I thought we had the labels pretty well defined, Daddy Mark is the daddy in Heaven and Daddy is the daddy here. My son, Nicholas had just turned 2 when William (a.k.a Daddy) and I started dating and weâ€™ve been married a couple of months now. Nicholas will turn 4 tomorrow, and suddenly the ease of knowing the difference between the two daddys is sliding a bit.
Weâ€™ve had confusion about Daddy Mark in the past year. We have photos up in Nâ€™s room of Daddy Mark holding N, and there are two particular photos that N is fascinated with. They are both of Mark holding N just after delivery (see left), and N loves for me to tell him about his birth. For a while, N would get confused between his birth story and the story of Markâ€™s time in the hospital when he died. N thought that the picture of Mark and him was when â€œDaddy Mark was so sick in the hospital that the doctors couldnâ€™t make his body better.â€ I spent quite a bit of time explaining the difference in why we were in the hospital for Nâ€™s birth and why Mark was in the hospital when he was sick. Nicholas seems to get it for the most part, but is still confused about it sometimes.
William and I began referring to him as â€œDaddyâ€ after we got engaged. Nicholas didnâ€™t seem to have any trouble with the transition (Iâ€™m sure it helped that he wasnâ€™t quite 3 yet), and William has been Daddy ever since. In the past three or four months though, Nicholas has referred to William as â€œPretendâ€ Daddy a few times. When asked what he meant, Nicholas said, â€œDaddy is Pretend Daddy and God is the Real Daddy.â€ And who can argue with that. We had a brief discussion about how God created us all and so he is parent to all of us but that doesnâ€™t make Daddy pretend Daddy or Mommy pretend Mommy. I should have known that wouldnâ€™t be the end of it.
Now Nicholas is saying that when Daddy Mark gets better, Daddy wonâ€™t be his real daddy any more and that will make Nicholas sad. I think part of this stems from the conversations weâ€™ve had where I told him I believe that Daddy Mark is healthy and happy in Heaven and his body isnâ€™t sick any longer. But who knows, Nicholas could be making this up from whole cloth.
I probably wouldnâ€™t think too much about it, and just keep reinforcing that William is Daddy and that Daddy Mark is in Heaven, but I know itâ€™s painful for William. I try to help him see that itâ€™s not a preference or judgment on him as a father, that N is just confused; but, I can see how it would hurt. William is Nâ€™s Daddy, and nobody who sees them together would doubt it.
Any thoughts on where you think the origin of the confusion might be? Do you think there is a better phrase for Mark? Is it confusing for N to have two daddys? I would love to hear what you think!
*Photo of Daddy and N courtesy of Rebel With A Camera.