The annual fathers and sons’ outing in our ward, commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, was two weeks away, and I wondered if my son would be left out again because he had no father to take him. Every year at this time my heart would ache for the little boy I saw agonizing over who, if anyone, would invite him to go.
When our home teachers called and made an appointment to visit us just three days before the outing, I hoped that one of them would ask Robert to go with him and his sons. But they came and left without a word about the outing.
Robert had been to the outing twice before. Other fathers had invited him to go. They will probably never know just how much it meant for a little boy to feel a part of things and not feel different from other boys his age just because he had no father.
When Robert was four, his father died, and shortly afterward he and I moved into a new ward. It is a fine ward, with the members caring, reaching out, and accepting one another and practicing so many Christlike qualities!
We were made welcome and soon fit into the ward and community.
Because I had to work, it was hard for me to do all the things with Robert that I would like to have done. I tried to make the time I spent with my son “quality time,” but I knew he missed his father and felt left out because other boys had fathers to do things with and he didn’t.
About two years after his father’s death, Robert started urging me to find him a dad. It was difficult for him to understand that I couldn’t just go out and ask someone to marry me. Of course, I explained that a husband would have to be someone who was active in the Church and who would be a good father. He seemed to understand all of that—but it still didn’t stop him from asking me to get married again. He wanted a father, and he wanted him now!
The day before the fathers and sons’ outing, Robert told me that one of his friends had asked him if he were going to the outing; Robert had replied that he hadn’t been invited. His friend, Chuck, said he would ask his dad if Robert could go with them. When my son wasn’t asked to go with Chuck and his father, he remained silent, but I could read between the lines. I was hurting with him.
That evening he came to me dejected. “Mom, do you know that tomorrow is the fathers and sons’ outing?”
“Yes, sweetheart,” I replied. “I know.”
“Well, no one has asked me yet, and I want to go.”
My heart was aching. “I know you do, Robert, but there’s nothing I can do. Maybe someone will still ask you.”
He started to cry, just a little. “Yes, you could do something! You could get married so I could have a dad to take me!”
I swallowed hard as tears welled up in my eyes. My arms encircled him. He really wasn’t such a little boy anymore when he stood next to me, even though he was only nine years old. I knew he was fighting to hold back the frustrations and the tears.
“I can’t just go out and ask anyone to marry me,” I said.
“Yes, you could! You could find out if he goes to church and would get married in the temple, and ask him!”
“Robert …” But he ran off before I could finish.
A year earlier, not being asked to go on the outing had not been so difficult for Robert to cope with. It was scheduled on the weekend that he was to be baptized. Friday night, we had bought some fried chicken and gone on a picnic, then to the zoo. The next evening he was baptized, and we had discussed how he might not have been able to come back in time for the baptism had he been invited to go on the outing. All of the special things happening that weekend had overshadowed any disappointment he would otherwise have experienced.
But this year was different. The disappointment he felt was almost too much for even me to bear. As I tucked Robert into bed that night, I kissed him and told him tenderly that I love him. Later, as I said my own prayers, I prayed fervently that someone would remember my precious son.
The next morning I told Robert that if he didn’t get invited to the outing, we would throw the sleeping bags in the station wagon, go somewhere close, sleep overnight, and fish the next day. I told him we would pack a picnic lunch so we wouldn’t have to cook. The big smile that lit up his face as he hugged and kissed me let me know that I had found something which might partly make up for his disappointment—if it came to that.
All that morning and early afternoon Robert played with the neighbor boy. I sensed that he was hoping Chuck’s father, as an afterthought, would still invite him to go with them. When he came home, he said Chuck had to start getting ready for the outing.
Robert sat outside watching the activities and preparations next door, a look of longing on his face. As I watched him through the window, I wondered what lesson we were being taught by this particular experience. After the neighbors had left for the outing, Robert and I went for a walk. We looked at the birds, the clouds, the wonders and beauty of nature. Later that afternoon, he fell asleep on the couch. He was exhausted from anticipation and disappointment.
My son did get to go on the outing. Early in the afternoon, while he was watching the neighbors get ready, I called one of the fathers in the ward; I could no longer stand to watch Robert suffer. I told this fine, humble, caring man of the conversations Robert and I had had; told him of the disappointment and rejection my son was feeling; told him of how Robert was sitting and watching the neighbors load their camper as they prepared to go. This dear brother confided that he wasn’t sure he would even be taking his own son because some things had come up unexpectedly. But he assured me that if he did go, he would invite my son, too. At 5:30 P.M., he called and invited Robert to go with him and his son. I will never tell Robert that it was at my request; he was so overjoyed that someone cared enough to take him.
After he had gone, I knelt and thanked Heavenly Father.
I hope that my story will help others realize some of the heartache and frustrations that one-parent families experience—not only the parents, but also the children, who often feel left out.