“I want a different Daddy”. This came out of your mouth last night as I was putting you to bed.
When I asked you why, you told me that I don’t let you do whatever you want, but that Mummy does, that other Daddies are nicer to their little children and so you want a different Daddy.
You went on to say that I was really mean and other Daddies aren’t mean to their little children either, so that’s another reason why you want a different Daddy.
I’m sorry that I was losing patience with you at bedtime when you refused point blank to come down from your bunk bed where you were playing, somewhat manically, with Lizzie and Billy (not other children, but soft toys) to get undressed and ready for bed. You told me that Mummy lets you play with Lizzie and Billy whenever you want, even if it is bedtime.
You said it in such a heartfelt way, as if it was the most important thing in the world to you at the time that I was no longer your Daddy and we find you a different one, who isn’t mean.
“Like who?” I asked. “Shall we think of who could be your Daddy instead of me?”
You stopped crying and nodded in the affirmative.
“How about Alma’s Daddy? He seems nice,” I suggested. You thought for a while. “OK,” you said.
I let you think and finally you said, “Would he have to come and live here with me and Mummy? But then Alma wouldn’t have a Daddy and that wouldn’t be fair to her.”
“So, how about Father Christmas?” I further suggested.
Again, you thought for a while, this time smiling a little at the thought of the nice, rotund, cheery person who laughed a lot. “But then would I only get to see him at Christmas?”, you pondered aloud.
“No; you would get to see him every day apart from Christmas, when he would be busy out delivering all the presents to the other children in the world.”
“Oh. So that’s not really any good because I like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and I would want my Daddy there for those times.”
“Then what about Marnie and Luke and Baby Olive’s Daddy? He plays with them a lot doesn’t he?”
“If he was my Daddy instead of you, would Marnie and Luke and Baby Olive come here to live with me and Mummy? That would be good because then I would get to play with them every day. That sounds good.” You did not speak for some time then; I could see the coming together of your eyebrows creating the crease at the top of your nose, meaning you were thinking hard.
“And if you weren’t my Daddy would you still come and play with me and give me a bath and read me a story and dry my hair while I’m jumping up and down on the bed?””
“Yes, if you wanted me to. Even if I wasn’t your Daddy I would still love you and want to see you every day.”
The creasing became deeper as I let you think and said nothing, though truthfully, this was a painful conversation for me. By this point, it was as much as I could do not to well up; you were giving this a lot of thought.
“If you weren’t my Daddy, and I had a different Daddy, would my new Daddy pick me up from school on the days that Margot doesn’t come to school? And would my new Daddy take me swimming in the warm pool and catch me, I wonder. And do you think my new Daddy would stop at one story at bedtime and not read three or four stories?”
More pause for serious thought.
“I wouldn’t really see you every day, would I, Daddy? But then I would really miss you and I wouldn’t be able to give you a kiss and a cuddle goodnight every day, would I? And you wouldn’t be able to pick me up out of the bath in my towel and carry me into my bedroom.”
“I’ve changed my mind, all right? Can you put my pyjamas on now, please?”
I want you to know that I will always be your daddy my darling girl. Even if Father Christmas seems a better option some days.