The Koan Which Stumped Me

“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  That’s one koan which has stuck to me since college.  A koan is defined as a paradox which Buddhist monks are trained to meditate upon, in order to train them to abandon all reason as they gain enlightenment.

But that’s not even half as cerebrally-challenging as what my daughter just recently said to me.   From out of the blue, she told me this- with a tear or two trickling down her cheeks- “I want a family…

I was dumbfounded.  For the life of me, I didn’t know what to say to her.  Although my heart doesn’t have vocal chords, it was wailing and screaming from the pain it felt.  My insides were all knotty, as I searched the recesses of my brain for an answer.

“Even if your papa doesn’t live with us, we’re still a family”, was the best I can come up with.  I further explained through choked tears, “There are all kinds of families.  Some are made up of mom, dad and the kids, while some are just mom and the kid.  What’s important is everyone in the family- big or small- loves each other.”

I was hoping she bought it.  She was just quiet as I hugged her with all my supermommy strength.

The following day, I brought home a book from the library: Todd Parr’s The Family Book.


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It’s a colorful picture book which shows the different types of families, and conveys the message that each family is unique and special in its own way.

My dear friends, how would you handle it if you were put on the spot like that?  Help me… please hold my hand as I tread along this path to enlightenment…

About Pepper

I am a single working mom, trying to raise my kid the best way I know how. Join me as I navigate my way through the jungle that is Single Mom-hood, armed with rose-colored glasses and strength of spirit. As pepper adds spice to food, so does my daughter add spice to my life. She makes life no less than…PEPPERRIFIC!

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  1. I love Todd Parr’s books – we have 2 of them. I think your response was perfect.

  2. Oh this just makes my heart ache! I think you were right on with your response. Families are all different and that’s what makes them special!

  3. It’s a book for everyone I woudl add here, especially for families, no matter the differences between them!

  4. The Joyful Crafter says

    If I were the one placed on the spot, I wouldn’t know what to say.. But I really think your response was perfect! All families are different & the important thing is you love each other.

    I think the earlier the child knows the truth from you, the easier it is for her to deal with it & the things around her as she grows up. I am sure that even if the dad is not present, you’ll be one perfect mom cos you seem to be such a loving one. ☺

    • Thanks very much :). I’m not the perfect mom, but I always try my hardest to be the best one for my girl. Yes, it’s important not to hide the truth from the kids.

  5. Oh my! My heart sank as I read the words of your sweet little girl. It saddens me a bit because I think of the day my son says similar words… I’m not sure how I will respond. I’ve envisioned my response sounding something like the one you came up with, though. Since I’m a huge fan of being proactive, I think I may just pick up that book along with others and begin reading them to Aiden.



  6. You handled yourself well. We all have those questions that our kids will ask without us being ready to answer, and we have read that book also.

  7. I totally get what happened, the same thing happened to me, well same same but different. I thought I had the whole single parent thing worked out. My daughter has never known her dad and I to live together. Her dad and I get on well and so I thought I’d somehow bypassed some of the traumas that separated parents experience. But then one day she asked me if I was daddy’s wife. I responded by saying that his new partner would be his wife, that we were just friends.

    This was in the car while i was driving. Se burst into tears. “but you’re daddy’s wife.”

    Oh dear. I was dumbfounded. I felt like I had been ambushed by some higher power which was telling me – ‘no one gets out of single parenting pain free’.

    All I could do was calm my daughter and explain that both of us loved her to bits. I also spoke to her dad about it and I guess warned him that she might not be friendly to his other half for a while but that we needed to rally to support our daughter.

    There’s a bit more to the story but eventually she’s come around, and it has become a small blip in the songline of her life rather than a scratch or tear.

    I think that love and respect for all the people in my daughter’s life helps. It’s not a new concept but i steadfastly use that maxim that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s somehow working.

    • Oh, that’s heart-wrenching! At least she’s come around. I’m sure she’s grown stronger and wiser too. Yup, I will constantly keep that in mind, that it takes a village to raise a child. We can never really go at it alone… thanks :)

  8. WOW!! I can’t even begin to express what I am feeling right now. Although it was a tough situation.. I personally think you did AWESOME!!! Especially coming home with “The Family Book” the next day… perfect touch. Blessings.

  9. Such a moving post. Good job in handling the situation mommy. I honesty don’t know how I would have handled it. Probably not as gracefully as you did…

  10. Wow…you handled your daughter’s comment SO WELL. I love that you also brought a book home for the two of you to share and read together. We do that, follow up with a book (or if Grandma is coming to visit soon, she always brings books and she will bring an appropriate book). Way to go!

  11. I think you handled it amazingly well. Better than I probably could have. My heart just aches for her. It’s hard for kids to understand these adult situations.

  12. We are a non-traditional family and have faced similar questions. We define family by love and loyalty. Those who are there for you day in day out and would do anything for you are your family; the rest is not.

  13. I think you handled it well enough. It’s good you’re child trusts you enough and opens up in this manner. Better to have it come straight from you or have it explained badly by her friends. The book’s a great touch too. It will better explain things to her. =)

  14. Don’t worry too much about it. Your daughter probably got the stereotype from TV or movies. But she’ll soon realize that she already has a family. It’s easier for kids nowadays to realize that there are many kinds of families due to how society has changed and how the media enable people to see how other people live.

  15. You will get through this. Once she realizes that family what hugs her at night when she has a bad dream and knows what her favorite breakfast is on Saturday mornings.

    She will be at peace, well until she hits the preteen years.


  16. I think your response was perfect! Although she was sad when she asked, I believe the question probably traumatized you way more than it upset her.

  17. Ouch. That hurt. :( I think your response was perfect AND true. Family doesn’t always have to mean mommy and daddy. You could all those things and lack love. And love is the glue that holds any family together. :)

  18. Daniel Tyler says

    I believe you handled it perfectly!
    At the end of the day what matters is if the child/children know that everyone involved loves them.
    I know that during these times kids do start to wonder. They just need to be assured of the fact that they are loved.
    You did great.

  19. I think you handled that very well. Honestly, I don’t really know what else to say other than what you said. Hang in there!

  20. Aw, I can’t imagine how hard that is to hear… I grew up without my dad and my mom used to tell me there were all types of families too. That is really all you can do. Now that I’m grown, I understand why my dad wasn’t around, and I don’t feel gypped or anything. I know it would not have been good if he had stayed, since they didn’t get along. One day, your daughter will understand too. <3

  21. It’s a book for everyone I would recommend it, especially for families, It can help alot!!

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