First things first: thanks for all the comments on my last post. I enjoy dodgy science SOOOO much, don’t you?
Second thing: with regard to my search for a calf’s head for an upcoming recipe, I must say: DUH. Of course no one wants to sell me one. Mad cow disease and all that. I am not interested in using the brains, however. AHEM. So I say to you, if you happen to have a calf’s head laying around that you are not using, I would be appreciative of receiving it for this other thing I’m doing.
Thing number three is Franny. Franny has been off-kilter and insecure for some time now…really since her father moved away a year and a half ago. Makes sense, right? When she opens up about it, she says things like, “I don’t think he really loves me.” I know this age can be very insecure, and she certainly has her moments where she cries that she has no friends or she has the WORST LIFE EVER, but the thing with her father is troubling because it’s a recurring theme.
And when she says it I feel this twinge, not just for her, but also because it echoes how I felt when her father and I were married. I really felt like he was phoning it in most of the time. It also makes me think of being her age and really wanting a father myself, instead of some psycho that my mother married.
What to do with this? I feel cheated. If anyone is going to mess them up, it should be me. There goes my ten year plan to give one of them an eating disorder and make the other one completely mental if she gets anything less than an a-minus on anything. Where’s my justice, universe? Probably behind the entertainment center again.
I thought about what I knew about people who were now adults who’d had surrogate parents in their lives–those people who actually gave a shit. I thought about those moments when adults stepped into my life and did not see me as some kind of alien, but as a kid who needed some care and attention. Someone to worry about them and to say, “I care what happens to you,” with the unspoken “even if it seems like no one else does.”
Then I thought seriously of her sister’s father. P. met Franny when she was two years old, when she used to follow me around at school when I was running errands or picking things up on non-class days. When P. and I got involved, he became a strong presence in her life–another adult who was looking out for her well-being and had a good relationship with her. Then Strudel came and he became her sister’s father, so was significant in another way. Pragmatically and coldly speaking, he is my babydaddy and he is not going anywhere. He is not someone who is going to skate on Franny. This is important. I am not ready for her to learn that even really cool people can skate yet.
The thing about P. is that he has always been super respectful of the fact that Franny has a father already. He and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to negotiate our new family–how would we fit, what were the boundaries? He bosses her sometimes, like any adult might, and teaches her things and they have conversations and he genuinely LIKES children, which is something I found appealing about him. I have always felt that he was a worthy and strong man to be in her life.
“So,” I said on the bus to P. the other morning. “It seems like Franny is kind of losing her father to his other family.”
How do you say this to someone?
“Would you…could you be more of a father to her?”
“Yeah, I can,” he said.
I rattled on about how great I thought their relationship was, and how I felt he had never overstepped. I said how I see Franny watching him really care for Strudel, really fathering her, and I could see the longing. A witness to what having a father is like at both houses, and not really feeling it for yourself.
“I don’t know what you can change. Maybe hug her more and tell her you are proud of her and stuff,” I said. I know he is proud of her and he does tell her. “Does this all sound horribly fake?”
“Well,” he said. “You fake it until it becomes real.”
This sounded harsh to me for a second, until I thought about when I met Franny. Jesus Christ, I thought, what was I supposed to do with this baby I had pooped out? I don’t even KNOW you, I wanted to say. Who are you? I kissed her head and hugged her and joggled her and talked to her so she wouldn’t grow up to become Charles Manson, and one day, I won’t say how long it took, it became real. I really did feel like I knew and loved her. P. loves Franny, I know he does. I am hoping that taking it up to the next level is easy, or at least doable.