I hate to use the term “acting out,” so I’ll say that my 3-year-old daughter is expressing a brand-new feeling that she doesn’t know how to articulate: heartbreak. And maybe even desperation. It’s understandable. She wants a mother.
This is just the latest development in what’s been a long, and often hard, story for our family. Nine days after Cydney was born, her mom—my fiancee—was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After nine months of putting up a fight, Timile passed away Dec. 9, 2011, at 25 years of age, just one day after our five-year anniversary.
It was a natural time to embark upon a grief process and help my daughter do the same. Instead I had to endure months of custody hearings in the states of New York and Virginia, forced to prove that I was Cydney’s father because Timile’s parents fought for her custody.
But since April 3, 2012, my daughter has been back with me, and honestly, it’s been nothing less than wonderful.
Except when I have to see her like this.
She’s obsessed with finding a mom.
Last year Cydney became very close to a female friend of mine. Because life happens and people grow apart, my friend and I met up one last time for what all the adults in the room understood was the “exit interview.” But as this woman was getting ready to leave our home, it became clear that Cydney thought she was going with her. She cried and cried in a way I hadn’t heard before. It was crushing for all parties. After she finally left, my friend sent me a text message saying, “That was heartbreaking.” It was.
That was a year ago, but Cydney still remembers this person. She calls her “my friend I don’t see anymore.”
Recently it seems as if Cyd is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. She talks about her mom—whom she calls by her first name—a lot more. Last Saturday night she looked at an old Valentine’s Day balloon that was in the living room and said, “We sent a balloon to the sky so Timile could catch it in heaven.” Here it is, mid-July, and she’s remembering Feb. 14, synthesizing information and drawing her own conclusion with literally no discussion about it in five months.
She’s a miniature matchmaker, often telling me matter-of-factly about who wants me to be her “boyfriend.”
Planning a trip to the beach this summer, I mused to her, “I guess I have to find someone to teach you to swim.” She responded, “I can swim. Timile taught me how to swim.” I said to her, “No, Timile didn’t teach you how to swim.” She paused and declared that my friend—a woman she calls “Neighbor”—was her mother.
When corrected, Cydney insisted, “She’s going to be my mom.”
After a short pause, her next statement was, “I don’t have a mom.”
She didn’t pout at all or show any indications of sadness, but I felt for my little girl.
Later that afternoon, Cydney came running into the den where I was watching TV with her toy smartphone, letting me know that “Neighbor” was on it and she needed to speak to me. I was informed that I was buying the three of us Cokes. Right after, Cydney wanted the phone back so they could finish their discussion.
I told my friend—my daughter’s new fantasy mom—that Cydney needs her right about now, and she has graciously made sure to reach out to her. Cydney gets so excited when she sees the phone ringing and knows who it is. She’ll do things while on the phone and ask, “Did you see that?” During these conversations, she couldn’t be happier.
Maybe she sees something in this person that I don’t, and her possible role in both of our lives. I’m an adult, and jaded. However, she isn’t. I won’t read too much into it, but I am paying attention.
One last thing … last night while playing, Cydney uttered, seemingly out of nowhere, “Timile, my mom, died because she was sick, and I want a mom.”
I found myself promising, “I’ll find you a stepmom.” She didn’t hear a word I said and went right back to her toys.
Chad Milner is a project manager in Long Island, N.Y., who writes a blog about his (mis)adventures with his daughter, Cydney, at singledadventures.com, where the original version of this piece appeared. A Morehouse College graduate who wears many hats, he has contributed to various websites and documentaries on parenting, dating, relationships and music since deciding that he wanted to “try this writing thing out.”
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Chad Milner is a New York-based writer who founded the blog SingleDadventures, where he pens his (mis)adventures with his daughter, Cydney. He regularly contributes to various websites, giving insight on parenting, dating, relationships and music from the perspective of a young, single black father. Follow him on Twitter.