How To Marry...
Julie sat down next to Carla on the couch, poured herself a glass of wine, and propped her feet on the battered coffee table. "Marisa wants a dad."
Carla shrugged. "Everyone wants a dad. I want a dad."
"I know. But Marisa really needs a father. More than most kids do. Itís all she talks about. Itís like getting a mother gave her hope that she could actually get both." Tears stung Julieís eyes, and she wiped them away.
Carla watched her, sympathy in her eyes. "So get her a dad."
Julie snorted. "As if it were that easy."
Carla leaned back and put her feet on the coffee table, too. "So whatís so difficult about it? You werenít planning on staying single forever, were you?"
"Well, no. But things are different now. For one thing, he has to be a really great dad."
Shrugging, Carla said, "So find one of those."
"How do you find one of those? How do you even recognize one?"
Carla smirked at her. "Well, it would help if you were actually dating someone."
"Thanks so much."
Julie thought for a moment. "But even if I were dating a great dad, how would I know it? How do I recognize that in a man?"
"I think itís just something you have to take a chance on. Unless heís already a great dad. And even then, how would you know if heíd be a great dad for Marisa?" Carla thought for a moment. "But donít you think most well-intentioned people probably end up being pretty good parents?"
Probably true, for most kids. But Marisa wasnít most kids. "But is it enough to be a pretty good parent? Doesnít Marisa need a great parent?"
"Sheís got you. Thatís one great parent."
Julie shook her head. "But I know nothing." Every new day proved that to her, in alarming ways. She always felt as if she were treading on eggshells with Marisa, trying not to make some huge permanent mistake.
"You know what you want to be, as a parent. Just find a guy whoís the same."
It sounded simple, but Julie knew better. "No, he needs to be better than me. He needs to be enough to make up for me. To make up for my shortcomings. Someone who knows what heís doing. I need to find someone who can be a great dad."
Carla laughed. "So falling in love yourself doesnít enter into it?"
Julie smiled at her friend, sheepish. "Of course I have to love him, too. But if itís just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, then it ought to be just as easy to fall in love with a good father as a bad one." She collapsed back against the cushions, frustrated.
"Which brings us right back to figuring out which ones are the good ones. And then dating them."
Carla leaned forward. "And falling in love."
Julie gave her a frown of mock exasperation. "Of course, and falling in love. Sometimes you tend to harp, were you fully aware of that?"
It was a plan, though. It just might work. "If I only date men who would be good fathers, then thatís the only kind of guy Iíll be able to fall in love with."
"What, you figure once youíre ready to fall in love, itíll happen with whoever is close by?" Carla hooted. "Somehow I donít think thatís how it works."
"Well, itíll at least be more likely, that way."
"Okay, so you stay away from known pedophiles."
Julie laughed. "Itís more than that. I want to find a man who will be good for Marisa, not just one who wonít be bad for her."
Carla thought for a moment. "You know, I read an article once
about where to find single men." She had the grace to blush at
Julie shot her a look. "You know, that is a very good idea."
"I know. Iím full of good ideas. I always tell you that and you never listen." Carla leaned back, chewing on her lip. "So where does someone who would be a good father hang out?"
"Iíll tell you where." Julie got up and walked into the kitchen. She picked up the flier sheíd read earlier from the kitchen table and brought it back into the living room. "Hereís where."
Carla looked at it. "At parenting workshops? Wouldnít those be full of guys who think they arenít very good parents and need help? Although I suppose, if youíre any indication, the people who think they need help are probably great parents already."
Julie brushed that aside. "Not the people attending. The guy giving the lecture. Whatís his name? Farber?"
Carla squinted at the picture, then read the caption. "Maynard Frader, Ph.D., is a noted child psychologist and author of several books on parenting." She shook her head. "I dunno. He looks kind of geeky to me."
Julie snatched the paper back and looked at the picture. "Thatís not geeky! Or at least, not very geeky. Thatís warm and kindly. He has his chin propped on his hands, like heís really listening to someone."
Balancing her glass, Carla leaned over to look at the picture again.
"Well, at least he doesnít have a wedding ring on. But heís no Fabio."
"How can you even tell, from that little picture?" She sat back down, and Carla plopped onto the couch next to her. "But donít you see? Thatís it! All I have to do is look for parenting experts. Or childraising experts." It was so simple, really. Almost elegant. "Where do you find the worldís best parents? You look for those who do it for a living."
"Well. . .," Carla said, doubtfully. "I suppose you could go hear him speak, maybe chat him up afterward if he doesnít seem like a complete dork."
"Or even if he does, a second chance couldnít hurt."
"So, fine, thatís one. What if you hate him? We better have some backups." Carla reached into her purse and pulled out a notepad. She opened it to a fresh page and headlined it The Worldís Best Daddy, then added a second headline: Candidates.
Under that, she wrote:
Maynard Frader, Ph.D. Noted child psychologist. Author of parenting books. Kind of a dork.
"Hmm, let me think." Marisaís social worker had sent Julie a schedule of parenting classes in anticipation of her application to adopt Marisa. Julie dug it out and flipped to the back to look at the instructor biographies. "Okay, there are three men listed here. Of course they might be married. . ."
"Right, but here are their names." She handed the schedule to Carla, who added the names to the list, then said, "Oh! I know! The Department of Early Childhood Education at UC. They have to have some single men on faculty. And teachers! Of course we canít list them all, but Iíll note it down to be investigated if olí Frader here doesnít pan out."
Julie frowned and sipped her wine, thoughtful. "Of course, I still have to figure out a way to meet them. Frader, I can try to meet after his talk. But the others? Iíll have to think of something."
But in theory, it was simple. As long as Julie only dated men with the credentials and expertise that proved they would be good parents, Marisa would eventually end up with a really great daddy.
Carla paused, pen in hand. "Maybe you should add experienced daddies to the list." She waggled her eyebrows. "Like that neighbor of yours."
Julie smiled, thinking of Ben. He was pretty cute.
Carla said, "Uh-huh! And youíve already met that one. And judging by the chemistry I could feel from a mile away, it shouldnít be too hard to move on from here, either." She wrote his name down and underlined it. "Iím betting on him to hold his own." She tore the page out of the notebook. "There you go. The Hunt For The Worldís Best Daddy."
Julie laughed. "I like it!"
"I donít know," Carla said, setting the page on a pile of papers on Julieís desk. She picked up her wine as she curled up again on the couch, tucking her feet beneath her. "I still think that whole love thing is going to get in your way."
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