Making Do With a Fantasy Dad

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

When a fifth grade boy in a school in Texas was asked to write an essay about "My Very First Dad," his essay pulled at his teacher's heart strings.

"I remember him like God in my heart. I remember him in my heart like the clouds overhead and strawberry ice cream and bananas when I was a little kid. But the most I remember is his love, as big as the State of Texas when I was born."

I have inspirational writer Terry Hershey to thank for sharing this charming little story even though it came with this postscript. "The boy who wrote this story about the dad whose love for him was 'as big as Texas,' had never even met his dad. The boy had been abandoned by his father before he was born."

Folks who have worked with foster kids or kids in group homes have no difficulty in figuring out why a kid would "make up" a story like this. The yearning for an absent parent runs so deep in a child's heart that he will create an idealized person to fill the void in his life. Kids need to have that bond with a parent whose love for them is unconditional. If that parent does not exist, they create one; they dream him or her into existence.

Living with kids at the Village, I have become aware of something just as poignant.

As difficult as it is for a child to create a make-believe parent like the fifth grade boy did in the story, it is even more touching to see a kid re-invent their real flesh and blood parents. Flawed, imperfect, even abusive parents are transformed in a child's mind to bethe idealized mom and dad they hoped to have in their lives.

Kids do not easily give up on their parents. They would rather blame themselves for screwing up. They want so badly for their parents to be responsible and loving and kind, they would rather resort to make-believe than to believe ill of their mom or dad.

Maybe it's a good thing. We all need to hang on to our hopes. And, in many cases their parents are sorry for what they have done or failed to do. Who is to say that even the worst parent can't turn their lives around? And I, for one, wouldn't dream of judging any kid's parents or more importantly dashing the hopes and dreams of a child.