The Saddest Two Words I’ve Heard in a Long Time

My upstairs neighbor is your typical independent, mid-30’s, never-married/never-dates, professional woman; the stereotypical Ms. No-Thanks-I’ve-Got-It-Handled! A couple years ago she mentioned to me that she would so pregnant and was quite open about the fact that it was a sperm bank baby. When asked, her every reason given centered on her own self-aggrandizement and self-realization; more a child for her home than any desire to provide a home for a child. If I wasn’t already put off by her cool aloofness, I was definitely put off by her joining the ranks of intentional single moms, with all the attitudes and presuppositions that go with the movement.

A couple years ago darling Megan was welcomed into the world, or more accurately, welcomed into her mother’s life-fulfillment experiment. Other than a maternal grandfather, little Megan has known nothing of a father figure and has, of course, largely grown up at some daycare center. Every couple weeks or so I see the two of them and I make efforts to interact with the cute little girl who could grace the cover of any baby magazine.

But two words I heard earlier tonight will forever change my view of the situation upstairs from me.

Earlier this evening I was working on my computer when through the open windows I heard what sounded like the happiest of exclamations from little Megan upstairs:

Daddy! Daddy!” as if hers was home from work or something. She repeated again after a few moments.

While the sound of a toddler giddily shouting that name would normally provoke a smile, in her case my heart just sank. She has no Daddy and never will. The more I attempted to imagine who or what she could have imagined as her Daddy, the more I hurt for her tiny heart. She has no Daddy and so any such figure is a sad figment of her now fertile imagination. Was it a man on TV who she wanted to be her Daddy? Was it, perhaps, a doll? Or, saddest of all, had the common “imaginary friend” of childhood given way to an imaginary adult friend, now projected as a father figure? I could conjure no positive possibilities, as her words kept echoing in my head. For the rest of the evening the memory of a most joyous outburst “Daddy! Daddy!” just cast a dark pall over my evening. Her excited yet tragic words of imagination still ring with me hours later.

It was the saddest words I’ve heard in a long time, and I’ve had some sad conversations these days.

On the intentional single mom thing and how it pisses me off: Judgmental of me? Of course, and how could I not? Look, my generation grew up in the wake of the divorce culture that emerged from 70’s and 80’s. Mine is the generation that learned to put “latchkey” before “kid” and “deadbeat” before “dad.” Mine is the generation that heard endlessly about the heroism and hardship of impoverished, abandoned, single moms (“…oh, and especially for single moms,” we’d so often hear). So it’s quite a shock for me to witness the shift in culture from single moms as a cause for charity to intentional single moms as celebrity or a symbol of cultural advancement. We’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” (c.1960) to “Fathers: For Babies and Post-Marriage Income Only” (c.1970-2000) to “Fathers: Never Needed ‘Em to Begin With” in just 40 years. Yeah, it pisses me off.

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