Dedicated to my father who was the first man I ever loved. He taught me the importance of having a dad by his existence and interest in my life. A wonderful example of what a father’s love looks and feels like. Everything I have become up to this point was indirectly inspired by his belief in me. -mjo
From 2003 to 2006 I was working as a school consultant for a Montessori school. It was the only job I ever had that left me to greet each day having no idea what would transpire and what my role would be in supporting their community. Montessori schools work on a community theory, and when a child presents with a problem, the whole community (classroom) gets involved to help resolve the problem and restore the child's integrity. If a problem is going on at home, the child brings it with them to school. Kids are direct and their family is their source of life.
Matthew was about 6 when I met him. He was pensive, anxious, and had eyes that made you want to look away. He was too sad and too revealing of what was going on at home. The first day he visited with me we took a walk in the garden. He explained to me about rules of "garden behavior" from the school code (this was done after I asked him why more of the butterflies weren't caught by the children). The garden was full of butterflies and his story affected me so much so that every time I see a butterfly now I think of Matthew.
Matthew drew me pictures as we began talking more and more. His pictures consisted of butterflies, superheroes, and his family. His dad was always drawn to the side of the picture and much larger than anyone else in the family. As we spent more and more time together, Matthew began trusting me more with his anxiety and pain. His dad had left when Matthew turned 5-1/2. The cause was never known, but his mom had told Matthew that his dad was "lost" and needed time to find himself. A five year old would understand that literally and thought his dad was really lost. Matthew had set out to help his dad find his way. He drew pictures, begged his mother to call his dad, and prayed.
One day Matthew was particularly withdrawn and I asked him to write a note to his dad. I told him I would talk to his mom and help him send it. Matthew became so full of hope he cleared the table and began writing. The note was a painful laborious process because Matthew was a perfectionist and this note demanded perfection.
This was the note:
Dear Daddy, I miss you. The butterflies left our house, but they follow me to school. Mommy cries. I think she is sad. I know we will find you. I am starting to forget how you look. Don't worry, daddy. I am learning to tell time. Please come home. Love Matthew, your son.
My eyes were wet when I read the note, but Matthew, for the first time looked hopeful. Matthew's mom and I talked that day. I explained to her that Matthew's anxiety may be stemming from him not knowing or understanding what had happened. I went on to tell her that even if the marriage is over, there could be a place for Matthew's dad in Matthew's life. Mom then revealed that Matthew's dad had tried to be involved with Matthew but she had been concerned that she would lose Matthew if dad was in his life.