This will be our tenth Father’s Day since the divorce. Like every other year, I’ll take my two sons to the store and help them pick out gifts for their father.
Some years I’m surprised I didn’t get lock jaw from forcing myself to smile as I helped them wrap their presents, and I can’t say I’ve never stooped to passive aggressive gifting. (Please don’t ask me about the garden gnome.)
It wasn’t always a joy to spend money on my ex-husband, particularly since I was mothering on a tight budget for a lot of years. But it was important to me. I wanted my boys to learn to be thoughtful, to be generous, and that it’s important to make the effort to show someone you love that they matter to you.
Every year I’ve provided paper and markers and cold, hard cash, and I’ve patiently helped my kids make good buying decisions. I’ve handed them tape and held the scissors while they wrapped their presents. But there was always something about Father’s Day that nagged at me.
Kids aren’t the only people to give Fathers cards. Wives give them to their husbands, too. In perusing Father’s Day cards, I found several themes that I could relate to…
#1 – Whoa—look at what a great job we’re doing. Our kids are awesome.
Our kids are amazing, well-adjusted creatures. They are outstanding and resilient humans and, so far, seem to be emerging mostly unscathed from the divorce. That’s worth celebrating.
#2 – I appreciate the father-things you do (at least most of the time).
My ex-husband is not the right man for me, but he is the right father for our children. He’s never stood them up or begged off visitation time—he’s always been someone solid they can count on. He changed diapers, went to excruciatingly long school concerts, and dealt with puking children on his own, just like I did. We back each other up and try to keep the rules consistent across two households.
#3 – Thanks for making my life easier!
My ex has also used vacation days to watch the kids so I could go out of town for work conferences. We call and text each other to discuss the children multiple times a week. We still co-parent together, even if we haven’t lived together in nearly a decade.
#4 – We’ve come a long way, baby!
Even in the first year when we could barely be civil to each other, he texted, “If you are ever on the ledge, you can call me. I may hate you, but the kids need a mother as well as a father.”
This year I got my first Mother’s Day text from him: “Happy Mother’s Day. You are a good mom to them.” We’ve come a long way as a non-couple. We both single-parented two kids in diapers half the week, when neither kid would sleep alone in their beds. We’ve done first days of kindergarten together as divorced parents and this fall we’ll be doing first day of high school pictures with our eldest.
We don’t always agree on what’s best for the kids, and we don’t really have a friendship consisting of friendly banter or easy small talk. But we’ve both tried to put these two boys first in our lives and kept our own issues out of our children’s sight. And I may be wrong, but I feel that’s Father’s Day card worthy.
Of course I can’t really send him a card. He’d think it would be awkward and weird and he’d be right. But this year, I think I’ll send him a heartfelt text that says it all: Happy Father’s Day. And I’ll mean it.