It was a beautiful spring day; the sun was shining bright and there was that fresh crispness in the air that only spring seems to be able to bring about.
Between errands and swim lessons, we found ourselves with a bit of time to waste. Both girls were napping peacefully in their car seats so the playground was out of the question, instead I drove Marshall past my old school.
All in one building, I attended grades three through high school graduation. Marshall oohed and awed over a piece of my history. He has always loved hearing stories from when Brad and I were younger. Always asking questions about what we liked to do or what our favorite things were. He rather enjoys picturing his parents as children his age; like little friends in a way.
Only naturally does this inquisitive mind start looking to draw connections from my past to his present. “You went to school just like I go to school!”, “Did you have a woman teacher too?”, “Did your dad and mom drive you to school too?”
As he was asking about the logistics of my school travel, he caught himself in a way that I instantly recognized.
“Wait!! Where’s your mom?!”
My heart sank.
I knew from the time I was pregnant with him that there would come a time that I would have to explain why he only has a grandpa on my side (and, at that time, a great-grandma). I admittedly thought he would maybe be a little older when he made the connection, but nonetheless the time was here now.
How do you explain to a child who has only known unconditional love and a stable home what it is to be nauseous at the thought of returning home after school? That my sisters and I would feign smiles and happiness to keep up the ruse. That walking on egg shells and uncertainty were our norm; instability was our constant. How do you explain to a five year old what gaslighting is? That I had to sit in a court of law and testify to the hardships my sisters and I endured. That I provided evidence to back everything I said because I knew the manipulation I was up against from a very young age. Too young of an age. These concepts are hard for many adults to grasp, no less a young child.
In time, he will learn more. But not at five. At five he needs the truth but not the fear.
“Mom? Where’s your mom? Why is it just Grandpa?”
It took me a moment to carefully choose my words and give my intelligent son an answer he deserves. He was impatient and trying to study my face in the rear view mirror, ever observant and intuitive beyond his years.
“Well buddy, not everyone is as lucky as you…” I let my voice trail off as I slowly rounded a curve in the road and wished away a lump in my throat “you’re lucky to have both a daddy and a mommy. Two people who love you and put you at the center of the universe. But not every kid has that. Some people have one dad and that’s it. Some have one mom and that’s it. Some have two daddies together or two mommies- and some have two sets of mommies and daddies. Some have none-”
“None?!” Marshall’s big blue eyes were wide and sad at the concept.
“Yes, some kids instead live with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, or are adopted like [his friend]. What’s important to remember though, is that it doesn’t matter what a family looks like or how it’s made up. What matters is that there is love in that family.”
“So you only have a dad?” He quietly clarified.
“Yes, it’s just him.” and I mean that with every ounce.
“Well…did you come out of an egg then?” I couldn’t help but snigger. Mads has an age appropriate knowledge on how babies are made and born (that’s a post for another day) so if there’s only one parent his young mind skips right to eggs. As you do.
“No buddy, I came out of a tummy just like you and your sisters. But, remember, love makes a family. Like how [his friend whom is adopted] was born from one woman’s tummy but then came to live with her mommy and daddy now. Even though she came from another woman’s tummy, her mommy is the one who loves her and cares for her. Birth doesn’t make a person a mommy, it’s everything after that.”
“Okay!” He smiled “Hey mom?”
I braced for more “Yeah buddy?”
“Do insects lay eggs?” and down that rabbit hole we went.
In his mind he asked a simple question and got a suitable answer. That was that and he hasn’t asked about it since. I breathe a sigh of relief that it passed so easily, truthfully, and hopefully it will be years until I have to go more in-depth.
Overall, really, I feel lucky. When I was a child I promised myself I would someday have a family full of love, trust, and hope. A home I wasn’t sick at the thought of returning to. Now I have that. I look in the rearview mirror at my chatting son and sleeping daughters- the family I dreamed of- and words cannot adequately express just how amazing it feels.
My present, and goals for the future, take a little bit of the sting out of my past.