Monday, August 18, 2008

When You're Not Daddy's Little Girl

My daughters were vegging out on the couch yesterday, watching Grease, when I heard a loud "ewww!" emanating from the living room. When I went in to check on them, I saw that they were holding their hands over their eyes so as not to see the screen. "Mommy- that boy and girl are kissing on the lips!" Supermangirl said. "So?" I asked. "Well, it's gross! Why would they do that?" she responded. I glanced over at Wonderwoman, who is 11, and noticed that she looked uncomfortable too. I shut off the movie and sat down to talk to them. I explained that men and women kiss to show that they love each other, that it's a natural thing, that Hashem intended it to be that way. The girls did not look convinced. "But why is it necessary?" they asked. "Well", I said, "Hashem wants men and women to fall in love so that they will get married and have families." "You don't need a man to have a family" said my 9 year old. (At this point my stomach started to hurt.) "What do you mean?" I asked her. "Well, we're a family, and we don't have a man in our house. And Aunt S has a child, but she's not married". (Her unmarried Aunt S had elected to have a baby on her own.) Oh, boy. This conversation was not going the way that I had hoped. I explained, somewhat awkwardly, that ideally a mother and a father raise their children together, but there were instances when this was not the case.

Needless to say, my daughters' attitude has been bothering me. Do they really think that men are... unnecessary? Why would they think that? Maybe they don't feel their father's absence as acutely as I thought they did. But it makes sense. They don't remember when he lived with us, and they haven't seen or spoken to him at all in nearly five years. He doesn't contribute financially to their support. We don't even know where he is. And yet, my daughters are part of a happy, stable, functioning family. Even in their extended family, the men don't figure as prominently as the women do. Their grandmother and aunts are all strong, independent women who hold responsible jobs, run their own businesses, and are the primary decision makers for themselves and their families. My daughters don't have a grandfather in their lives, and their contact with their uncles is pleasant but intermittent. So yeah, from their experience, I can see why they would assume that men are somewhat unnecessary. (I'm reminded of a story that occurred when Wonderwoman was 6 years old. She returned home after playing at her friend Aliza's house and said "Mommy! You want to hear the funniest thing? Aliza's daddy lives in the same house as she does!")

So... what do I do? Do I worry about this? I've always been so concerned about my son growing up without a father that I didn't think much about the effect it would have on my daughters. How will they learn how to conduct themselves around men? How will they know what a healthy relationship should look like? I can't enlist male friends and neighbors to spend time with my daughters the way that I did for my son. It's not so easy to do that in the Orthodox community, particularly since both girls are now approaching adolescence. I can talk to them about these things, but there is no substitute for seeing it for yourself. What do you do when your daughter is not Daddy's little princess?

13 comments:

Baila said...

You know Raizy, you can sit around and worry about it, but what good is that? This is the situation you're in. Your daughters (and son) are lucky to have such a smart, together mother who provides them with stability and security. Many kids have some issue or another going on in their lives. Your daughters do need a strong male model, but you can't just manufacture one out of nowhere. At best you can expose them to other families with a strong father figure. But in the end, you play the cards you're dealt, and have faith in the future.

SuperRaizy said...

baila-
You're absolutely right. Thank you for putting it into perspective.

Leora said...

I just wanted to say you stated the issues well. I haven't a clue what one might do or say, but you did a good job of talking about it.

Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, Greae - not a good coice. The moral of the movie is that the nice girl must become an unadulterated slut in order to get the guy's attention. Now that's yewwwww!!

More importantly, the guy thing. A person should get married because they want to, not because they need to. Wanting implies a healthy coesitence, needing implies dependency. Clearly by holding your own, your providing an example of want over need. I don't know you but I'm willing to bet that you could probably snare someone if you were desperate and persistent enough but that would be settling. That would be manufacturing a male role model figure from your home. Instead, you're showing your girls that independence, fighting the odds and doing the best no matter what without having to rely on others is important, something that will carry them long through life.

ilanadavita said...

I'm with Baila on this.
Things might be different in a few years' time when they start having cruhes on boys.

SuperRaizy said...

Leora-
It's sweet how you always find something nice to say.
Garnel-
Yeah, I knew someone would call me out for letting them watch Grease. Anyway, what you said about me is very nice, but truthfully, I rely on others quite a bit (just not on a husband).
Ilanadavita-
Right now the big one is crushing on her brother's friends, and the little one is crushing on the Jonas Brothers.

aoc gold said...
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Anonymous said...

It is too bad that there is not a strong postive male presence in your children's lives. But it would be so much worse for them if a father who is a negative influence was actively involved. I know women who are exhausted from tyring to counteract the influence of a father who is not a force of good in their children's lives. Not a huge comfort, I suppose, but something to think about.

SuperRaizy said...

anonymous-
Oh, I absolutely agree. That's one of the reasons that I got divorced in the first place.

SaraK said...

My parents got divorced when I was 6, so I never remembered my father living with us either, but we were very close with my Mom's parents and brothers (although not living in the same city). We also have many family friends who live nearby who provided excellent male role models. But my Mom is strong and independent and did a pretty good job of raising 4 kids on her own (if I may say so myself). I think you'll do a great job. Just make sure that the married role models they see have healthy marriages.

rickismom said...

I think that as your daughters grow, they will see men here and there (brothers of friends, etc.) My husband is not the ideal roll-model, but my daughter gained a lot by being by a good friend's house for shabbas on occaision.

SuperRaizy said...

sarak and rickismom-
Thank you both for visiting. I think you're right about the opportunities that they have to see good male role models in other settings. I'm sure that as they grow up, they will learn from their own interactions with male friends and with boyfriends.

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?