Parenting is hard. Being a single parent is exponentially harder. Imagine how difficult it would be to have to make every decision on your own, to not have someone to discuss your choices with, to springboard ideas with, and to help share the burden of childcare. It's a lot. Especially when one day you're a single, childless dude, and the next, you have a baby to care for all by yourself.
In a recent post in Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" a single dad of a 7-year-old boy shares his story. He writes that he once had a casual sexual relationship with a woman named Sally. After they stopped getting together, he found out she was pregnant, but she claimed that the baby wasn't his, told him she'd be getting an abortion, and asked him not to contact her again.
But then one day he was contacted by Sally's mother, who accused him of abandoning her daughter and his son. He was shocked, but it turns out Sally did have the baby, and it was his. Sally had a drug problem, so her mother had been taking care of the baby since he was 4 months old. When she contacted the father, the baby was a year and a half old.
Sally's mother was quite sick with cancer, so dad stepped up and took custody of his son. Soon after, Sally's mother passed away. Now, his son is 7 years old and has started to ask about his mom. A lot. You know how kids get. They want to know everything, and they will ask and ask until they get an answer.
So, dad decided to be honest. "He asked why he had to live with his grandmother before living with me," he wrote. "I told him, 'Your mom and I weren't talking when she was pregnant with you. I didn't know she had you until your grandmother told me. After that I did everything I could to get you.' He asked if he would ever be able to see his mom again. I said, 'I don't know. I don't even know where she is. She has a sickness called addiction. Sometimes when people are sick like that they make decisions that no one understands. That doesn't mean she doesn't love you though.'"
He wrote that his son cried a little and said he hopes his mom gets better. Obviously moved by the conversation, dad called his mom, who told him he had shared way too much with his son. She thought he should not have gone into detail at all, no matter how much he pressed. So, now he's wondering if he was wrong to tell his son the truth about his mother.
I for one think this dad did an incredible job explaining the situation to his young son. Had he thought about what to say beforehand if he ever brought it up? Because his answer seemed well-rehearsed and completely appropriate for a kid struggling with not knowing why his mom isn't around.
Young kids can understand so much more than we give them credit for, and the best part is that if they don't understand, they usually don't have a problem asking more questions until they do. It would do so much more harm if his father lied to his face and then he found out about it later. "If you lied to him, he would have been upset with you later on when he found out the truth. You described it in an age-appropriate manner," one commenter wrote.
"You also didn't bad-mouth the mother or patronize your son," another person wrote. "It couldn't be handled more tactfully." That's extremely important. He was careful not to disparage his son's mother, even with all she put them both through. This was the most responsible way he could have possibly handled the situation.
As one commenter pointed out, the fact that his son cried doesn't mean he was given more information than he can handle. "It's a sad situation," one commenter wrote. "It's going to hurt your son to know this whenever he is told." What's imperative is that he understands that his mother didn't "reject" him, that the truth is she is dealing with a sickness and she doesn't have the capability right now to take care of him.
In an update to his original post, dad explains that the next day, his son seemed OK and didn't bring up their conversation. For now, he's going to let his son steer the conversation and look into therapy or support groups for kids whose parents struggle with addiction. He's also going to look into resources for himself to help him handle the situation.
It sounds like this dad completely understands how hard the situation is for his son and wants to do everything in his power to make sure he has a healthy, happy, childhood and grows up knowing that he is loved and supported. For a guy who was thrust into single fatherhood with little warning, he's doing more than just fine.