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‘The boys lack a father figure’

Image: Little Detail Photography

Tabitha (44) lives with her sons Teun (7) and Willem (3) in Haarlem. Her husband was diagnosed a year ago: an untreatable brain tumor. A month later he passed away. How do you move on as a family after such a sudden loss? In these columns you get an insight into moments they experience. The first year without dad.

A father is often the great example for children. Mama nags too much, by definition. She mainly does the standard things in a day, such as making sandwiches, doing laundry and shopping. When everything is streamlined, she is invisible. And if you’re in pain or need a hug, it’s: mom!

Dad is very involved in the sport, you can build towers with him and wrestle with him. I’m exaggerating, of course, but at our house this distribution was quite correct. Now that Frank’s gone, I’m trying to be a little more masculine at home. I like to do chores myself and I like to build Legos, train tracks or play with Duplo with the boys. I’m not proud of it, but I find out that I don’t have enough patience for it. I sit restlessly next to it, suddenly remember that I have to grab something and meanwhile I start cooking. As a soccer mom, I put myself

on the other hand, with heart and soul. Rain or shine, I’m there.

Lately I’ve been noticing something when we’re at football. Willem always walks towards the fathers standing along the line, dragging me along by my hand. I stand there again a little uncomfortable among those men. But for Willem there is nothing uncomfortable about it. He makes sure that he is lifted up by a father, is allowed to walk with a daddy’s hand and meanwhile talks them off their heads. He really reaches out and pretends they are the best of friends.

Our neighbors in the street are also very popular with the boys. “Neighbor Edwíín!” people regularly scream down from the first floor when they spot him on the sidewalk. And if a neighbor comes to help with a job – because I’m not as handy a woman as I’d like to be – they hang on to his every word. They pull all the tools out of the tool box and ‘help’.

A neighbor who recently went for a walk with the dog turned it into a real outing with the boys. When he later dropped them off at home, Teun gave him a hug without saying anything. Teun? My man who is so introverted. I got a lump in my throat and blinked back my tears. A father figure, a man who is there for the boys, what do they need. Something I couldn’t possibly give, even if I wanted to. So dear men around me, keep coming and teach them the things I can’t teach them. They need you in their lives.

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