"We just wanted to see what he looked like."
That's what my son said to me on Sunday.
In reference to his biological father.
I sort of knew it was coming. My children were visiting my parents and my mom made reference to his questions when we spoke on the phone.
I knew the questions were coming. I knew he was curious. Ever since that horrible, terrible day a few months ago in Tae Kwon Do class, I knew this was going to happen.
When a student receives their black belt in Tae Kwon Do they are no longer referred to in class by their first name. Boy Child is no longer "Boy Child". He's Mr. Hislastname. Girl Child is Ms. Herlastname. All the other students refer to them that way. All the teachers do too. It's an honor. It's a right that you earn with your hard work and dedication.
And my son, my little son, paled the first time he was called Mr. Hislastname. He then asked his teacher, right there in class and in front of everyone, to please just call him Boy Child.
She made a huge deal of it, bless her heart. She couldn't understand WHY he didn't want the distinction. Why he wasn't proud of what he had done. Why he was the only one. Why he had to be different.
But I knew.
In my heart I knew. Sitting there in that hard, plastic chair watching my kid get his scrawny little hiney beat by a 13 year old on steroids, I knew.
In the car that night he brought it up.
"It's just that I like being called Boy Child," he explained. I could see him blinking back tears in my rear-view mirror.
"That's fine," I assured him.
"Besides," he said after a few minutes. "My biological father doesn't even want anything to do with me. I don't want to use his name with my belt."
I told him again it was fine. And later, after bravely smiling all evening and then pulling the knife out of my heart, I cried. Cried so hard that this sweet, sunny, funny little boy didn't get to enjoy the rewards of his hard work in the way that he deserved.
"You could have asked me if you wanted to see what he looked like," I said. My voice was slow and steady and calm. My mind was racing frantically, trying to remember if I actually even HAD a picture of this man anymore.
He shrugged. "It doesn't matter, mom. We don't want to see him. We were just curious."
I swallowed, hard. Kept my voice bright and sunny as I said, "If you ever do want to see him, you know you can tell me right?"
"Of course," they both said together and then the boy said, "you've always told us that, mom."
"I know," God do I know. "I just wanted to remind you."
I can't say, I won't say, "I don't want you to see him."
I won't say, "He doesn't deserve to see you." And I won't say, "I don't think he wants to see you."
All of those are true. The very thought of my ex-husband having anything to do with these bright, beautiful, kind, lovely people feels like a stabby pain into my skull. I cannot imagine his poison infecting them. I don't ever want to imagine that.
But I picked him. For God knows what reason.
And there it is.
He doesn't deserve to see them. It's been ten years. More than ten years. He hasn't called. He hasn't written. True, I moved, but the first time I moved I dutifully called and gave him my new address and phone number. He never called and he never wrote. He never sent a birthday card or a Christmas card. I'm all over the internet and my phone number and address are a matter of public record. My parents have lived in the same house and had the same phone number for fifteen years. I can be found.
He's never seen one Tae Kwon Do or soccer match. Not one chorus concert. Never taken them to church, given them a bath, fed them a meal. Never prayed over them or cried over them or bought them new school clothes. He's never laughed with them or ran around the house shrieking "blah!" just for fun.
He's never made them cupcakes. He's never nursed their wounds. He's never explained death or God or the meaning of life. He never laughed when they said douchebag. And that's really freaking hilarious.
He's missed everything. All these good, good things.
And he doesn't deserve them. Not for one second.
He's too stupid to realize he's hurting himself. That they are amazing and hilarious and fantastic. I truly believe he thinks he's hurting me or punishing me by staying away (and why he would believe that I have absolutely no idea) but I know how wrong, how very, very wrong, he is about that.
I never want these small people to hurt. God, I would give anything in this world for them to never feel pain. But I know they are curious now. I know they have to wonder about him, this man who was never part of their life but makes up small parts of who they are. They talk about genealogy and discovering themselves. I see so much of my own questioning and searching and wanting in them.
Because what we have is so good, I never want it to go bad. I never want them to feel the pain of my poor choices.