My oldest daughter, The Diva, has been chosen “Student of the Week” at school.
She got her picture taken, and was interviewed for the school paper.
The picture, of course, was flawless- no diva would be caught dead with their pic in the school paper unless it was absolute perfection.
The interview was great-
Favorite Movie? “Short Circuit” (Ha, ha, ha- Go Diva!)
Favorite Book? “Where the Red Fern Grows” (We’re reading it together at night, one chapter at a time)
I know- pretty typical stuff.
It gets better though:
Her Hero of all heroes? “My mom. She’s had a hard time, but you can’t tell because she’s always laughing. She taught me to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what“.
She really does understand.
My Diva gets it.
Finally- Disney Dad isn’t her hero anymore. The guy who shows up when it’s time to do fun stuff, but is nowhere to be found when shoes are needed, doctors need to be visited, daycare needs to be paid.
He used to be her hero.
Last year, she did a school project, and she had to tell the class all about who her hero was, and why.
She chose her father.
She knew when he showed up to get her for his visitation, they’d do something fun. They’d eat pizza somewhere, maybe go camping at the lake for the weekend… or to Six Flags… it was always something.
The Diva was disappointed in me.
I couldn’t take her camping or out to eat.
Amusement Parks were out of the question.
We would go to the park, or a museum- or some other place that was free.
She didn’t understand that her father owed me tons of money from before, or that he wasn’t fulfilling his financial responsibilities to her or her sister.
She didn’t know why we had gotten divorced to begin with- or that he had hurt me physically… she didn’t know about the criminal charges he faced, as a result of his violence against me.
I couldn’t tell her… I hated that he was her hero, but I wasn’t going to take it away from her…
… Though it almost killed me not to.
To her, Daddy was all about having fun.
She didn’t realize that things like paying for school lunches, field trips, and renting her viola for the school orchestra were beneath him.
I kept my mouth shut… I practiced a curious version of honesty with her… when she asked me a question about her father, I would answer her… putting none of my personal opinions into the answer, simply answering the question she asked… never elaborating.
“Mom, isn’t Dad supposed to be helping take care of us?”
She’d wait for me to elaborate… learning over time that I never would.
She’s older now.
She doesn’t need to ask me as many questions… she sees it all with her own two eyes.
It has dawned on her, slowly over the last year or so, that our roles in her life- her father’s and mine- are very lopsided.
One parent is sure to have fun with her… but is just as sure to tell her to talk to her mother when it’s time to stop having fun and get serious… somehow he knows when to vanish.
He knows how to make promises to her, only to break them when his girlfriend, or one of her sons needs something instead.
He knows how to take her places, pay money for her to have fun… but he’s just as adept at making commitments, swearing to take care of this or that… only to disappoint and never follow through.
Her father also knows how to utilize her as a babysitter, as her little sister’s mother… using her “maturity” at the ripe old age of 10 as an excuse to leave her home alone at night while he pursues his social life, attending concerts, going to bars.
When my daughter is scared, alone in the night, and tries to call him, he doesn’t answer.
The other parent, her mother, doesn’t have the means to go to the movies and out to eat and to the store to get new stuff very often.
But when the viola for orchestra needs to be rented, or shoes need to be bought, or a field trip needs to be paid for… if a trip to the doctor is necessary…
The Diva knows who will take care of it.
She knows I don’t have a lot of materialistic things to offer her… but she knows my word is good… I won’t break my promises to her… and I will never allow anyone else- certainly not a romantic interest- to so much as create the allusion that they are more important to me than my babies are.
She knows that I am the Mommy- I will take care of her, and I will take care of her sister- The Diva understands that when she is with me, I am the one who will be responsible for what does and does not occur.
Life with The Diva isn’t all roses… she certainly has her moments when I’m not her favorite person… like when she wants to spend the night at a friend’s house on a school night… or when I make her practice her spelling words… writing the words she doesn’t know three times each, until she learns them. She hates that I won’t let her have a myspace page…
She used to argue, when I would tell her no, that if she was with her dad, he wouldn’t care if she did it.
Over time, the realization has begun to sink in… it’s not that her dad doesn’t care if she does the things she wants to… It’s that he simply doesn’t care…
She gives me a run for my money too, sometimes.
Like when she saunters nonchalantly into my room, acting as if she wants to talk about the weather, but instead asks me about sex, STDs and birth control.
We all have our moments… and this one, like all the others, may not be lasting…
… But today, for right now, I am her hero.