You know how when you go to someone’s home for the first time, you always see exactly what you LOVE (read, covet) about the place, and almost as an afterthought, what you would change to make it perfect? Like, wow this living room is huge, but that painting is so overbearing. I would have put up a nice photo collage on that wall to make this giant space more homey and personalized. Or something like, hmm, so cozy but a mirror right there would have brought so much light into this room. We tell ourselves we love the place and we’re only thinking about what would make it better, but better for whom? The person living there has made it his or her own, but we human beings just can’t help fixing things…even if nothing’s broken in the first place.
This inability to accept that something is right as it is, that there is nothing to fix or improve or that it isn’t OUR place to improve it even if there is, is the reason I think so many people feel the need to tell singles “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.” Or a variation, “You’re better off, honey, he (she) was all wrong for you. Here’s what you need to do…” followed by all of the things you have to change about yourself, the reasons why YOU, not the ex, are to blame for your relationship status. And, of course, how to get a new mate because the status of singledom is one that just HAS to be fixed. Don’t get me wrong, these people are generally well-meaning individuals, family, friends, and coworkers, who just want to make your life better. But it’s that word, better. Who’s to say that being in a relationship is better? Who says singles are damaged?
Whether they mean it or not, these redesigners of a single person’s life are in essence saying that there is something wrong with that life. There must be something to change, to fix, to improve upon, to get you where you need to be: in the arms of a new lover, or multiple lovers, or a spouse. And if that single person is a parent? Suddenly the good-intentioned tell you that your kid is missing something invaluable, that you are not enough. “You’re a great mom (or dad) but,” they’ll add with all the certainty that their personal inexperience in the matter can afford, “John and/or Jane Doe really need a father/mother and you need to hurry up and find the right person to marry who will take on that role.” Single parents are told that the only way they can do what every good parent wants to do (raise their kids right and give them everything they deserve) is to be married, a part of a team, one half of a whole that their kids must have. Well, I beg to differ.
I am not incomplete… and neither is my daughter. Sure, I tried to make the ex be a responsible, caring father who showed up, whether physically or by phone call, skype video chat, IPhone facetime, etc. I tried anything and everything, swallowing my own sadness and betrayal and anger to give my child the opportunity to have the relationship she should have had with her father. He will argue he did enough, I will argue he didn’t. The end result is that Zahara barely knows him, has never experienced him as “a father figure” and he went on television and denied he had ever been married or fathered any kids. I had plenty of reason to stop before then, but that was the point when I realized I was trying to fix him and make him be the father I believe Zahara deserves. Instead, I chose to focus on our lives, mine and my daughter’s, and stop wasting my time and energy on making someone into something they’re not.
So. As some say when they try to identify and fix the problem of my singleness, do I need to find a new “father” for Zahara?
How about this. Zahara has a biological father, whose status in her life I won’t spend any more time obsessing over. She also has a father in our home, my father, her Nana, who she calls Papa like my sisters and I do. Papa is the man she waves goodbye to from the door every morning when he goes to work. Papa is the man she cries for and wants me to call for her so she can talk to him on speaker when she isn’t feeling good, is mad at me, or just misses when he works late. Papa is who she runs to the door for, screeching and shrieking and a blur of arms and giggles, entangling herself in his legs when he comes home and whose back she rides around on like he’s a horse. Papa is whose hand she holds, leading him to the basement to play, or outside to walk or “supervise” the gardeners, or to get away from mommy who wants to feed/bathe/clothe her. Papa is her day-to-day, fall asleep in his lap, gang up against mommy, see you every day father figure.
She also lights up for another man in our lives. Her teacher Mr. Brendan, who makes funny faces, and amazing sound effects and voices, and who reads stories in such a captivating manner that even I’m enthralled. Mr. Brendan likes to get messy and creative with artwork, and run around and climb and jump and imagine we’re airplanes or bakers or dogs. Mr. Brendan has big curly hair that is hard to tame like Zahara and a huge smile and tons of energy for her every minute and a hand she expects to hold on one side (and mommy’s on the other) when she’s crossing the air log and jumping into an imaginary pile of leaves. Mr. Brendan is the playful, young, funny father figure Zahara has in her life.
Since Zahara is so ultra-observant and smarter than the average bear, she has classified men into 4 distinct categories. The Papas, men who are generally my father’s age, grandfathers, heads of families. The Friends, younger men, who are husbands or fiances or boyfriends and may even be dads of some of her playmates or my uncles who let her play with their IPhones even though she’ll probably destroy them or who love hanging out with her at a family event while I run to grab some food. The Mamoos, which translates to maternal uncles, but is a term she uses to refer to my male cousins and ANY Desi-looking teenagery guys who want to lift her in the air or tickle her or play catch with her or take her to Chuck-e-Cheese as long as mommy says all of the above are okay. And finally, just Man, the strangers, gardeners, neighbors, workers she sees around her when we go out into the world.
And guess what Zahara says I have? A friend…and mommy’s friend is Zahara.
Cue pulling of the heartstrings and tears in the eyes…
My heart swells with love and pride for her that she knows that SHE is my partner, she’s my other half. This is all she’s ever known and she understands it perfectly, without hesitation or questions. It isn’t weird for her, this is OUR normal. So why, oh dear supporters and do-gooders, do you think we need to be fixed? We are each other’s best friends, and even a 2 and a half year old knows it.
I am not a fixer-upper. And single IS my lifestyle of choice.