"I Don't Have a Daddy"

My daughter is 3 and a half years old. She turns 4 in January. And I thought I still had so much time before we had to broach this subject. Certainly, I knew it would be coming and I knew it wasn't going to be easy no matter when it happened but I didn't plan on it being so soon. No matter how soon it came though, would I ever have been really ready? Are we ever ready to explain death to our kids and why her father who loves her so very, very much had to leave her so soon and so permanently? Probably not.

We went out for ice cream tonight at Rita's. When we were done I was strapping her into her car seat and a truck pulled up next to us. A man, a woman, and a teenage girl got out. The teenager walked ahead and then the man and woman stopped and said something to one another, took hands, spoke a little more and then walked on. I wasn't really paying much attention except for being aware that they were there until Ariana asked why they stopped. I looked up and saw them take each other's hand and talk and I answered her they stopped to hold hands. She wanted to know why and I answered well because they love each other - still not sure where this was going or why she was so curious. They live together? she then asked me and I felt something more was coming as this question hit me. Yeah, probably I answered, bracing myself. And then she said it. "I don't have a daddy." Ouch. Enter the striking pain of an arrow in my heart. "Yes you do baby girl, he's in Heaven you know that." She sounded a little defeated when she answered "Yeah. With Georgie (my dad's dog)." I asked if she was alright and she said she was and I asked if she was sad and she said she was again answering then that she misses her grandma and papa (who she just spent the night with last night - silly girl) and just like that subject was over and we were talking about grandma and papa and seeing them tomorrow.

As parents, we strive to give our kids all they need and most of what they want. We know there are some things we aren't going to give our kids, like endless supplies of chocolate ice cream or a herd of pink ponies, but within reason we want to give to our kids. So when it comes to something that you want so badly to give to your kid that you just can't... well that frankly sucks. It really freakin' sucks. I wish I could give Ariana her daddy back so badly. Even though she doesn't express it often, I know that time is coming and I just wish she didn't have to face this. It's not fair, in the slightest.

The next hard part in addition to her statements or questions is maintaining my own collected demeanor. I can't just fall to pieces just because she asks about her dad. I am totally okay with my daughter witnessing emotion and her knowing it's okay to have them, however if I fall to pieces whenever her dad is brought up, what does that teach her? That she shouldn't ask about him because she doesn't want to upset mom. That he is a "taboo" subject. No way, I've got to keep it together so that she can express herself and so that she is comfortable talking about him. I don't ever want to take that part away from her, because it's really all she has of him now, discussions, memories, photos...  I wonder if her grieving process will really begin later when she can understand. Or if it will just be every day to her since that's all she's known. Oh I am not prepared...

I feel like tonight's conversation was just a small precursor to what is to come. One day the statements and questions are going to get harder. The "I don't have a daddy" statement is going to be less statement of fact and more sadness or confusion, maybe even anger. And then what am I going to do? All I can do - assure her she does have a daddy. And that he does love her very much. And that it is none of our faults that he had to leave. And that he didn't want to leave.  And until then, I just have to make sure she knows all of that in her heart. Tell her about her dad, like I do and make sure she knows all of it, deep within. But it still sucks. Oi...

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