“Does Antonio have a dad?” the five-year old boy holding Antonio’s hand asked me. I glanced down at him, and then looked at my son. He eyed me as if he was waiting for an answer, too.
I imagined Antonio’s friend asking him on the return bus to school from the spring field trip to the apple orchard. Maybe he asked him during the hay ride, while we bounced over ruts and down the dusty lane that left a cloud in our wake.
Perhaps he knew better than the other children that the two women in the family picture taped to the kindergarten wall were not the same woman but two moms. Earlier, I had one child in his classroom attempt to convince me that I was the same person.
“It’s not me,” I said. “That other woman is a different person.”
But how do you argue with a five-year old who isn’t your own child and can’t conceive of anything but a mom and a dad in a household?
I think he won the argument.
I imagined Antonio shrugging his small shoulders in response to his friend’s question. Did he look away from his pal and stare at the dust hanging in the air or at the apples ready to be picked?
I hope not.
Maybe the boy took it upon himself and said to Antonio, “I’ll find out for you.”
While I was forming my answer, I thought about his classmate who sat next to me on the way home. His mom was dead, he said. After saying that I was sorry, I wondered about the children who called Antonio their friend. Maybe it was because of his very difference — being adopted and having two moms — that they thought that they too would be accepted.
The two kindergarteners expected an answer from me. This was a yes or no question.
Yet, how to answer? Though Antonio will most likely never meet his dad, does that mean that he doesn’t have a dad? Does that mean we will never celebrate Father’s Day?
Jody and I had prepared for this very moment — this question — and created a village of chosen aunts and uncles who would stand in for the missing people in Antonio’s and Crystel’s life. This village was formed before they even came home.
So I said what any mom would, “Of course, silly. Everyone HAS a Mom and a Dad. You HAVE to have a mom and dad to be born.”
I poked Antonio. “He feels real to me.”
Antonio smiled. That was good enough for him.
These chosen aunts and uncles have accepted their roles seriously. That was part of the deal — to have play dates with the children regularly, as well as show up for birthdays, dances, pinewood derbies, and holidays.
We’ve never asked them to fill the ‘dad’s’ role. Though when Antonio was much younger, I woke one night in a panic, and at the first opportunity I asked Scott and Marty to take Antonio into public bathrooms to show him what a urinal was and to tell him NOT to touch the urinal cake.
I have asked Antonio on occasion if he would like me to ask one of his uncles to accompany him on a Scout trip (and take my place) but he’s always declined. Darn.
Even after the babies came home, Jody and I continued to intentionally bring males into their life. Charlie and then his brother Sam were their fulltime nannies until each boy graduated from highschool.
I believe that all of the above people have brought so much love into Antonio and Crystel’s lives that they may really need to search for what’s missing when asked the question, Do you have a dad?