When the children wonder.

by mssinglemama on February 6, 2012

As a single parent, one of the things we fear the most are questions from the children. Now, later, then, when…

It’s the chord that hits all of us the deepest and our haters use them against us with bottomless and threats that come from inexperience and lack of understanding. The worst one being, “you are going to totally mess up your kid!”

Fears of future questions by the children, such as “Mommy, why did you leave Daddy?” are also a huge driving force keeping many of us in unhappy marriages. Which, in my opinion, are worse for children than being in single parent households with one happy, fully functioning single parent.

In my house, the questions have come and many more will, I’m sure.

The other day Benjamin asked,”Mommy, did you and Daddy used to be married?”


“Why aren’t you married anymore?”

“Because, when we were married we didn’t get along very well. We fought a lot and we weren’t happy.”

And you were surrounded in the car with boxes and piles of laundry, nestled in between it all – with a U-Haul behind us so I could get you as far away as I could, as quickly as I could. We left everything I had behind to do it. My career, my friends, the city. But it was worth it. You are worth every thing, every minute of it all. You are my everything. I keep my mind and my heart quiet and continue answering as casually as I can.

“But, you’re friends now, right?”

“Sure.” If you call civil communications a friendship, then yes, absolutely. For him, we are friends.

“Why can’t I live with Daddy?”

“Because you’re here. You live here. This is your home.” 

This one is tough to answer because his father is so uninvolved (past post for a recap). He sees him once a month, if that, and for a visit to happen, I have to drive him there. His father hasn’t come here to visit in ages and only calls once every few weeks.

“But, I want to live at Daddy’s!”

“I know, but you can’t.”

“Why not?!?!?!” He’s upset now. Daddy’s house has all kinds of fun things like more violent Wii games, a four-wheeler, real BB guns and even real, live pigs, and neighbors who I don’t know and adventures to their houses unsupervised. Oh, and lots and lots of pop tarts, candy and Kool-Aid.

“Because, you just can’t. I can’t imagine how hard that must be, because his house is so much fun and I wish you could live in both places at once! Can you imagine if you could teleport yourself there from here?”

And then we go off on a tangent about something else and the questions fall silent (for then).


What questions do your children ask? How do you answer them?


This post was inspired by a recent post by Matt Logelin. His daughter, Maddy, asked him some questions the other day about her mother’s death and his answers and her reaction are now permanently implanted into my consciousness. He is such a brilliant writer and father, and please read this.


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With children piled high. | DatingWithaSecret.com
February 28, 2012 at 1:32 am

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian February 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

This is something I worry about too. My son just turned 3 and his father is not involved. My son remembers him though and always brings him up in conversation (ex. ‘Daddy is coming to my birthday party’ ‘I’m going to be as tall as Daddy when I grow up’ or he will pretend to talk to him on the phone..) It is so so hard. I try and keep any conversations about his father as pleasant as possible. And I also try and change the subject if possible (ex. I will say Daddy won’t be at the party but guess who will be (list awesome people), or Maybe you’ll be as tall as your uncle!) I know some day though he will have real questions like your son. I just hope he will be ok with my answers.


Single Mama 2 February 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

This reply actually refer to both Ms Single Mama and Ms Gillian.

I face similar questions from my daughter. She put it in a prudent way” I saw your married photo with daddy, why are you two not staying together anymore”, Because we fought a lot and I didn’t want you hear all these, ” but I still want you two to live together!!” etc. Well, essentially, kids questions are very normal, especially when they grew up or be in school.

I handle her questions seriously, because they have the right to know and you need to answer them at the manner they could comprehend yet won’t hurt their feelings – never condemn their father, this would hurt them. However doesn’t means you couldn’t tell the true. Tell the truth but avoid bad mouthing, i.e. “Father did this xxxxxx, therefore mommy couldn’t handle.” and then tell her why you leave the marriage ” mommy was in immense stress and sad” etc. bring her to see your predicaments.

On the other hand, if they raise questions like this during their bad mood, this shows they have complaints about you. So try to figure out, what are these complaints about. Maybe you didn’t spend enough time? You scolded them? They feel hurt with something you did?


cindy April 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

my son is 16. he never stops wondering when his father and i will be together again. the father is dumb he only cares about his bz life and cheating. i never wants my son to be near him but he always shows up at anytime he likes and brainwashes my son. he never donates his part of responsibility like being there for my kids, giving child support, asking the kids what they really need…..my son really needs a father deadly that he has emotional problem. up til now i can accept the fact that this is a screw up person and he deserves nothing better in life.


Carrie Nagy February 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

I think you handled the situation perfect. I answer those kinds of questions the same way. My 5 year old asks me those kind of questions and always at the most awkward times, mostly when she is really tired. Kids are smart, there may be fun stuff at Dad’s now but in couple years he’ll figure it all out.


Farrell February 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Every single parent has been asked and will be asked more. It wasn’t until my daughter was about 5 that she realized her Daddy and I *were* actually married at one time – this was a shock to her as she’s never known us together.
I think you did well.
My daughter thinks me and her dad are BFFs. And to that I say to myself, and to him, “Well done. Well done.” If that’s what she thinks, then we are doing somethings right.


MeiMei February 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

My kids ask me couple times: ” you said you are daddy did not get along, but what’s the REAL reason that you two got divorced? I don’t know who to believe now, because you and daddy are telling me different stories….”. I really don’t want kids to hate their dad so I didn’t tell them that their dad decided to leave the family for another woman, but should I tell them the truth now that they turn 12 and 13?


Single Mama 2 February 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

hmm..Essentially I told my kid when she were 6 – her dad’s a womanizer but in a neutral way. I don’t condemn nor scolding the dad in front of her. you can’t hide anymore when they craving for answer, they deserve to know the truth. They may not understand when you told her about this, but every now and then, they would clarify with you.

Essentially, you need to let them know the decision you made are the best for them although it’s hard.


Lesli February 10, 2012 at 12:43 am

I would make a phone call to your ex immediately—because first of all, he isn’t supposed to be saying anything negative about you in the first place!! Here in GA, parents must go to a divorced-parenting class and as corny as it seemed, they actually showed a really great video–and it showed one parent saying bad / negative things about the other parent in front of or to the child—and how that was definitely a no-no. Sounds like you guys need to be on the same page….our kids are very intuitive….can’t hide much from them. Good luck.


Star February 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Make sure you point out to him that when he is not there they still have to do things like take baths, grocery shop, clean the house, do chores, run errands, etc. I’ve found out that they think these things just don’t happen at Daddy’s. My son thought daddy just always had enough food.


Sarah February 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm

My daughter is 5 and she has never known her father and I as a couple. She does know we’re friends and that we all spend time together sometimes. However, once in awhile she will say things like: “When are you marrying Daddy?” or “Ask Daddy if I can have a little brother.” Recently she has started stopping herself by acknowledging that she knows me and her father aren’t getting married. “Right, you and Daddy are just good friends.” I am thankful that we have a fairly good co-parenting situation but I do worry that it’s confusing to her.


Brenda February 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

My daughter just turned 4 and her Dad left the country 4 months ago after our divorce was final. I don’t really know if he intends to ever return. A couple months after, she asked through very teary eyes if “she was going to get a new Dad”. I’m sure she will have many questions as she gets older & I don’t know how diplomatic I can be. I want to protect her from future disappointment so so much. If anyone else has gone through a similar situation, I would love to hear from you.


Ginger February 7, 2012 at 9:03 am

This was very Matt Logelin’ish! I love that his blog posts fuel your own thoughts and your own blog – even though the questions Benjamin asks you are so different. Thanks for sharing.

My 3 year old son’s father took his life. The questions that come are so unimaginable and the day he died I knew I would have to face these one day. My son has been asking me why daddy is never coming back. Why didn’t he get to go with him. Yesterday, he came home from school and told me during recess he thought I had died. He asked if I would leave him too ๐Ÿ™

I really admire any parent (in any situation) who is handling a difficult topic and having to answer and comfort their child on ‘why things are the way they are’. We have a difficult task and it’s in our hands to put ease in our childrens’ minds.


Pretty Mom February 7, 2012 at 9:42 am

My child adores animals: wild ones, pets, insects…. so the only thing that popped into my head when she insisted at 5 in knowing why she couldn’t live at her dad was to make the analogy between her and a kitten we had just seen.
Me:Imagine you are the kitten, who was the kitten with?
Her: with its mommy, the cat
Me: See? all babies, human or animal belong with their mommies…
Her:Right! I get it! its because the kitten was drinking its milk and you have the boobies for the milk!
Me: Right….! (phew!)
That settled it. I know that is not accurate for everybody, but it was right for us. She never doubted again her home was with me. She is 10 now, and its being a few years since she asked to be driven to her dad’s to visit.


Stac February 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm

My son’s father and I were never married. He has come and gone in his life (currently gone for almost 2 years). About a year and a half ago my son says “(girl at school) says you have to be married to have a baby.” and I said “Oh? What did you say?” and he said “I told her sometimes it just happens randomly!” lol!!!!!!!! It was the best thing a 6 year old ever said! That and “I like mommy’s cooking when she doesn’t burn it”.


Cheryl Stahle February 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

It’s part of the territory. I hated telling my son when we divorced. Now I work with kiddoes as part of a ministry program and you should hear the nonsense some kids are told. HONESTY…but at an age appropriate level is my mantra. It’s nice to know I’m among good blogging company as a single mom


Just Starting Over February 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I’ve only been separated for 2 months, and my daughter is only 18 months so I haven’t had to deal with these questions. But, when I begin to worry about what my daughter will say or think later, I remember my friend’s comments about her parents’ divorce. Her parents divorced when she was 5, and her father slowly disappeared from her life (2 times/month to 1 time/month to 2 times/year, etc.). She says her mother never biased her against her father, and as an adult, she appreciates that she came to her own conclusions that her father was unreliable and selfish. She also says that she appreciates that her mother left her “bio-dad” as she calls him and later married her “real dad” (stepdad) so she wouldn’t be stuck with just the deadbeat as a role model. So, Benjamin loves you already, but I’m sure as an adult he will appreciate all you have done even more.


Lexa February 8, 2012 at 12:06 am

I have been separated/divorced from my ex for almost 2 and a half years and my 7 year old girl and 5 year old boy still drill me as to why I left Daddy and why we can’t get married again. Sadly, he told them his version of why I left (he actually recaps to them the last dreadful day we lived together, i.e. he was essentially cheating and I found out via evidence on my computer). They basically blame me and tell me I shouldn’t have looked at Daddy’s stuff on the computer. Seriously!!!! I haven’t explained to them any details of our relationship other than we fought a lot and we were not happy together. To make matters worse, he has been deployed for almost a year and they have it built up that he is the most amazing father . . . sorry if I sound bitter about that, but he had two weeks before he left and he only spent less than 2 days with them, so him being amazing is a little hard to swallow. He did buy them an Ipad 2 and an Xbox Connect for Christmas so maybe he is . . . a side of sarcasm to go with the bitterness ๐Ÿ˜‰


Lisa February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

They will figure out soon enough what their father is really like. When my aunt and uncle got divorced, my aunt was “the bad guy” for years in my cousin’s eyes (he was about 11 or 12 when they got divorced), even though my Uncle was into drugs and chose them (and another woman) over his family.

As he got older, the rose-colored glasses came off and he began to see his father for who he really is. He still loves him, of course, but he now understands a little better what my aunt went through.


susan February 8, 2012 at 4:45 am

i have chosen to answer as gently and as honestly as I can and my kids (6 and 9) have a fairly good idea of why they live with me. Their Dad has a great relationship with them, and with me too, 4 years down the track. The downside of this though is that 9 year old often wants to know why, if we get on so well NOW, that Dad can’t just come back.
Thats the tricky one to answer.


Alli Steen February 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm

My kids are still too young to ask questions about their absent father who left when I was pregnant with my youngest (18 months and 3 ) but i think about my answers all the time. My latest script is ‘yes you have a daddy but he isn’t really Part of our family, families come in all different shapes and sizes….’ and then I’ll use examples of different families in the animal kingdom. For a whole I thought I might just say ‘you just have a mummy but I can do all the things that a daddy does’ but it’s probably better to acknowledge that there is a daddy out there somewhere, in case he ever bothers to involve himself (it’s easier without him anyway)


KQ February 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm

My preschooler has now lived without her dad at home for more than half her life. The other day she was looking at a new Cinderella book and asking about stepfamilies and asked “what if you and daddy broke up?”

“We did. We are divorced. He isn’t going to live with us ever again.” I didn’t know what else to say. Because it’s true. But he joined the service, got deployed, and the last visit he had with them was in the mecca of fun and adventure down south. So, to someone small, it’s all a little surreal.

Early after the divorce my oldest told me “I want a new dad.”
“A new dad? Or your dad to come back?”
“A new dad.”
Gotta confess, that one threw me. I think I said something like “well, they don’t grow on trees.” I had to think it over and revisit that conversation later! He was old enough to hear that relationships take time and I wasn’t rushing into anything just so a man could be around. Thankfully (we are so blessed) my dad and brother live nearby and men at church (married ones, who have no sneaky ulterior motives) have pitched in to mentor and take him on “man outings” that I would never think of!

But I second an earlier comment. We should be honest and age-appropriate without being nasty or trying to bias the children. As children grow and develop their own relationship (or lack of) with the other parent, they’ll be able to reach their own conclusions. And maybe create their own kind of relationship with the other side…


Lesli February 10, 2012 at 12:51 am

I’m not sure that there is ever an easy answer to questions from little ones. Based on the comments, I’d say that I think most of y’all are saying the right things! Kids, yours and mine, just want to know that they are loved, protected, and safe. Clearly we all have different situations but as long as you take the high-road when explaining why you and daddy aren’t together, you’ll do fine. Kids are really amazing….and while my own two tell me all the time how nice Daddy & Anna’s house is (Anna is the new wife), complete with the latest and greatest everything, they still run to me every time I pick them up from the weekend visit with their dad. If my older one tells me that he wants to go live with is dad when he turns 14 (the law here), then I’ll accept it….but I’m not counting on that happening. Stay strong, single mamas!


Barnett February 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I know this is a hard thing to deal with…

Growing up with an uninvolved father is not easy, but if it continues by the time he’s older and his father does start to want to be more involved he may likely have a numb feeling towards him like a stranger…

Thats what happened to me. I don’t hate my dad i just don’t care to know him.

Hopefully things can turn out different for your son.


coll February 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

Hi All~ I am Coll from NY recently spilt form fiance and we have a cutie 6 month old. I wanted to know if you have any information, such as a good blog to read, from the view point of a child who has gone through life as a healthy indivdual with parents who “co-parented” ~Thanks! Coll


But the good thing is February 13, 2012 at 2:59 am

Hi Coll,

My best friend and her former partner have co-parented since they split up when their son was 2. It took a bit of work but they now have Christmas together and often holiday. The main thing – apart from time – was they went to counselling several times, worked out a schedule, had meetings without their son, went to watch him play sport and will be a bit flexible with each other.

He is now 15 and it a pleasure to be with them and him. Hope this helps.

Take care


Onely February 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

I sometimes wonder if my decision not to have kids was influenced by my fear that they’ll ask questions I can’t answer. Like, “Mommy, how to government bonds work?” Um, no idea. I don’t know how my own mom did it, in the days before Google.


Mahoganey February 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

See thats my fear everyday being that my daughter is only one, i worry that when she gets older to understand that me and her father is not together what might i have to look foward to and how would i go about answering her questions without feeling hurt and pain.


Johnathan February 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Seriously!!!! I havenโ€™t explained to them any details of our relationship other than we fought a lot and we were not happy together. To make matters worse, he has been deployed for almost a year and they have it built up that he is the most amazing father . . . sorry if I sound bitter about that, but he had two weeks before he left and he only spent less than 2 days with them, so him being amazing is a little hard to swallow. He did buy them an Ipad 2 and an Xbox Connect for Christmas so maybe he is . . . a side of sarcasm to go with the bitterness


tayler February 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I am expecting my first child any day now and I’m a little nervous about being a single mom. Her father is not (and never will be) involved. I worry that she’ll have questions when she is older about why he isn’t around and I don’t want to lie to her, but I also don’t want to sugar coat it. I don’t want her to think it’s her fault that we aren’t together but I don’t really know how to go about explaining this to her when the time comes.


Melissa February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I was watching an old episode of 2 and a half men last night with my son. On the show, Alan was at his ex-wife’s house with the ex and their son. All 3 were sitting together on one couch watching tv. The son looked from one to the other and said “this is so weird.” Thats how it would be for my kids. They would be uncomfortable if they were ever in the same room with both me and my ex at the same time. Its been so many years since he and I were in the same room at the same time, I think it would truly freak them out. Its really a sad reality, but necessary.


Amy February 16, 2012 at 10:28 am

Matt’s post was so poignant. Here I am, being single by choice and here is Matt who had no choice. While his wife is no longer in his life, how lucky was she to have someone care about her so much. That the very thought of being able to/not being able to hold her hand in her last momments still causes a lot of emotions. I want that someone in my life, which is why I agree with Ms. Single Mama – no settling.

Kids ask questions for different reasons than adults. They are really trying to put together a puzzle in their minds. Mentally rotating the information around in their minds to see how it fits with what they already know. Questions aren’t so bad, I try to answer as honestly as I can. My kids also want their mom and dad back together (thankfully he is remarried so that makes it easy) but I say we don’t love eachother like that anymore and that allows for some finality.

I remember my son making a wish as he blew on an eyelash and I could tell he was wishing for things between his father and mother to be the way they used to. Later, when his wish didn’t come true, he declaired blowing on eyelashes to not work. Humph, since when? I said well, you can’t wish for universal things like gravity to go away! Good luck everyone.


H2Mama February 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

My daughter never really asked until she was much older. I was always told that when they get older, they figure it out. He was never in the picture. I NEVER bad mouthed him because I decided that one day she would be able to decide for herself. My daughter was 14 when his true colors were screaming for all to see..she cried, I cried and then it was clear. I tell her now as much as I feel comfortable with. They know. It is heartbreaking BUT helps her understand that real men don’t disappear..


H2Mama February 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm

My daughter never really asked until she was much older. I was always told that when they get older, they figure it out. He was never in the picture. I NEVER bad mouthed him because I decided that one day she would be able to decide for herself. My daughter was 14 when his true colors were screaming for all to see..she cried, I cried and then it was clear. I tell her now as much as I feel comfortable with. They know. It is heartbreaking BUT helps her understand that real men don’t disappear.


Elisabeth February 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

My ex is very involved in our 3 girls lives’ but we’ve evolved into a comfortable silence over the years, communicating solely through email. He’s been gone since before the baby was born. She’s 5 now. Recently going through pictures we ran across an old formal shot of Daddy and Mommy. My baby looked at me and said “Did you used to like Daddy?” and followed that with “Did you ever kiss Daddy?” I smiled and told her “I once loved your Daddy.” She was completely surprised. Apparently our silence was speaking just as much to her and the fights the older girls can remember.


Susan Paterson March 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

With my children being 8 years into our divorce I can testify that they figure so much out themselves without divulging all the gory details. It’s gratifying to say the least. Be real but don’t set out to trash anyone. This will be a losing situation for you.


AnthonyFreedom12 March 9, 2012 at 8:29 am

A single mama should tell their child that his or her daddy have left them but mama is with them. So, No any question about daddy.


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