[at Maddie and Riley's birthday party]
Friend, to M&R: Do you have a dad?
M&R, looking at each other: No.
Me, unsure of what to do: You can tell your friend what happened to your daddy.
Maddie: He died.
Riley: Why did he die?
Maddie: He died. But then my mama was born and then she got to be our mama so it's OK.
The matter-of-factness of the four-year-old set is pretty compelling. The question was asked with no malicious intent, just pure curiosity. The child who asked it goes to school with Maddie and Riley and has been at a number of school-related and other social events, and has clearly noticed that there has never been a dad in attendance. Sunday was the first time this child had ever been to our house; perhaps the absence of a dad was more prounounced to him on Maddie and Riley's home turf. Perhaps he's been wondering for a while and had just never asked. But the way he did ask, with a total lack of guile, was refreshing for me, and not at all upsetting or strange for Maddie and Riley.
Neither Maddie or Riley hesitated when answering the question in the negative. This I found a little unsettling. Of course, their memories of John are shadowy, if even real. But they often point to John in pictures and refer to him as Daddy when they do. I was thus surprised that they didn't answer yes, then clarify that he was dead. I suppose, though, that it's pretty sophisticated to answer in that way, and it's true that their day-to-day lives lack the presence of a father. It's more just that the answer stung, bringing up John's absence in such a real and matter-of-fact way.
Maddie's explanation of how I came to be their mom and fill the dad void was interesting. I didn't quite follow her narrative, but it definitley involved me being born after the twins and then becoming part of their lives. Time is still very fluid for them, but I'm intrigued by how her mind is making sense of our family situation, how she's explaining John's absence.
[last night, 10 p.m., as I pull sleeping Riley out of bed to take him to the bathroom before I go to bed myself]
Riley, not really awake: Mama? Mama, I love you.
One of the things I love most about Riley is how transparent he is. At this age, he is not terribly emotionally complex. What he feels, he says or otherwise expresses. And that is all. Even when he's sleeping.
[in the car, on the way home from the beach last weekend]
Maddie, descending into meltdown hell upon waking up from a car nap: Mama! I don't want to talk to you anymore! I don't like you anymore! I want to send you to a farm forever!
[kicking, hitting the seat, screaming more of the above for almost 45 min.]
[15 or so minutes after the end of the fit, when Maddie was calmed down]
Me: Maddie, is something upsetting you? Why did you want to send me to a farm?
Maddie: Mama, I just love you too much. I love you TOO MUCH Mama.
Me: I know that feeling, Maddie. It can be hard to love someone so much.
Maddie: I just love you too much, Mama. It's hard.
Me: I'm glad you love me so much, sweet girl.
Maddie's emotional intelligence has blown me away since she was born. She and I have revisited this particular meltdown a few times, and she insists that she was just overwhelmed by the feeling of loving me so much that she couldn't handle it. I believe her.
Wow, the teenage years are going to be interesting at our house.