I never had to handle two dads in my life. At least, I don’t remember having to.
My parents divorced when I was 18months old. My mom started dating soon after, so there was a man in my life when I was my son’s age. I just called him Johnny. She didn’t start dating her husband until I was 6, so I just called him Donnie. By then I knew the difference. (Yes, their names rhyme.)
Even before I knew the difference, my dad was around. I knew who Daddy was. My son doesn’t have that. My son gets phone calls and pictures and a vague description of what and who Daddy is.
My son calls me Momma. I’ve never been Mommy, but most other kids call their mothers that. So at first he was a bit confused; when other people would call me his Mommy he would argue with them that I was, in fact, Momma. Now he’s starting to understand.
The other day, as Jack and I were putting him to bed, Holden was being playful and looked up and me and said, “Momma, you’re like Mommy!” I told him yes, I was.
Then he looked at Jack and said, “Jack, you’re like Daddy!”
At first we were both kind of stuck, we didn’t know what to say. So we both just said no. Then Holden repeated himself.
I said, “He’s like Daddy, but he’s not Daddy.” At the same time, Jack said, “No baby, I’m Jack. I’m just your friend.”
Holden seemed incredibly upset by this. He made a scowling face and told me, “Momma, Jack says he’s just my friend!” We quickly changed the subject.
Now I don’t know what to do. Because we’re both right — Jack is just Holden’s friend. And Momma’s friend. And a man who happens to be like a Daddy.
Sadly, I don’t think my son is old enough yet to understand the difference.
There’s a fine line when it comes to other people in children’s lives. I know that Nate feels threatened by Jack’s presence, but he also wants the best for his son. I know that Jack feels like a father to Holden, but he also wants to respect Nate. I want, more than anything, for my son to know and love his true father, but I also don’t want to disregard the important role Jack plays in Holden’s life.
So what does one do when the other parent is in prison? Well, we’ve already decided to tell Holden the truth from the beginning. Daddy is in jail. What jail is, well, we’ll tackle that when he’s old enough to understand. But what about the Who is Daddy? question, and where does that leave Jack?
I don’t know these answers yet. I’m still trying to work them out myself. But I can say that it’s hard — it’s very difficult to give my son everything he needs while at the same time not stepping on any toes.
I can say that Holden will know that Daddy loves him very, very much and would be here if he could.
I can say that Holden will have Jack in his life forever, and Jack will do father/son things with him.
I can say that I will never, ever belittle either of them or their roles, because they’re both such important parts of my son’s life.
As for the important questions, well, I can’t say what clever concoction I will tell my boy; I can only say it will be fueled by love, for all parties involved.