Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to explain . . .

My daughter's birthfather is behind bars. He was sentenced to three and a half years in state prison when A was just a few months old. The charge? Second-Degree Sexual Assault of a Child (in other words, sex with a minor). It's unsavory any way you look at it, but I do think it's only fair to differentiate between the 21-year-old dumbass who has sex with an older teenager and the pedophile who molests a small child. It is my understanding that he is the former.

He was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009 so, out of curiosity, I pulled him up on the circuit court website last week. There was a notation in the records that his parole was revoked. I was a little confused about some of the details of the case so I asked my friend Kim to take a look. She spent many years working for the police department as a dispatcher (I wish she still did because I miss hearing all of the morons-who-call-911 stories, such as the people who ring 911 on the 4th of July to ask where fireworks are being held) and knows about these things. Kim looked him up on the sex offender registry and said that he has been sentenced to another four and a half years in a correctional facility. It was unclear what he'd done to have his parole revoked.

I didn't look at the sex offender registry until a few days after Kim told me she found him there. I pulled him up and was stunned to see a photograph. This was the first time I had ever seen his likeness. And here's what struck me: no resemblance at all. I opened a photo of my daughter and compared them side by side. I tried to picture this man without glasses. I tried to picture him smiling. I imagined him at a heavier weight (the website indicated that he is 6'1" and weighs just 155 pounds). I squinted at him every which way. Same eyebrows, same ears, something? Nothing.

Of course, genetics are a funny thing. Shared DNA does not guarantee physical similarities. My siblings and I are not exactly carbon copies. At the end of the day, though, I'd have to say that my daughter more closely resembles the man who cut the umbilical cord when she was born, the guy with whom she swaps fart jokes and plays PS3 games. The one she summons when a spider invades her bedroom.

I guess I'm not sure what I was expecting when I saw the photo. I already knew that he is African-American, so that part didn't come as a shock. He denied paternity all along (his parental rights were terminated involuntarily after he failed to show up for the TPR hearing), so I suppose what I'm dreading is the day when my daughter goes looking for him. How do I say, "oh baby girl, he does not want to see you"? A's birthmother testified that the guy in the photo is the one who got her pregnant. The man who seemed to her like a good egg and later . . . wasn't. She was living with him at the time and there was no one else. She never lied to us and never had any reason to.

At the moment, my daughter has no idea that it takes two people to make a baby. I guess it is wishful thinking to hope she doesn't find out until her wedding day. But I know that one day she will, inevitably, ask. She will want to know more. I will tell her that her birthmother is beautiful. That she is smart and big-hearted. I will recount all that I remember about the woman who gave me the gift of a lifetime. When it comes to her birthfather . . . well, I guess I just don't know. (For those just tuning in, we already had "the big talk" wherein we explained that she grew in another lady's tummy. We just didn't tell her how she got there.)

I am not the type who wants to shield my child from all adversity. On the contrary, I want her to attempt to play a sport and face at least one colossal loss. I want her to audition for a plum role in a play and lose it to a friend. I don't want to prevent her from knowing any pain in her life.

I just don't want this particular train ever to pull into the station, all the while knowing that, even in full Mama Bear mode, I'll never be able to stop it.

2 comments:

Susie said...

Great post--I have the same concerns, for the most part. I suppose it comes as part of the adoption package. You'll handle it just fine. Maybe start mentioning him now?? Maybe not.

Mary said...

Boy, not even sure how to put this. But here goes.... I personally think that if/when A finds out her birthfather is/was in jail it may not hit her like you might think. You are afterall her parents, you have raised her, taken care of her when she was sick, ran her everywhere, disciplined her (they do realize someday it's necessary in child rearing) and most of all loved her the whole way through. She might feel sad about it... but she knows who her parents are and that will win out in her feelings I believe. I also have to add that you are so right, there is a difference between a pedophile who molests a small child and a jerk who has underage sex. I've seen many birthfathers and sometimes I wasn't even sure they deserved their fate, there is a lot involved in each case and I certainly don't know the case with A's birthfather. Well, not sure I made any sense at all but hey, I tried!!