One of the hardest problems for me to talk with kids about, is when a parent has made a conscious choice to remove themselves from the child’s life. How do you explain to a 6, 8 or 10 year old why they haven’t seen or heard from mom/dad for years? How do you assure them it’s not their fault? How do you make them feel loved while not giving them false hope of reconciliation some day? I still don’t have the answers. I remember vividly the first child I tried to counsel through this. It was my first year counseling and he was a first grader whose dad had left about a year prior. Before he left, dad and son were very close. Since his departure, son had not heard from dad…not even once. It truly broke my heart. There were no books to read to him…all I had in my library of resources were books about divorce where both parents were still involved. I didn’t know what to do, how to help him, or how to comfort him. I obviously spent a lot of time listening to him, but I ended up creating a “book” for him. At the end of the book I attached a 12”x12” piece of really soft, fuzzy material. (Let me note here that I see as many absent mothers as I do fathers, this book was just made specifically for that child.)
Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more of these types of children each year. I’ve seen two just this week. I recently pulled out a copy of the book I made for that first grader so many years ago to begin to use again.
Do You Ever Miss Me Dad?
Hi, my name is Sam,
And I am eight!
From the outside looking in,
My life looks pretty great!
I go to school,
I like to play,
I have lots of friends,
And most days are okay.
But worries I have,
And my troubles I want to share,
With kids like you,
Who would never, ever dare…
Tell anyone how you really feel,
How lonely and mad,
and just plain sad.
So, I am here to talk to you,
To be your trusted friend,
To share my very own story,
From the beginning to the end.
You see, my parents are not together,
Haven’t been for a year or so,
I live only with my mom,
As for my dad… I really don’t know.
He stopped coming around,
His calls eventually faded,
My birthday came and went,
And I felt really hated.
I didn’t understand!
Did I do something wrong?
If I had just been a better son…
If I had just tried harder all along.
I should have kept my room clean,
I should have taken care of the cat,
I should have tried to get along with my sister,
I should have found dad’s favorite hat.
I felt like I had to be the reason he left,
I felt guilty and ashamed,
I cried myself to sleep at night,
Accepting all the blame.
But then one day I realized
His leaving had nothing to do with me.
You see, sometimes grown-ups have problems
That you and I can’t see.
They can’t be the kind of parent
They really wish they were,
So they need some time away,
To learn, to grow, to be sure…
That when they do come back
They know how to show all the love they feel,
Because they really do love us,
And that love is very real.
But in the meantime,
Make sure you don’t lose sight,
Of all the other special people
Who love you with all their might.
There are aunts and mawmaws,
Teachers and pawpaws,
Coaches and brothers,
Friends and mothers.
There are so many that want
Nothing but the best for you,
So many that think you’re amazing
And so proud of all the things you do!
So, take this piece of fabric
And keep it close to your heart,
Not only as a symbol of your dad’s love,
But here’s the special part…
As a reminder that you’re not alone,
That your friend Sam knows how you feel,
That many people love you,
And your dad needs time to heal.
Start with this one piece of cloth
But ask others to add to your collection
And soon you will have a blanket made of love,
That is nothing but pure perfection!
And on those days
when you’re scared or sad,
or just plain mad,
Cuddle up with your love blanket,
hold on to it tight,
to remind yourself
how much you are loved by so many of us tonight!
Although it’s, by far, not my greatest piece of written work, it did give this child some comfort. My only goal was to make him feel loved and hope he would not feel responsible for his dad’s crummy choice. I wanted him to have something he could touch that symbolized the love that was all around him and reminded him of his dad’s love for him, not his leaving.
A child’s unconditional love for their parents at this age never ceases to amaze me. It does not matter what the parent has done or how horribly they have treated the child, I have never met a child that does not still want the attention and love of their parent. We brought them in this world, don't you think we owe them at least that?