Thursday, August 05, 2010

The elusive male figure

Someone asked me recently if G has lots of "male figures" in her life, e.g., uncles and grandfathers and so forth who have taken the place of her dad. I told him the truth, which is that G doesn't really have any male figures in her life at all -- many of her male relatives are out of state or in other countries, and we rarely see the ones who live nearby. P's middle brother does see her about once a month and sometimes takes her shopping or out for frozen yogurt, but as far as regular interaction with men goes, that's it.

However, the other side of the equation is that G doesn't seem to feel the absence of "male figures" in her life, or to have any interest in seeking them out. I've heard that girls whose fathers aren't around will often cling to any man who crosses their path, sometimes inappropriately, but G regards my male friends with suspicion and appears horrified when her friend C's big, bluff, friendly dad tries to tease and joke around with her. I know she remembers P, mostly from reading her school assignments, but I can't see any sign that she misses his presence from day to day*. After four years**, "normal" to her is the two of us together; she likes our life the way it is (that much, she's told me directly), and while she'd probably rather not have to explain her situation every time she meets someone new -- "Yes, I live with just my mom. No, my parents aren't divorced; my dad died." -- I don't think she sees it as lacking anything.

All that said, the fact that people even ask the question makes me wonder if I'm missing something, and G is secretly starving for some sort of male influence. But all I know is that from what I see -- and I spend enough time with her to see a lot -- she is a supremely, almost eerily well-adjusted kid. If you met her in real life, you would never know she'd suffered a loss unless she told you: she has plenty of friends and does well in school and is absolutely brimming with self-esteem that borders on cockiness. She's not the bubbly, outgoing type and tends to be reserved around people she doesn't know well (but once she does know you well and feels comfortable, prepare to have your ear talked off), but she's been that way since long before P died. I think it's just her nature, as it is mine.

I guess if she grows up and starts attaching herself to skeevy boyfriends out of desperation for male approval, I'll know I was wrong and should have hooked her up with a Big Brother. I can't really see her going down that path, though. Even now, she's not very motivated by anyone's approval, be they male or female, adult or kid. She is who she is and she likes what she likes, and she doesn't seem to care much what anyone thinks about it. How she's managed to reach that point in 11 years when it took me almost 30 is a mystery, but one I'm grateful for.

*For me, not a day goes by when I don't think of P (usually more than once), but 95 percent of the time, my "normal" is also just me and G together, and nothing feels awry. I'll go on like that for months, and then I'll suddenly find myself missing P very keenly for a day or two -- not weeping and wailing and falling apart, but wanting to look at photos and read old journal entries to remind myself of what life was like when he was here. Then it passes and I'm back to normal again. It's very strange.

**As she recently pointed out when we were discussing something else, four years is a third of her life. If you look at it that way, four years for her is the equivalent of 13 years for me. That's a long time.


Widow in the Middle said...

My two sons have had no male models or substitutes in their life and it has angered and upset me that my brothers and brother-in-law have not stepped up to the plate. But the lack of a guy figure around doesn't seem to bother my boys. I'm sure people around them would not know they are missing a father unless it was specifically brought up or they know our story. It is some consolation for me to see that my sons are extremely kind to others and reach out to kids in need. And I am glad that they have been so involved in sports because their coaches have provided some male influence. But in the end, they are turning out to be decent, strong, caring men and that is what matters.

Vanessa said...

I've been thinking about this quite a bit for the last few days, and while I think G is missing out on a lot by not having her dad here, what she's missing out on are the things that he shared with her because they were his interests -- things like drawing and music and comic books and superheroes. Those are the things I wish she could have, not generic "dad" or "guy" stuff, whatever that is. I remind her often that her dad is the one who taught her to draw (and whose genes supplied her innate talent for it), and I point out songs that he liked when they come on the radio, but I can't share them with her the way he could have. But then, neither can anyone else, male or not.

Anonymous said...

Vanessa, you are an amazing mother, you write so beautifully, i am sure that G is well adjusted because she has your influence in her life, maybe as she gets older she will be more interested in P's music etc....but from the conversations you have with her, she seems a very well together young lady,
for me, it is hard to have a relation with my children as you have with G just because there are 6 of them, and now 2 are married with their own children, i sometimes feel i would like to give them such one to one attention but its impossible .... you are a fab woman :-) caroline xxx are you on fb at all? xxxxx