and kissed me on the forehead and we parted.

D. does not know Judah. He knows of him, and knows things about him and gets updates like what he looks like or when he’s in the hospital with asthma or what school he goes to or whatever, but they don’t have a relationship. D. doesn’t want one. I’ve never demanded one, though I’ve left it open. He was very adamant about it, and we had to work on our respective maturity to go from “f you” (when Judah was born, it was like we forgot we ever liked each other once) to “hey, happy birthday!” We talk about once or twice a month via email and he always remembers birthdays, passovers, Hanukkah, whatever. He jokes about my boyfriends, my neurotic tendencies, food habits, whatever. He knows a lot about my life. Same here.

We don’t have court orders, custody issues, lawyers, legalities. We fight over nothing.

I’m fine with playing catch with my son. :wink: Judah had his first mitt before he could even figure out what it was for. (Turns out, he’s a lefty, anyway!) Judah has plenty of male influences in his life - my brother, family friends, my friends, his grandpa, his teachers, whatever.

I think I do an awesome job.

It does suck sometimes, like the fact I have no one to “pass him off to” when I want a break. As a result, Judah is very well behaved and can tolerate any environment (including trekking with me and coloring during a grad class or meeting). There’s no one to get all gooey with over his first day of kindergarten or school play. But…my son is happy and adjusted and a really good boy.

Problem? My son started a school (kindergarten) where he is the only kid with a “absent” parent. A few kids have divorced parents, but not many. He’s the only one in his class who doesn’t have two parents at home. This is a private school, too, where most of the families live in the ‘established’ neighborhoods. So, at first, he would shrug it off like, “I don’t have a dad” and not care because he hasn’t known anything else and he’s fine with his mom. But now…his new friends ask…and my poor six year old took to telling his friends that his dad lived on a ship far away.

His dad lives on a ship?


In the ocean.

Which one?

Where they don’t have mail.


And then he brings home this drawing he made of me and him and our house and off to the side is a guy with “DAD” written on top of it. Great. JoyAnn, Judah, and DAD. So we talked about it a little and he said he wants kids to think his dad is on a ship somewhere because they all have a dad.

I was a little hurt. I mean…I’m awesome. I like comics and baseball and boy stuff and I make fart jokes! I have TWO “Happy Father’s Day” cards from Judah. He said it wasn’t fair that I didn’t get one but his grandpa did. :wink:

So then I write the Email I Never Wanted to Think About.

D. had written to say Happy Passover and ask how we were. I explained what was going on with him at school, bragged about the cute outfit I made Jude for Pesach and blablabla about the news, how are your parents liking Tejas, oh, and btw, Judah can read (ish) and type, so maybe you can write an occasional email? (In retrospect, that sounds stupid.) I asked D., what do I tell him? Cause I hate it when he gives me that butthurt look.

His response?

<sigh> I’m not going to get married. I don’t think it’s fair of D. to expect me to get married any more than it’s fair for me to expect D. to play house. We both know that.

This isn’t a post about D. It’s about my son.

**Does anyone have advice about what to say to my son? **I took him out to eat the other night and did lots of art projects with him and kept thinking I may say something about his ‘dad on a ship’ story, cause he really has to give up that fantasy, but I don’t know how to say, “He’s just not that into you.”

How do I deal with this situation? I’ve had 7 years to think about it, and I’ve yet to come up with a solution to this little kiddo’s hurt. He knows his dad lives in Texas. He knows Texas is not a ship in the Atlantic. He just made that up. So how do I approach this?

Anyone have first hand experience? I’ve never spoken badly about D. I don’t speak poorly of D. to anyone. I just think that’s bad policy. Plus, we remember each other’s birthdays and used to be best friends. I’m not mad at D. for not wanting to be a parent, but I am at a loss here.

What a cutie!

And…whew, that’s a hard one. Kids at his age are at the difficult stage where they’re still very concrete thinkers, but they have the imaginations to think up stuff like this.

I’d suggest talking to the school’s social worker or school psychologist. Depending on the kind of kid he is and what impact this is having in his classroom, it might be useful for his development to have his Imaginary Father for a while, the same way many kids have Imaginary Friends. You keep talking to him at home about the real person that fathered him, so he knows and you know that Imaginary Father isn’t the real deal, but let him protect his psyche and social life while he needs to. Denial is a necessary defense mechanism for all of us, protecting us from thoughts we’re just not ready to face yet.

Or, if it seems that his tales are causing confusion and stress and interfering with his friendships, it might be necessary to intervene more directly and stress that he might not like what his father is like really, but that telling stories doesn’t make his vision true.

Either way, I think I’d try upping the information quotient a bit. Tell him about his dad - the kind of concrete information kids can understand. “Your father works in a office building, where he helps to design Widgets. He has a desk and computer and he likes coffee with cream in it. His favorite color is green and when you laugh, it sounds just like his laugh. His house is in Texas…let’s find Texas on a map together.”

The least bashing way possible that I could explain his father’s disinterest to my son was, “He wasn’t ready to be a father, but I was ready to be a mother, so he gave me the best present I ever got: you!” Simplistic and trite, true, but also accurate to a small child’s understanding of the situation.

Thank you. :slight_smile:

He doesn’t have actual delusions, just…wishes, I think. He knows some things about his father - his father likes baseball, the Pogues, and other random things. I guess I’m just worried Judah will do the “But…what’s wrong with me?” or “Why can’t I call him?” or “Hey, I drew a picture for my dad!” or some such. Cause I’m going to have to say to him, “He doesn’t want to talk to you.” I don’t know how to soften it.

As far as his school shrink goes: Nah. If he had a real psych problem with his or was acting out, I’d take him to a real child psychiatrist.

Oh of course! I just thought maybe the school shrink might have had (or could have) a chat with the teacher and see how this actually plays out in the classroom where you can’t see it, and s/he may have dealt with things like this before and have some age and school-culture appropriate tips you may not get here. :slight_smile:

This is just my take on it and I know nothing about this, but why exactly does he have to give up that fantasy?

For kids that age, imaginary narratives are a major and very important way of learning to cope with things they’re having a hard time with. This isn’t like an adult claiming that his ex-girlfriend left him because she’s on a secret mission with the CIA.

The problem your son is dealing with has two facets: a) his dad isn’t around and b) his dad doesn’t want to be around. It sounds like he’s not able to come to terms with both of those at once, so he’s found a way to work with a) but not b). When he’s come to terms with a) and is ready to start working on b), I’d bet that the ‘my dad is on a ship’ thing will gradually fade away.

I’d leave it - not feed into the story in any way, keep telling him actual stuff about his dad to make sure he knows the difference between the reality and the fantasy, but not try to eliminate the fantasy. Your son sounds like a healthy, grounded little kid. If he feels like he needs this story, then I’d say there’s a very good chance he does. When he doesn’t need it any more, he’ll ditch it.

P.S. Oh, and I’d reinforce on a regular basis (through other friends, books, whatever) that families come in a lot of different shapes. It sounds like part of the problem is that everyone else he knows has two parents, one father and one mother. If he starts to take it as normal that a kid can have only one parent, or two fathers or two mothers or two grandparents, then the fact that his father isn’t around might not feel like as big a deal.

Why not ask him why he started saying his dad lives on a ship with no mail? It could be simply that he’s feeling left out at school because everyone else has two parents and he doesn’t. I think this is his way of being included with the other kids at school, kinda like the kid who has “a girlfriend in Canada.”

I am very familiar with this situation. The kid’s father shot himself when she was a year old. The mother is a bi-polar drug addict and lost her rights as a parent. Private school, kids ask questions. It’s all very stressful for the kid. Kids’s don’t owe other kids an explanation of their family circumstances. Work out answers for your child ahead of time like politicians do in a campaign. When kids ask, “Where’s your father”, say “That’s a personal matter and I don’t discuss it.” Work up something like that in your own words.

I have a seven year old son with a dad who’s not around, but at least he knows a lot of children with separated and divorced parents, people raised by grandparents and other different sized families. Everyone has two parents though, but by the time he noticed he had the Beau living with us. The Beau is a dad in every way except biology. Its still tough, and we talk about Gordon, being the guy in his baby book. But he is confused, he is lost on stepdad vs real dad vs biological. I said don’t worry about it, lots of people love you, but I know he dwells on it sometimes, like last year when we went to Vancouver, he kept wondering if he was going to meet Gordon.

I don’t know what to tell you, I have a non support paying ex husband who doesn’t want to see his kid. But I have a boyfriend and lots of family and it still is a sore spot. Not a gaping hole but a sore spot. Best of luck to you and your cutie.

What he says to other kids isn’t really the issue. It’s how he comes to terms with it himself that matters. Somehow it needs to be explained to him that his father’s absence is not his fault, but there’s no easy way to tell a kid his father doesn’t give a shit about him. The important thing is explaining that it’s a moral failing on the father’s part, not his. It’s probably better just to be as honest as possible with him, answer every question and demystify the absent father as much as possible. His dad is a piece of shit, but that’s not his fault and it’s his father’s loss.

Is it at all possible for D to play a distant-uncle type role? Birthday card, acknowledge milestones (riding a bike, first day of school)? Hell, I do more for my close friends’ kids. While you seem to have accepted Ds lack of fathering, he should at least acknowledge that he owes his child more than just cash. Even a card once a year Judah can hold onto might help.

As to what to say to your son, I agree with Dio. Just keep hammering home that it’s not his fault but D can’t be a dad right now. It’s Ds problem, not his.

Kids don’t want to be different.

My ex moved out to live with a lady with 2 kids, who is a talented seamstress. She made my son a 3-piece suit out of an gawd-awful polyester fabric (I forget what the original occasion was as it was during a visit to Dad’s). Son was about 6. He was in love with this suit, wanted to wear it to school. So, thinking it’d be a cold day in Hell before the kid appeared in public with ME and the polyester nightmare, I said, “Sure, if you want.”

Well, of course everyone wanted to know what the occasion was. A fast thinker, Son said he was going to his mother’s new wedding, after school.

I knew nothing of this until at the next parent-teacher conference the teacher eventually asked me if I’d changed my name, and the story came out.

The OPs son is hoping to have a nuclear family like the ones on TV. His father isn’t about, so there must be a valid reason for this absence, what could it be? Oh of course -= Dad’s a sailor, else he’d be here with his own sterling child, right?

The boy is old enough to be told that sometimes the thought of being a Dad is beyond some men’s ability to deal. That his dad helps support him. That it’s Dad’s fault, not the boy’s fault, that dad can’t handle a closer relationship. maybe someday, when Dad is able to cope … but don’t count on it.

Talk about it. If your dad was here, what would you say to him? What kind of a dad would be
the best kind? What do boys want from a dad? When Boy is a man, if he is ever a Dad, what would he do differently? and so on.

Make sure Boy doesn’t think that he is somehow lacking, else dad would come around for a relationship. By the time Boy is 10 or 12 he will figure things out eg Dad is cheating himself
by not allowing to know and love his sterling child.

When my ex took the easy way out by leaving, both the kids thought it was their fault.
Both were relieved beyond measure when I told them he couldn’t cope with being a Dad
and that they should not expect some sort of reunion, down the road. There was nothing they could have done or not done to make things different.

Still … the wee ones wish. And they hope. Daughter was ten when she decided her Dad was not worth her time. She told him, “Any alley cat can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.” Son was twelve, “Has Dad always been like that?”

D is storing up a world of hurt, although he can’t bring himself to see it. And your son, OP, can realize early that although his father is responsible re: finances, he’s just not cut out to be a Dad.

an seanchai

Thank you, everyone! I talked with him today.

I know what you meant. I just strongly dislike her. :smiley:

Because it won’t happen.

That’s OK if he’s shrugging off his friends (for now), so long as he doesn’t harbor some idea that el jefe is coming to visit.

Agreed. He knows his dad isn’t on a ship. He said he was lying on purpose since they were reviewing Hebrew vocab for family and stuff. :confused: Apparently “dad” and “mom” come up a lot in kindergarten! D’oh!

Oh no :frowning:

I think that is a great idea. He grew up thinking, ‘kids have adults who take care of them’ and that was that. His best friends from ages 2-5 live with their grandmother. He never thought it odd. HE has a hard time telling who is related and who is just given honorary titles…he calls my best friend “Auntie” and his longtime babysitter “Grandma”. So I think it’s fair for him to say what he thinks is comfortable.

I just didn’t want to HURT his feelings…by telling him 'it ain’t happening, yidele."

I told him that. I’m not sure he understands yet. :frowning:

I tried…hence D’s “no” response. He just doesn’t want to. He thinks nothing is better than ‘uncle’-ing. Sigh He does ask about how things are going and leave generic messages like, “Hope you have a wonderful birthday [Jude’s] and holiday [Hanukkah] season” during December.

I can only imagine what’s in store for me! Kudos to you for not restricting him and the suit, though.

He was so…Zen/uncaring/cool with whatever when it came to the family unit. It wasn’t until the last year or so that it was a question. It’s definitely a minor issue for the boy now that he’s in private school with families that operate like they’re in the fifties. :smiley: I don’t want to place blame on D by saying fault. I’d rather say that D did not want to be a parent but provides financial support and hopes you’re well. And then be sensitive to the things that Jude wants…I kind of want to paint the watercolor of me+Jude forever, because if I sketch something in light erasable pencil, he may get his hopes up.

I just don’t know how to say:
D. doesn’t want to a dad.
It’s not your fault.
D. is not a horrible person.
I know you are awesome, but he still isn’t interested.
I love you more than 40,000 dads. :frowning:

Given that D isn’t interested in as much as uncling, I think its time to consider whether YOU should cut off contact with him. What your son is currently seeing is someone who accepts you, but rejects him. The money thing doesn’t make any difference to the kid. And with D hanging around in the background, the kid is going to continue to hope.

I think three people are living in fantasies. D seems to think you’ll get married and absolve him of any interpersonal responsibility to Judah. We know where Judah is - which is a perfectly appropriate place for a kid to be. You are living under the fantasy that if you love your son enough, the rejection of his father will be OK. It may never be OK for Judah. Even if he copes, he will always know his family situation is “different” and that he is missing something - something a lot of people think of as vital.

Make sure you find single mother families - with completely absent father - models for your son. That will help him accept that alternate family arrangements exist and not everyone has a dad. Maybe this school is the wrong place for him.

Good luck. My son is adopted and while he’s been pretty good with the whole thing (mostly avoidance on the whole issue, but a healthy sort of avoidance), I know the parent rejection thing can be tough.

Say it over and over and over again. There is no magic formula for making a small child understand–I’m not sure there’s a magic formula for making an adult understand. Do the best you can, and do it again the next time the topic comes up–because it will.

I would add to this excellent point that you are also living in the fantasy that somehow D didn’t do anything wrong. He did. That doesn’t negate every good thing about him, of course, and in the balance he may still be a decent person, but he fucked over his son. I can understand that you don’t want to bad mouth your son’s father to your son, but I don’t think you should treat this abandonment as if it is ok/acceptable behavior, either. It’s not how you would want your son to react towards your grandchildren. It wasn’t the best choice. It’s ok for your son to be angry/disappointed/frustrated with his father, and if you are downright cheerful about what he has done, it may make your son feel like his own angry emotions are wrong or unfair somehow.

I guess what I am saying is that there is a difference between not bad-mouthing D and actively defending him. In this thread, at least, you seem to be more towards the latter, and if I were your son, that would bother me. I’d want you to be at least a little angry on my behalf.

What purpose does that serve? He doesn’t want to do the “uncling” because he thinks it’s misleading. I only asked because I’m not sure what to say to the little dude. I think that if he doesn’t want to, he shouldn’t. It’s not helping J. any if he faked it.

NO. Judah has no idea how much or how little I talk to D. He is curious at the moment about how this ‘bio baby’ and ‘family’ thing isn’t always in sync. His version is “Mom and D. met before I was borned and mom had me in her tummy but D. didn’t want kids, so they agreed that Mommy would be my Imma and D. would help pay for our house so we could be happy together.”

Like it or not, D. gave me…this…thing I have with Judah. Rather unconventional and partially unintended :smiley: but we’ve ‘parented with outside observation’ very well.

It does, actually. It doesn’t = parent, but it does mean something to him. He doesn’t say, ‘I have a dad’ (well, outside of his ship story last week in K) because he makes that distinction. I’m woefully looking for work :frowning: and Judah asked me how we bought food and I was honest: D. helps support us and even though I don’t have a job right now, it’s enough for food and gas and your tuition…er…sorry about canceling the cable.

My computer is not ‘background’. I believe in mature relationships with the people you had kids with. There is no need for animosity. Civility is a good thing. We used to be best friends. In some ways, we became friends again - not close ones, but we do have ties to each other. It is good for J. if I don’t ostracize D. Besides, “cutting off ties” right now means starving. Even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t. I never thought to. If I cut D. off now, what’s that going to mean when Judah is 13 and D. tentatively wants to stop by for supper when he’s in town? Or wants to talk to Judah on the phone? I’m not going to set those two up for failure. They’ll have to figure it out themselves somehow.

D. knows better. He doesn’t think he’ll be absolved of any financial responsibility and hasn’t asked to. He didn’t want a child. Better (imho) to let a man pay his part financially and be removed than force him to try to have a relationship he doesn’t want. What does that lead to? Lawyers? Crummy weekends? Bad feelings?

Being a single parent is hard, but I have never thought, “Oh, I need to get married to fix this.” I rather like being The One In Charge Here.

He does think that Judah would like a two parent household. He would like to see me not be alone, even though he thinks that’s impossible. (Maybe he feels a little guilty about how it ended. I’m not sure. I’d suspect a few broken hearts since D. has something to do with it.) He was actually supportive of paying child support through undergrad and grad school before asking for an income adjustment. I hate to say it, but I couldn’t have afforded my B.A. without D and Pell Grants. :frowning:

Yeah. He vacillates between “i want you to get married” and “I want you all to myself”. Of course he’d like to know D. But that’s not something I can control.

First, you are saying that D. specifically rejected Judah. Clearly that’s not the case. He rejected * parenting with me*. I’m not sure what “will be OK” means, but I do know that I love my son in ways I can’t quantify. I also make very careful decisions when it comes to his upbringing.

Yeah. I can’t fix that. Or maybe he’ll grow up well-adjusted and happy he had an awesome mom and an awesome childhood.

I don’t buy into the notion that kids need to be with their bio parents, or all families should have two parents, or that families should look like “one mommy and one daddy”.

Kids need responsible adults who love and take care of them. Period.

No…why do you think he needs a “model”? And why would I want to go hang out with a single mom just for that purpose? I am sorry; no.

He’s already well aware of that.

It wouldn’t be for that reason.

Yeah…if you label it as such. I know you’re trying to give advice and I do appreciate it (since I asked for it :)) but I do resent the idea you think I’m living in some kind of fantasy or Judah is sick with grief because I talk to his dad and he doesn’t.
Whatever Judah and I have been doing for 6 years has worked. Whatever D. and I have had for 6 years has worked. Now I’m at this odd position talking to Judah about things while taking into account his knowledge of biology, his feelings, his capacity to understand…I also know that whatever I say now could bite me later. I tell him I love him all the time. A thousand oceans blue. We’re very close. That’s not “a dad”, but that’s a “Mom +”, I hope.

Thank you. I also have to prove it somehow. I just hope he knows this when he’s older. I hope he looks back on our lives and thinks, “Damn. I had it guuuud.”

I let go of that anger.

Tiger Mom still exists. She’s just not treating it like a zero sum game. In 40 years, ask Jude if his dad fucked him over.

How? I prefaced my OP by saying, “This isn’t a bash dads thread”. I’m not going to do that. I’ve made many bad decisions in life. I hope I’m not judged for one or two of them, but for my life as a whole.

He isn’t angry. He’s curious. He was embarrassed at being ‘left out’ of a group. I’m not cheerful and dismissive…I think I’m pretty in tune to Jude’s moods, feelings, needs, wants, whatever. Being his 24-7 parent, I’ve gotten good at that.

I am angry on his behalf. I can also see what he’s doing that’s right. I know D. very well, and while he does make mistakes, he also tries to be ‘the good guy’ in life. He’ll fix things he ruined if he can. But he doesn’t see this as ‘ruining’ Judah. Whatever damage he did to me, he’s trying to make up for.

You have to understand that for him, Judah doesn’t elicit some innocent fuzzy love stuff. They don’t know each other. He thinks of Judah as my son. Even I always forget that there were two people involved! :eek:

But it won’t do me any good to take out my feelings of loss/frustration/whatever on this thread when the point is discussing how to explain matters of sex and parenting and politics and circumstance to a six year old!

btw, that “piece of shit” signature was his, not mine. the fact that he used my old nickname indicates a degree of sensitivity there.

He forks over money to beat back the guilt of ignoring his offspring. This doesn’t make him the devil incarnate, but it doesn’t make him a “good guy” either. It is bizarre to me that he’ll check in on you with holiday wishes or whatever, but he can’t be arsed to write his son even a dutiful, 2-minute, hello-how-are-you email.

I agree with Dangerosa and Manda Jo. Your son right now probably is too young to be hurt and weirded out by the way you stay in contact with the mystery man that is his father, but how long do you this obliviousness will last? I’m not saying you should bash the man to your child’s face, but eventually you’ll need to send the message to him that his father’s conduct is not acceptable. Maintaining a friendship with him that excludes your son sends the opposite message; it says it’s perfectly normal or okay for a father to treat his son as though he’s nothing but a faceless bill to pay every month.

Don’t you think his sense of duty is misplaced at this point? You’re an adult and presumably you’re able to fix yourself. Tell him that, if you haven’t already.