I have always wondered what is that makes a man a dad. I recently read an article by fellow CP Regina Sunderland that answers that question very clearly. So clearly that the title is “What Makes a Man a Dad?” Knowing what makes one a dad is one thing, but what about the children who have to live a life with a man who refuses to stand up to his parental responsibilities? What is it like to later find out who your sperm donor is? Especially, when he is not the person you so perfectly envisioned in your mind.
I was raised alone by my single mother, with some assistance from my grandmother. I remember asking about my father, but do not recall my mom’s answers. I knew his name was John and that was all. When I was eight, my mom met a man who she married and later adopted me. Bruce was an alcoholic, ex-military man who thought that beating me would whip me “into shape.” Yet, he was physically there for me. He was the one who taught me many important life lessons. Despite the fact that I have not talked to Bruce since my mom divorced him when I was 16, I guess that he is still my “dad.”
I did not meet my biological father until I was 10 when I called him up, unexpectedly, to ask for a relationship. He then fell into the category of a “father”. John tried to be a dad, but he never knew how. I have been told that I have four older half-sisters that he was never a father to either, so I guess that I was the lucky one, to get what little I did. I have not talked to John in three years. It is just easier this way, to miss him without having to face him only to be saddened by the state of our pathetic relationship.
As any parent does, I wanted better for my children. Too bad that things never work out like we want them to. My oldest daughter’s sperm donor has had nothing to do with her since he bailed after being told I was pregnant. She sees him at family functions, but he ignores her to tend to his other four children. My ex-husband, father to my second and third children, is a just that, a “father.” He is there when he has to be, but really has no interest in going above and beyond the call of duty. He pays his support and takes the kids every other weekend, nothing more and nothing less. At least they have that much.
My fourth child was the result of a very physically abusive relationship with a previously known sperm donor. I should have run when I met him, but thought I could change him. How stupid we women can be! After nearly killing me when our daughter was 7 weeks old, I left him and later married my best friend, Brian. My husband is the only dad that Lizzie has ever known, until a month ago.
While we have never hid Lizzie’s paternity from her, we have never openly told her that Brian was not her biological father. One day, as we were driving down the road, Lizzie asked me if I remembered her “other daddy.” After nearly wrecking the van, I calmly explained to her that there was Jason, the man who made her, and Brian who was her daddy. Although I did not want Lizzie to know unnecessary and potentially detrimental details, I did tell her that Jason had hurt me and tried to take her away from me. I also explained that if she ever met someone who said they were her father, she needed to immediately find an adult she could trust to keep her safe. Even though we have not seen or heard from Jason for four years, he was recently made to start paying child support, leaving me with the fear that he may resurface.
Additionally, my two children with my ex-husband also call my husband Brian “dad” by their own free will and choice. After all, he is the man who raises them on a daily basis. We have neither encouraged nor discouraged it as we feel it is each child’s choice. However hurtful it may be, we want our children to know that they are loved by everyone in their lives. I am not going to bash my ex in front of the children to make myself feel better. All that will do is cause them to feel torn and create problems that they do not need.
My advice to any mother with children in any of these situations is to put your child’s feelings above all of yours. The one most horrible thing I have seen a mother do is bash the father and his wife (or girlfriend), talking about how horrible they are and so on. I have heard one mother tell her daughter, “Well, if your dad really loved you, then he would pay his support.” No excuse in the world exists that would ever make this type of behavior acceptable. Let your children know only as much as they need to know. No child needs to know that daddy used to put away a 12-pack before beating mommy into oblivion. Saying that he is not a nice or good person is sufficient information for a child in this situation. Even as they become adults, there are boundaries about how much they need to know.
Only you can know what is best for child. Perhaps no information or knowledge is best, if he or she never knew the biological father in the first place. Yet, in this day and age, even just having access to the family’s medical history can mean the difference between life and death. Whatever choice you make in how much, if anything, to tell your child about their biological father, take care to not reveal damaging information that they really do not need to know. Also be prepared for your husband to not be thrilled when they hear “their child” suddenly discussing a man they despise. Additionally, if your child wants to meet their biological father, let them know when, or if, it is a possibility. Do not leave your child hanging though; they have already experienced that enough.