O’ Daddy, Where Art Thou?

by mssinglemama on June 20, 2008

Benjamin has this nasty little habit of calling every man in sight “Daddy.”

I’m sure if his father had a greater presence in his life this wouldn’t be the case. I’ve convinced myself, actually, that he does this because I’m a single mom. It’s just killing me. It happens in the grocery store, at the park, on the street, in the car, at his day care and in the coffee shop.

I’ve tried correcting him.

“No, honey, that’s just a man. A man, not a daddy.” And when it’s someone we know, “No, Benjamin that’s not Daddy that’s our neighbor, Ted.”

But to no avail. It’s so bad actually that when I see a man walking toward us on the sidewalk my body actually tenses up. Uh-oh. Here it comes.

“Daddy! Daddy!” He shouts, “Hi, Daaaaddeeeeeee!”

The poor, unsuspecting men usually smile and give Benjamin a big Hello. Then they probably go home and can’t sleep with their girlfriends that night.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Please, oh please say yes. You know what? Just lie to me and tell me it does. I could lock his real dad in a closet and force him to spend more time with his son. By the way, he was a no show last week (car problems again) and even though he hadn’t seen him in two weeks he tried to drop him off at my grandmother’s 8 hours early. I told him – no, that he had to spend time with his son.

Sometimes I think we’d be better off without him in our lives. What happens when Benjamin is old enough to know that his dad, his hero, wants to dump him off at Grandma’s the second he has the chance? What’s to say he doesn’t sense that already?

[Photo: Benjamin and his uncle Ezra, who he, of course, called Daddy all night. His cargo shorts are way too long! They look like short pants. So funny.]

Related posts:

  1. Thou shalt not speak of…
  2. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy (!)
  3. Daddy is coming back.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

single supermama June 20, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Sometimes I wonder what in the world could be harder than even the *possibility* of pain for these little people we carried in our own bodies. Thank God, though, for the support network of people who love and rally around us and our little ones – like grandma who waits willingly to receive 8 hours early, and uncle Ezra in that SO CUTE PHOTO in the cargo shorts. What a cutie pie that little boy is in his bare feet, it makes me smile. :-)

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mssinglemama June 20, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I know – aren’t those feet THE cutest???? God, I don’t want them to get any bigger.

Yes – you’re right Super Mama – even the possibility of him feeling pain brings out the Mama Bear in me and I just want to claw at his own father. Weird.

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Julie June 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm

One of the hardest thing about being a single parent and having the other parent involved is that you have no control over how he or she parents your child. You have to share the person that you love the most in the world with someone who probably doesn’t share your parenting philosophy. it is so hard! It makes me crazy to think about how my daughter’s dad acts around her. But I have to accept that I have no control over his actions, and I have to hope that he always does what is best for our daughter. When she is disappointed by her dad, at least she knows that she has one parent who will always love her and be there for her.

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Rosalyn May 17, 2011 at 2:28 am

I am a new single parent and I feel this way a lot…..It it sooo comforting to know I am not alone.

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Rebs June 20, 2008 at 1:44 pm

The Former Mr and I alternate weeks. Not ideal, but nothing is, right? For the past month I’ve had to see The Mook burst into tears at the sight of me entering daycare because she doesn’t want Mummy, she wants Daddy. I’m trying not to take it personal. If I were her, I too would want the guy who takes me to the playground b/c he’s sat on his ass all day instead of the too-tired woman who has just put in 8 hours at the stress-laden job and just wants to get home.

I digress…

I got mine this morning. And I shouldn’t be so pleased, but I am. Because she didn’t want me to leave her at daycare today. The Mook has figured out that, while hurrah for Daddy picking her up from skool, this also means no Mummy until next Friday.

(Unless Mummy can sneak out of work sometime next week and over to the daycare, just for the chance to touch my lips to her perfect cheek.)

There’s no way to win. But at the end of the day this isn’t about winning. This is about raising healthy happy kids and letting them figure it out for themselves who they want to surround themselves with. Maybe that will be bio-Daddy. Maybe that will be some other sort of father-figure who won’t mind one bit about being called Daddy. But whatever Ben chooses, it will be the right decision.

Give those toes a tickle tonight!

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SingleMomSeeking June 20, 2008 at 2:19 pm

LOVE the pic!!

When I started to dating my first boyfriend as a single mom, Mae was about Benjamin’s age. She started to call him “Daddy” within a few weeks.

It was very awkward at first, even more when we were out and strangers said all the time to my boyfriend, “Oh, she’s a spitting image of you!”

Him: “Uh, I’m not her father.”

Stranger, thinking, “But didn’t she just call you ‘Daddy’???”

I know for sure that she was simply repeating what she heard around her. All of her little friends called men “Daddy.”

Things got a bit crazy when Mae’s bio father showed up on our doorstep around the same time — one year after he’d disappeared.

The times we hung out, briefly, he tried to get her to call him “Daddy”… in vain. The connection wasn’t there. She called him by his first name. I stayed out of it.

Anyway, this is just to say, Ms. Single Mama: this, too, shall pass.

Especially as you befriend more single moms and Benjamin experiences more kind of families. He will “outgrow” this. (I love this post!!)

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Beth June 20, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I hear ya sista! My little guy told me in the car on the way to daycare this morning that he was sad because his dad and I don’t live together anymore. It broke my heart. I thank God every day that my ex is truly wonderful and at least our son has him in his life. You know his dad, he is a great guy, huh?

Our family next door to us in our new house consists of 2 mommys and their 2 little boys. From what I understand, the boys have no father. Wonderful family but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to say to my son when he asks about that situation. It was hard enough explaining the divorce to our 4 year old when all the other families around us are “together”.

Love the blog! Keep it up!

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Elissa June 20, 2008 at 6:51 pm

My 3 year old calls my dad “daddy.” It bothers her “real” dad no end. Never mind that he grew up calling his grandpa “dad” I know the real reason it bothers him is that he knows he’s not doing the job very well. At first I tried to correct her but it didn’t work. Then I just gave up. Now, when she wants to be clear, she calls my dad “grandpa daddy” and calls her dad either “my Dad” or “Amber daddy.” Amber, by the way, is her dad’s live in girlfriend. The rest of the kids are old enough to know the difference between who their dad is and who is standing in and doing the daddy jobs. They sometimes will call my dad “daddy” as a way of making a point though and I don’t bother to correct them.

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Jennifer June 20, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Don’t worry, my cousin’s son did this too and she felt the same way. They grow out of it. My son is just starting to do this because his dad is just getting more involved, so I just correct him and laugh/shrug it off. It won’t be the first or last time I’m embarrassed or how he learns to navigate life’s unfairness.

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Alexis June 20, 2008 at 8:59 pm

My little man calls other adult men dada too….and I swear he knows who his real dada is. I have my ideas about why he does this but I can never be sure. I think it’s because he obviously loves his father and attributes nice men to his dad. Could be worse. Still stabs at my heart each time he does it cause I know if his dad was around all the time this wouldn’t happen. I’ve never heard his friends(who have dads 24/7) do this. It’s all a learning experience….but deep down I still wish I could see him interact with his dad- to be able to see how he grows with him too. Happiness comes when you realize nothing in life goes according to plans….is that the saying?

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mssinglemama June 20, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Each and every one of your comments makes me feel soooo much better … so glad he’s not seriously messed up.

XOXO!!!

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mslaura November 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm

My 3 year old daughter does not know her dad. She had spent a week with him when she was born, another week before her first birthday, and a series of about 3 one hour visits when she was two. That is it and he has been completely out of the picture for over a year now. With that said she asks me where her daddy is and why she doesn’t have one. I don’t even know where he is, so how can I answer it. One time she even said her daddy was dead! She has gone through times where she called strangers dad and until now I thought I was the only one who experienced that. Someone told her this weekend that she could share her candy with her mom and dad and she said “But I don’t have a dad, just a mom.” I don’t know who was more embarassed the lady who said that or me. I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t know if someday her dad won’t just show up again and then what? I will say that reading posts on this site has made me feel less alone and therefore a little better. My best friend who was pregnant when I was just found out she is pregnant again. It is so hard. I was looking around to see if anyone else ever feels bad about that.

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modernsinglemomma June 21, 2008 at 1:00 am

Lucca experiments with the word daddy…It so interesting to me because its obviously something he picks up from his buddies at daycare because I’ve never taught him the word (absolutely no reason to–”daddy” is an honor the Las-Vegas- escaping “Father” does not deserve). I do wonder what Lucca is thinking when he says it: Daddddy! Daddeeee! Daaaaaaady! Most of the time I’m pretty sure he is just singing sounds. But sometimes, he says it as if he is experimenting with who might respond to the call. These are the times my heart almost breaks…but then I take a deep breath, sweep him into my arms and start singing “mommmmmmy! mammeee! mommy loves Lucca Lucca Lucca!”

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davidrochester June 21, 2008 at 2:05 am

I think most kids do this … the daughter of a friend of mine, who has a full-time dad, calls me “dad” or “daddy” when she sees me. I think she just doesn’t know that word means her biological father, and she just calls all familiar adult men by that word.

Kids’ logic is odd. When I was two, I called my aunt Big Bird for about a year. Nobody really knew why.

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Marsha J. O'Brien June 21, 2008 at 1:27 pm

I was a single mom to three and it was always trauma to have dad visit. He could afford to take them places I couldn’t because he didn’t pay support!
This time will pass, and love will prevail. When my three were in their teens all three (at different times) wanted to live with dad to “get to know him”. I warned them, but it was their right. All three moved out and found out why I divorced him! It’s tough for you. Just don’t make the same mistake I did. I married the WRONG man thinking he would be a good dad. I wish I had not remarried so
quickly as it did more damage than good! Be careful. Men will always be in the “impression stage” to get in your pants! Take a breath and say your prayers….
you’ll get through this and so will your son. Just keep on loving-loving-loving!
(By the way, at least your son doesn’t call every guy “uncle” the way my friend- who had lots of affairs- taught her son to do.)
Your son will survive! Dad’s absence at times may be the best, so if he cops out-cool! Just remember children are BOTH of you and when you talk be sure not to say horrible things about daddy, as most kids inside already think it must be their fault. God bless. Sorry I went on so, but though I don’t know you, I do care. We all share this same world and are supposed to love one another. :)

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Anna June 21, 2008 at 9:33 pm

With us there’s no Dad in the picture and never has been…and my four-year-old asks me every time he sees a friend’s father why he doesn’t have one. It tugs at the old heart strings and it’s an akward thing to try to explain in front of others, but I (we) do the best we can…I do have the most supportive mother on the planet, though…which makes up for a thousand absentee fathers, in my book. Love the blog…glad to have found it! ;-)

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Cheryl June 23, 2008 at 2:19 am

Mine just calls me “MommyDaddy”, all in one word… I was offended until @yatpundit suggested that perhaps SHE was the smart one since she obviously knows who her Mommy *and* her daddy are.

Me.

Btw, she calls just about everyone else Daddy. I’m the only one that gets the special title of MommyDaddy.
;-)

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Leslie June 23, 2008 at 10:31 am

I’d want to cringe too imagining what people think – but it seems like it’s a common thing. At least he gets the concept of a dad, I swear mine didn’t since his was so sporadic when he was that age. This too shall pass momma!

I love “mommydaddy” :)

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Heather June 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

When I read things like this it makes me so sad to hear. My son just turned 1 and has never met his father. Sometimes I feel like an outcast with that but the thought of a daddy not being there after he has made the commitment to be the daddy is far worse.

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Leslie June 23, 2008 at 10:58 pm

Definitely Heather, I think mine’s being gone for the last 2 years has been easier to deal with than trying to wrap his mind around the come and go that happened before.

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Christina June 24, 2008 at 1:13 am

I’m going through something similar with my son. He’s 4 years old and saw his dad for the very last time just after his 2nd birthday. I’m surprised sometimes that he even remembers him because even when he was around he wasn’t around that much. My ex and i ended on VERY bad terms and he ended up leaving the States and returning to Turkey. I’ve never said a bad word or negative comment to my son about his father, but lately when he tells me, “I miss my daddy and i want to see him and give him a big hug”, I really don’t know what to say??? I usually tell him that his fater misses him too and when he is older maybe he can go to Turkey to visit him. The said “truth” is that my ex obviously wants nothing to do with his son. During the past 2 years I have sent pictures of my son to his father’s family, but nothing has ever been acknowledged. I had hoped that maybe he would send my son a bithday present, maybe a card just letting him know that he’s thinking of him, but no….he just ignores him. Now I worry about when my son is a teenager and decides he wants to try and contact his father. I worry he will be rejected by him and hurt. This worried me a lot! I’m not sure if I’m even saying the right things to my son at this point, but I don’t ever want him to think that he is not loved by his father even if his may be true…my heart hurts so much for my little guy! Thanks for letting me vent…

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mssinglemama June 24, 2008 at 10:56 pm

All of these thoughts are so insightful …

Heather, Leslie & Cristina: You’re right – it may be easier without the coming and going … that’s definitely THE hardest part for me. And, no doubt, for Benjamin.

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greenbeanmama June 25, 2008 at 2:02 am

We used to do this too. Well, not we, he. Now he will point and say “a guy!!” haha

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writebrite June 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm

The boy was doing this for awhile. It was very concerning to his actual daddy, as he is forever trying to prove himself (after leaving me at conception, ignoring me through pregnancy, refusing any contact from birth until about the 9 month part, and only after court order, meanwhile someone else stepped in and was all ready to be the “daddy” in the boy’s life….) but I digress.

After much talking, prodding, questioning, role-playing, I determined this: My son has only two categories for anything male, boy and daddy. (Coincidentally, females fall under babies, girls, mommies, and ladies…but, I don’t get to be a lady because I’m a mommy) So, in his words, anyone who isn’t a boy and doesn’t have boobs is a daddy. Nuff said.

We’re working on widening his descriptive vocabulary.

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littlezsmom June 26, 2008 at 2:13 pm

I thought I was the only one experiencing this embarrasing situation. I am so glad I found this site. My 2 year old sons father is not involved in his life at all and i was convinced his calling the man jogging down our street dad was his cry for male attention. I hope he grows out of it soon. He is now calling my 19 year old sister’s boyfriend daddy and I know it makes him uncomfortable.

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DetroitGirlinLA June 29, 2008 at 11:08 pm

My son used to do that all the time! It would just about bring me to tears. It was awful! He grew out of calling every man in sight daddy, but he didn’t grow out of wanting one. We’ve prayed together every night since he was a baby. When he was two he started asking God for a daddy. Yep, that was a definite stab in my heart! My son is four now and he’s done calling every guy daddy and he’s done praying for one too. However from time to time he’ll still ask me if he can have a daddy. I seriously didn’t think that this was an issue I’d have to deal with until he was older. I had no idea that it would start before he even turned 1! Unfortunately, I don’t think his desire for a dad will ever go away. I just always remind myself that he is a very lucky boy even without a father. He’s much better off to grow up surrounded by nothing but love. He doesn’t experience fighting. He doesn’t experience an abusive parent. Things could be a lot worse than not having a dad!

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MommyandMatthew October 17, 2008 at 6:06 pm

My son is two and does the exact same thing with different men we see… i mean they dont even look anything like his father. We just recently had hardwood floors put down in our house and my son kept calling all the men doing the work his daddy and wanting to play with them and hug them! It might have been funny in there eyes but it broke my heart! His daddy gets him everyother weekend and i share him half the day with him on holidays and birthdays and things like that but his daddy just lets his parents get our son on all those weekends and holidays. He sees his daddys face atleast once a week but he doesn’t call him daddy for some reason… he calls him by his first name! I’m so scared that my kid is just feeling really rejected or that he is terribly confused!

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non December 1, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I want to thank you for this blog. I was looking for advice on another subject but found most of the posts really supportive.

My beautiful daughter has a dad who lives in another city. She only sees him every six weeks or two months now. She clings to men and seems not to be able to discern between male acquaintances and family friends (she hugs men we don’t know very well). She also called other men “daddy” when she was younger.

The clinginess is a little scary. I think your son will grow out of calling all men “daddy,” and from everything you have written here, it seems he will know enough about boundaries to be able to establish appropriate behavior and attachments.

Thanks again for your blog.

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Megan January 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

my best friend was 17 when her son was born; we would take him everywhere with us…the mall, on long drives, whatever. and eventually he too started this habit…it was funny at first (we were 18 year old girls…) and then she had to have the daddy talk with him. His dad joined the military and claimed the boy wasn’t even his. but she is a fantastic mom who now has two little boys and a wonderful husband.

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MARY January 13, 2009 at 4:28 am

WELL MY SON CALLS EVERY MAN HE SEES DADDY ESPICALLY AT WALMART HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I GUESS THAT ITS A SINGLE MOM THING.

FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

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NotADad April 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Well, I'm 51, male (please keep claws withdrawn as I'm clearly behind enemy lines), and have been pretty much alone for nearly 20 years after splitting with my long term female. We did not have kids, too much responsibility to handle back then. I often wish I had children. If a nice little kid called me "Daddy", I would probably go all soppy on the spot and start talking marriage or adoption. I can't imagine anything nicer.

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Jessica_L June 10, 2009 at 5:51 pm

My son is very clingy to any males. If he has a friend their dad becomes his dad. Any male we are around (my uncles, cousins, etc) is automatically his best friend and won't let them out of his sight. He doesn't call them daddy, but asks me often when we will have our "own daddy to live with us all the time". I try to explain that he has a daddy, but he says we need one just for us. Heartbreaker!

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ashlynn2410 June 10, 2010 at 1:21 am

I am new to this site and I have to tell you I have been sucked in… hard.. i love what i’m reading and i’m catching up but let me tell you it has been a breathe of fresh air to read. There comes a time when you feel like you are the only single mother out there and its nice to see i’m not going through things that someone else hasn’t! My Daughter did this with her babysitter’s husband, we are good friends outside of her watching “r” but when her husband would come home from work it was immediate DADDY! because she heard her son’s calling out to him. she also did this with my Brother in laws, her father is slightly absent meaning not consistatly in her life and thank god for the men in my life, my amazing father and my wonderful brothers in law… it is such a heartbreaking thing when they call out, but like you said you can’t force him to be involved. thank you for this blog it has been a godsend i just started reading two days ago and i will continue!

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Steph June 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm

The past few months have been extremely difficult. My son calls other guys daddy, but only men that resemble his father. Its painful, its more painful than anyone can describe however Im so glad that Im not alone in this. If my son is looking for his dad we call on the phone, then he (my son) changes his mind. I try encouraging him everyday to call his daddy, but I feel like its hindering the healing process of me….what does anyone else think?

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