by Ruth Egan
When my daughter’s father and I separated and divorced, he became an absent father. It hurt my daughter horribly. She was 4 years old at the time.
She couldn’t understand why she never saw her Daddy anymore. I didn’t want to tell her what I really *felt* then — that he was no good and selfish. He was going to be her father forever, no matter what he was doing at the time. But how do you explain divorce to a 4-year-old?
Back then, my daughter really liked the Care Bears, especially the one with a rainbow on its tummy. I went to a toy store to find one for her, but they were all gone. I got the Good Luck Bear, with a four-leaf clover on its belly, hoping she would like it almost as much.
When I presented it to my daughter, I told her that it was from her father AND me; that it was to remind her that Mommy loved her and Daddy loved her, even if Mommy and Daddy didn’t love each other anymore.
Every night, when I tucked her into bed, I handed her the Care Bear and told her, “Remember, Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you.”
One day, about six months after I bought the Care Bear, my daughter ran into the house, grabbed my hand, and told me I just HAD to come meet the new friend she had made. At the swing set, I saw a young woman gently pushing a child on a swing. As I got closer, I saw that the child had Down’s Syndrome.
My daughter introduced me to the woman by saying, “This is my Mommy.” I sat down on a swing and talked with her. Her son was about six months old, and they were living on welfare. Her husband couldn’t take the fact that he had fathered a child who was “less than perfect” and had abandoned them both.
The child was happy and well cared for. He smiled and giggled and his clothes, although worn and probably bought second-hand, were clean.
My daughter said, “He doesn’t have many toys, Mommy. Can I give him a toy?” If you really want to, I told her. She ran home, and returned in a minute carrying her Care Bear.
I gasped, knowing how much the Care Bear meant to her. “Is this OK to give to him, Mommy?” she asked me. It’s up to you, I replied. My daughter placed the boy’s arms around the Care Bear and told him, “This is to remind you that Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you.”
The Care Bear had finished its job at our house, and my daughter, in her wisdom, knew it was time to pass it on.