On Friday, my two-year-old walked in the door still wrapped in his coat and boots, and after saying hi, the first thing he asked was, “Where is M…?” I quickly replied, “He’s with his dad.” Slow to respond, my young son turned away from me to my husband and pointed, “daddy.” My husband smiled and shot me a glance, “you know this is over his head,” he said. I nodded my head in agreement.
As our son quickly turned back around to face me, he pointed up to the “family” pictures on the shelf and said, “there, mommy and daddy, Rafael and Mason.” I understood his innocent reasoning. The picture seemed pretty clear, fairly simple right? That was a true statement he put together, but little does he know, it is much more complicated than that. And if this moment, possibly one of those loss of innocence type conversations, wasn’t first breaking my heart, I might have come up with something clever to respond with. But I wasn’t ready for this, not when Rafael is two, not when he is 12. I don’t know if I will ever have the right thing to say to him, but I want to always tell him the truth and I know that some day that truth may hurt a little.
That’s the thing about parenting—sometimes as adults, we make decisions in our lives and don’t know or sometimes even care at the moment exactly how they will affect our children. It is something that haunts me, but it is the truth of our lives and the consequences (good or bad) of our adult decisions—I can handle that. What I have a hard time handling is how to explain those more bitter consequences, those stinging truths to the younger and innocent, more vulnerable ones in my life—my children.
And as I thought about what I might say to explain this truth, this fact about our family to my two-year-old, I just couldn’t come up with the words. “Yes,” I said, pointing back to the family picture on the shelf, “That is mommy and daddy.” I smiled at my son and at my husband. I was at a complete loss for words but I was trying.
“Where was Mason,” I thought to myself. I knew where he was, and I had dealt with it all day at work. I had prepared for it the night before, and as we said our goodbyes and sent him off to school that morning, I knew that goodbye was until Monday. But my two-year-old didn’t have that time to process and because little people live so much in the moment I had no way to help him understand the time, the waiting, the fact that we won’t see Mason until next week. It was difficult to hear Rafael ask about his brother over and over again, it was painful to watch him try to process this at such a young age.
On Saturday morning, as soon as Rafael woke up, he asked again and again about his brother. I watched him stare out the window as if waiting for him, looking for him to walk up the sidewalk. As Rafael gets older, the effect of Mason’s intermittent absence shows more and more. And as I watch Rafael go through this, I still did not have the right words to say to him that will make this all better, make him more comfortable with the absence of his brother for a few days. “He went bye, bye honey, he’s with his dad,” I said. “Where’s daddy,” he said. “In our room,” I said. “Mason is visiting with his other dad,” “Mason is with his other family,” my husband chimed in. “We share him with his other dad and he is away for a little while o.k.” I said. “Ok,” he said without much expression and most likely without much understanding. “We share him,” I kept thinking to myself.
I imagine this conversation may get easier as the boys get older, but I don’t know for sure. This subject or better yet, this way of life is something we’ll just have to keep working on and keep talking about—our blended family is forever.