Knocking Through the Door
By: Wendy Rhein
My 7-year-old is more mature than I am. Maybe it is because he hasn’t been hurt or jaded or twisted as I have become in my 43 years. Maybe he is just a better person than I.
I have long suspected that he is an old soul who has more kindness and generosity of spirit than most children his age and certainly more than many adults I know. His intensity and sensitivity continue to amaze me.
The latest evidence of this was found in his announcement that he wants to write a letter to his father.
Following on my comments last week about keeping the door open to their relationship, I think he’s decided to give that door a hearty knock.
They have not seen each other since Nate was a toddler. Nate understands and accepts that his father lives in another state and is not part of our family but the questions have been coming more frequently lately about who this man is, what is he like, and would he like me. The last one is a gut twister.
He says he’s been thinking about it and the first line of the letter will be “hi dad, this is Nathan. I’m seven years old now.” He wants to tell him about his school, his friends, and what he wants to be when he grows up. He wants to tell him about how he loves to build things and how he is training to be a ninja. He wants to say that he hopes his dad will write him back so they can be pen pals and maybe someday they could meet.
I support the letter and yet had to warn him that his dad may not respond, and that if that happens it will be ok to be sad. He rolled his eyes and said he knew that, he just wants to try it and see what happens because even if he doesn’t write back, his dad would probably read the letter and know more about him. (See, this is the wisdom I’m talking about – he can’t control the response, only what he puts out there, and that’s ok.) When I wondered aloud why he was choosing to do this now, he said that he’s seven now and he knows a hundred people, but not his own dad.
My immediate reaction was to panic. He’ll be disappointed. He’ll be hurt. He will take it personally when his father ignores the letter. He will be crushed, then resentful, then angry. He will decide that men abandon people who love them and are not trustworthy. (And let’s all say it together: PROJECTION!) But maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. Maybe Nate’s optimism can override my pessimism. I can hope for the better response instead of planning for the worst. Being pen pals with his dad will fill the need he so rightly has for a close connection with a man who should be not just his father but his dad.
I have always said that the door is open for them to connect. I have purposefully kept in limited contact with his biological father and have long encouraged a connection between them but the adult in their relationship has chosen otherwise. I cajoled, I yelled, I threatened, I disappeared, I cried, I flippantly dismissed. I always said that some day, Some Day, he was going to open the door to see this tall, lanky young man with beautiful brown eyes standing on the other side of the screen demanding to know where the hell he has been his whole life. And he would have to answer for his absence. I never thought that would happen this quickly. Or with this kind of love and compassion of a young child, just wanting to know if his dad liked to build stuff out of Legos too.
One of my greatest fears is that as Nate gets older he will choose this man over me as the person he loves more than his cherished poster of all the US presidents. I could close the door, I know. I could destroy his image of this man who would be his dad with my own tainted memories. But I need to be the parent and make decisions that I believe are in his best interest, even if it means that one or both of us gets hurt, again, along the way. He deserves that from his parent.