The Pain of an Absent Parent (and the Exceptional Kindness of a Few)

How many times has your heart hurt for your child because of what people say or don’t say, do or don’t do, solely because he or she has only one parent?

No matter how much we instinctively want to protect our children from unnecessary pain, we can’t block it all, no matter how hard we try. These are a few things that still hurt me, even years later.

I wonder how much they’ve hurt my son?

• The teachers who expected my son to make Father’s Day cards, even though they knew his father was dead

• The kid in school who taunted my son with, “At least I have a father.”

• Watching my son, alone at his baseball and basketball games, while most of the other boys were being coached and encouraged by their Dads

• Observing that the only boys who advanced through the Boy Scout ranks were, coincidentally, the ones whose fathers attended every troop meeting

• My inability to find men who would take a consistent interest in my young son, despite the existence of numerous uncles, coaches, Scout leaders, camp counselors, friends’ fathers, and my late husband’s friends. I even struck out with Big Brothers; they just put my son on a waiting list. (I think he’s probably still on it.)

There have been notable exceptions, though, over the years; kindhearted men whom I’ll never forget (and I’m sure my son won’t, either):

• The Dads who helped my son make race cars for the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby

• The friend’s Dad who treated my son like his own son; I remember my son enjoyed calling him “Dad” now and then. (Unfortunately, the family moved away.)

• The young man who befriended my son through a card-playing hobby they share. Even though he’s away at college now, he still calls and makes an effort to see my son whenever he’s home from school.

Of course I understand that people have their own busy lives, their own families, their own sons. Yet I can’t help feeling disappointed that, when he most needed them, it was the rare man indeed who was there for my boy.