When your child asks you the question you are most afraid of, what do you say to her?
Gummy was barely four when she first asked who her father is. I vividly remember it—Valentines Day 2015, weeks away from her birthday, I was driving home from our cookie date and she was buckled on the front seat beside me.
“Mom, who’s your partner making me?”
This question was a follow up to one of her favorite how questions: “How do you make babies?”
She started asking me how babies are made when she was just three, which sprung from her desire to have a baby brother and a baby sister. Because she thought babies can be bought, I had to enlighten and explain to her how—in the most straightforward way.
I did not want to make magical stories so at three, she already knew the words love, get married, intercourse and partner.
After the nth answer to “How do you make babies?” and her follow up question, which caught me so off guard, I found myself saying “Anak, there are things Mummy will tell you when you are older, and that is one of those.”
“When Mummy, when I’m four?” she asked again know that it was only three weeks away before her fourth birthday.
Understanding that it was the curious, clueless and naïve child in her asking, I answered, “No Gummy, maybe when you’re seven or ten or 18. I don’t know!”
And then, in my desperation to end the conversation, I diverted and asked for the name of Barbie’s dog. To most parents, diversion is the go-to move to avoid answering the most sensitive questions.
From day one that Gummy’s biological father and I parted ways, I have always prayed that the Lord will prepare me for the day when she would ask. I prayed for forgiveness and, most importantly, wisdom to be able to say the right things, the right way.
I never want to lie to her. Although at that particular instance, I had to buy time and delay telling the truth. I prayed about it and knew in my heart it was not yet time.
A few months later, she would randomly tease me, “Mummy, who’s your partner nga making me?” and I would give an outright “Gum!” with that look on my face. She did that for two to three more times but my big eyes and stern voice would suffice.
From that February 14, 2015 incident I had been praying for God’s wisdom to be upon me when she would seriously inquire about her father.
That did come but she only asked for his name. I praise God because by the time she asked, I have already read up much about parenting issues specific to solo parents, such as this one.
I learned from the book, Single Parenting That Works by Kevin Leman that the parent must only answer what the child asks.
Leman says that parents tend to overanalyze and panic over their child’s single question; it’s not like they will instantly unearth all the questions you wish she would never ask. That would happen but definitely not in one go; and not when your child is only four- or five years old.
So I just gave the name and then there was no response other than, “Ok.”
To this day, Gummy has not asked anything more about her father.
From this specific matter, I learned to
1. Relax. Us solo parents must relax when our children start probing and asking about the identity of their unknown parent. We must prepare ourselves for that day because it is sure to come. We cannot forever hide the truth from them. In our fear to hurt them, we may be doing just that by withholding the truth for too long. The who is an integral piece of the puzzle that is crucial to complete their identity.
2. Never lie. We tend to underestimate our little children and throw a white lie here and there. But we would not want the day to come when they discover the truth for themselves and accuse us of deliberately hiding it from them. Feelings of resentment and bitterness are inevitable to follow. The damage then would be irreversible. Let us not start a string of lies.
3. Be truthful always. When you have no answer, tell your child. Don’t just shoo them away. When you are not ready, tell them too. When you do have the answer, you have the power and the freedom to relay it in bits, pieces or in full, depending on your child’s emotional capacity.
4. Forgive. Our passions and strong [negative]emotions about our former partners have no place in our responsibility of raising our Godly and whole children. If we truly only want our children’s best interest, then we will deal with our personal issues with that person, even without an actual encounter or conversation with them. As our ill feelings will affect the overall well being of our kids, please remember that forgiveness is a gift we are free to give. People do not need to ask for forgiveness before they are forgiven. A parent needs to be whole, and reconciled with God, in order to be a successful and powerful influence in her child’s life.
If you ask me today, I have long forgiven my child’s father, before he may even ask. Dealing with unforgiveness frees you.
5. Pray. Cover your solo parenting in prayer. For the most part of it, the strength, counsel and wisdom we need in order to supposedly play two parts in just one body, relies heavily on our prayer life. Pray and ask the Lord for everything. God is both our provider and partner in everything.