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This Hallmark holiday doesn’t live here anymore

June 13, 2011

Father’s Day is coming up this Sunday in the US, as everyone who writes a blog knows, because we’ve been getting pitches for weeks. “Best Fathers’ Day Gift For Your Husband!” “Treat Your Husband Right This Father’s Day!” “Something Special For The Special Dad In Your Life”


Even if I put aside the heterosexism there, it’s so obvious that the people sending me the pitches don’t read my website. I never hide the fact that I’m divorced, so I don’t have a husband. And I guess the “special dad in my life” could be my own dad, except that he’s more of a grandpa these days than a dad, and I highly doubt that he wants all the gadgets these email pitches are touting since he’s pretty much happy with a non-fiction book and a cookie.

While Mothers’ Day doesn’t challenge me at all, and has gotten better since the divorce (I just buy myself a gift and say it’s from the kids, and there’s never an ounce of disappointment), Father’s Day is still a little weird. During the years in which we were divorcing but not yet divorced, I could not stomach the thought of contributing to a gift for LOD in any way. I knew that I needed to facilitate my kids’ interest in their father, but it felt like selling myself out to be a material participant in giving him anything. Our amazing babysitter understood that, so when the kids’ schools didn’t have them make anything for him, she helped them pick out or make cards. It was a true kindness from her to me, and to him, since he got something for Fathers’ Day that wasn’t tainted with the anger between the two of us.

As the divorce wears into a more comfortable track, though, it seems more and more reasonable to help the kids do whatever they want to do for him on the day. Which is why I asked them after church on Sunday to think about what they wanted to make for him, so we could stop at the craft store and get whatever supplies they needed. They ultimately decided on making cards with materials we had at home (sorry for the spoiler, LOD), but what made me stop and think was that while I would never consider giving them money to buy some item for him, I was definitely willing to spend actual cash on supplies they needed if they wanted to make him something requiring clay, paint, yarn, etc.


30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2011 3:41 pm

    I have a 2.5 and 5 year old, I think I am going to take them to the Dollar store to pick out one item each for their Dad. And, then have them make cards. It’ll be inexpensive and sort of fun to see what they will pick out! And, they’ll feel like they are shopping for Daddy.

  2. June 13, 2011 3:59 pm

    I find it sort of hilarious that you mention, in the same sentence, going to church and being unwilling to give the kids money to buy their father (the man you once loved enough to make children with) a small gift for Fathers’ Day. What it would “cost” you (in terms of actual money and “selling yourself out”) pales in comparison to the goodwill you would create if you DID give your kids even, say, $10 each to buy or make their dad something. This is an opportunity to teach your kids the true meaning of generosity of the heart.

    PS. Last night my husband and I went and had dinner at my ex-husband’s house, with our daughter and my ex-in-laws. You can’t believe how happy it makes our daughter to have her “whole family” together. It is so, so worth it. And it doesn’t “cost” a thing. I hope you can get there, sooner rather than later.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      June 13, 2011 4:05 pm

      Wow. What an unnecessarily judgmental and hurtful comment.

      • June 13, 2011 5:11 pm

        I’m sorry that I came off as a judgemental ass. And wow, did I. I guess your post struck a nerve and I commented before thinking it through. Your divorce is still very fresh, as is the hurt. I’m sorry I added to that.

        What I was trying ot say is that holding that anger and bitterness in your heart is toxic for your kids, for your ex, and for you. I had to, at first, force myself to do the “right thing” in regards to my daughter’s dad, which pretty much meant going against every self-preservation instinct I had at that time. But like they say in AA, “fake it ’til you make it”. True, he was not always kind in return, and there were times I felt like being small and petty. But it paid off, and now, 4 years later, my ex and I are very dear friends and we love each other as co-parents. It feels really nice. I hope that for you.

      • askmoxie permalink*
        June 13, 2011 5:15 pm

        But you didn’t even read my post. I said I was happy to buy them any supplies necessary to make something for their dad. Which is very different from the way things were three years ago. The whole post was abut change. And I don’t know why you’d need to make a dig at my church, or to assume that their dad and I don’t eat meals with them (we do, only we don’t make a big deal out of it). Also, what’s great for you–being very dear friends–is not what’s best for everyone. Please don’t assume that just because other people express emotions different from your own that they’re “holding anger and bitterness” in their hearts.

      • askmoxie permalink*
        June 13, 2011 5:40 pm

        In rereading I see that you didn’t actually make a dig at my church. I apologize for putting words in your mouth. I’m glad that you’re so happy with your family situation.

  3. Dana Childs permalink
    June 13, 2011 4:29 pm

    I understand your feelings of not wanting to give your children money to buy a gift for their dad. I don’t think that it is something that you can describe for people who don’t feel it. I can tell you personally, that I would much rather receive a gift that is made from my child(ren) than a store bought gift. Those are the gifts that are cherished. I’m glad that you can feel willing enough to buy the crafts needed so that they can do something special for their dad. I think they will enjoy doing and giving this much more as well.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      June 13, 2011 4:40 pm

      Thanks, Dana. Yes. Something handmade is so much better, isn’t it?

      • Dana Childs permalink
        June 15, 2011 3:40 pm

        Definitely! I love those handmade gifts much more than the store bought ones. My son’s school has coordinated a field trip for the children to go shopping (and we provide the funds of course) for them to buy us Christmas gifts for example and of course they are little cheap trinkets. First, I’m providing the funds…that’s dumb. Second, I’m getting some cheezy trinket that I would never buy, need or want. My son of course is ecstatic over giving me this and I have to fake it, but why on earth would the school do this? I want my son’s artistic abilities to be encouraged and I will always love those gifts and pictures that he makes me. That to me is the true quality of a gift…one made with love.

  4. Michelle permalink
    June 13, 2011 4:34 pm

    I appreciate your honesty.

    I know that my parents have given me a priceless gift by never talking negatively about one another in the almost 30 years since they divoced. My dad’s family is no longer the family of my mom. My mom’s family is no longer the family of my dad. They both showed incredible grace, love and sympathy for me and my siblings when they attended the funerals of their ex-in-laws.

    I would never ask them to dine together unless for a wedding, graduation or other significant event.

    This just goes to show that each family has to find their own way.

    • askmoxie permalink*
      June 13, 2011 4:38 pm

      Thanks, Michelle. The funny thing is that LOD and I do spend time together with the kids fairly regularly (eating together included in that). And my mom and LOD spend time together, too. I would never ask them to, but they do it on their own. It’s interesting, this constant tension between what hurts and what heals.

  5. Lisa V permalink
    June 13, 2011 5:55 pm

    Moxie, I think as long as you ask the boys what they want to do (be it buy a gift, make a card, whatever) and make sure they have the means to do so- you’re honoring them and their relationship with their dad.

    As a kid of divorce, I can tell you that’s the most important thing and it sounds like you are doing it.

  6. June 13, 2011 6:27 pm

    Moxie, made by hand is made with love (or at least a tangible memento of your kid’s development) and I think is a greater gift than a tie clip or wallet. I believe your choice is not only a reasonable one, but more meaningful.

    In our two-mom family, we celebrate “Family Day” on Father’s Day, as it falls close to the anniversary when my wife and I each 2nd-parent adopted each others kids, the ones we conceived together, co-nursed together, raise together. Mother’s Day is a big deal and always has a lot of snuggling, movies, walks, and a feast. Family Day is a big deal that involves an activity and then usually an ice cream sundae.

  7. June 13, 2011 7:41 pm

    What a transformation. I remember cringing from the palpable pain, tension, and anger that permeated some of your posts in the beginning of of the divorce. And now, the respect and partnership (and, dare I say, “honor?”) that you model is pretty awesome. Your kids are very fortunate.

  8. June 13, 2011 8:38 pm

    As always, thank you for your honesty. I have done a poor job lately w/ keeping my negative thoughts about my ex to myself. And, not only did he not acknowledge me nor remind our 3 boys too on Mother’s Day…I awoke that morning to a ranting text from him about something. He is a good father & until I read this, was debating on just ignoring (most likely ‘subconsciously’ punishing him) Father’s Day this year. What a struggle! So, again, thank you. We will head out tomorrow for crafts & the like….and my focus will remain on being grateful for not only you sharing your experiences but knowing I am human & not alone in my struggle! Happy Father’s Day to you, Moxie…and, honestly, Hallmark holidays are SO boring;)!!!!

  9. June 13, 2011 10:19 pm

    My mother’s day was strained and sad because I picked up the girls at our house and took them out for a few hours (it was a day with their day -and he was fine about me doing something with them). And they were kind of flumuxed and not sure what to do, in part, maybe, 20 20 hindsight, because their dad didn’t help them get ready. Nothing. Not a card. Not a picked dandelion. And that stung — not from the kids, because they’re kids, and they’re doing the best they can. He could have guided them and he chose not too. But the best revenge here – for me – not withstanding the real kind of revenge I imagine not infrequently — is to get the girls excited about feting their dad,. and we bought him some Red Sox trivia book which they’ve already memorized, and another book – a biography of Hank Aron. I can always hope he will realize his tunnel vision.

    (Now, for my birthday, my soon to be ex framed an 11 x 14 photo he took of all the girls in my family — my sister, my girls, my niece, my mother. In theory this is lovely. BUT — it was the last photo of my mother, already in hospice, looking already skeletal and gone. I mean really… The “kindness” part is lost on me when I think about one of the saddest moments of my life, that he captured and expected me to hang somewhere central)

  10. Maria permalink
    June 13, 2011 10:48 pm

    As a single mom, I’m curious about your Mother’s Day solution. Do you tell the kids the present you buy yourself is from them? We have increasing problems around these questions every year, as my daughter gets old enough to really be aware of Mother’s Day, Christmas, my birthday – she wants to get me something, she wants it to be a surprise, but she doesn’t have anyone to help her with it.

    • Chrissy permalink
      June 13, 2011 11:18 pm

      Maria, here’s how I handled Mother’s Day. I have two girls (11 & 8). We went shopping at Kohl’s – I stayed close enough to know where they were but far enough away that I didn’t know what they were picking out. When it came time to pay, I gave my cc to the sales clerk, and told her that their total couldn’t be more than $X.00. Then I waited by the door while they were checked out. Time to sign – they called me over, I signed. They were so proud of themselves for being able to shop ‘by themselves’.

  11. Chrissy permalink
    June 13, 2011 11:23 pm

    Moxie, I feel your pain. Yesterday, I spent the day with my girls making Father’s Day gifts. It burned me up inside that they wanted to do something special for him – and I gave in and facilitated it (side note: I am always giving in to his demands, and have yet to receive anything in return). And I didn’t say a word to them about how angry I was about having to do it. This after he wouldn’t take the girls shopping for what they wanted to get me. Instead he gave them $2 to buy me carnations at church and $20 to take me to lunch. They were really disappointed in him. Hopefully, my eating crow will make a good impression on the girls.

    • famousamy permalink
      June 14, 2011 10:02 am

      It will make a good impression. As a child of divorced parents, now 27 years after the divorce (I’m 33), I know exactly how much each of my parents did for me. I may have thought the world of one or the other at different times growing up (and it likely infuriated the other parent), but as an adult I can look back and I know exactly how much each parent put in towards my growing up. One was definitely more than the other.. and now I’m at the age where I can make sure she knows it. 🙂

  12. AmyinMotown permalink
    June 13, 2011 11:38 pm

    I’ve only experienced this as a child of…not even divorce, extended separation. And I was an adult when it happened. As pissed as I was at both my parents, I give them both great credit for never expecting my brother and I to choose sides or badmouthing the other parent and we always did holidays and big vents together. Reading these comments helps me understand what a gift that was….a gift buried in a pile of shit, but a gift nonetheless. Such generosity of spirit you all show is pretty amazing and must be such a huge comfort to your children.

  13. katykay permalink
    June 14, 2011 6:54 am

    I think the rebuttal commenter was right on. An example I’m working toward. Let go of the hurt, have an open mind and learn from others. Moxie, you are great at giving advice, but I mostly learn from your readers, they rock!

  14. Lisananda permalink
    June 14, 2011 8:40 am

    I usually ask the kids if they would like to send something to their father, in time to mail it to him since he chose to live so far away. There is never any acknowledgement of mother’s day from him. This year there’s a postal strike here in Canada so no mail in any case. Neither child wants to send anything this year, but they will have a skype conversation with their father on the day. One year, when my son was 7, he wanted to send pepperoni, what a hoot. We mailed a pack of pepperettes (sealed and no refrigeration needed) off to his dad. I wonder what the look on his face must have been when he opened the package.

    Moxie, I think you’re doing a great job. We’re all on our own path and no one else can know all of the details and decisions we endure, though some are quick to judge. Those who are quick to judge sometimes tell more about themselves than they do about their target. Take what works and disregard the rest. I admire your courage.

  15. June 15, 2011 10:41 pm

    lot of emotions with this post…so i’ll just share my conversation w/my 2.5 and 5 yr old little girls that occurred (coincidentally) just today. me: “girls, I’m going to let you each pick out something that you think daddy would like for father’s day. what would you like to get?” 2.5 yr old: “mom, i wanna get daddy a balloon…and a treat!” 5 yr old: “a superman cake! because he likes superman!” (which he does and always has!) how she really knows this, i’m not too sure… but both of their suggestions were from the heart and in the simplest and sincerest sense…perfect. hope the actual day reflects the “warm fuzzy feeling” i got today hearing them articulate their love for their dad…and that my participation in fostering their sentiments doesn’t go completely unnoticed and/or appreciated (i’m smart enough to know i’m not a true altruist!!) the amount of time/effort that may go into making a homemade superman cake?? might have bitten off more than i can chew (literally!) 🙂
    ps sending support your way, moxie. seems like the last 3 posts have been written with a somewhat heavy heart. i feel for you… and continue to follow your (and LODs) words with empathy.

  16. September permalink
    June 17, 2011 10:48 am

    I am also in the thick of figuring out our second divorced father’s day. My older son son asked a few weeks ago about wanting to do something for his dad, so I was kind of relieved that it made it a little less ambiguous- I would do it because my son asked me to. Nothing from him from mother’s day, but I was totally fine with that- and my six year old managed it on his own, slipping off to buy me something while we were out on Mother’s day.
    After talking about ideas with older son, I purchased a gift card for an arcade, something that ex and sons could do together (along with ex’s girlfriend as older son pointed out :).
    So, I get my own satisfaction from doing what I think is right in supporting my son’s relationship with his dad, and bonus- I think it will totally annoy ex that I bought him something. Heh.

  17. June 17, 2011 7:55 pm

    It is such a process, isn’t it. I shopped for a few sports team tee shirts a long while back and the kids thing it’s a cool enough gift. I oohed and ahhed over their handmade cards tonight too. It’s so hard to disentagle the dream from reality. I think for me, I used to go all out on the Father’s Day stuff from my place of love for him as a person and shifting that to another sort of affection or respect is work I haven’t yet done. Kudos to you–may it get easier year by year for us all.

  18. annie's mom permalink
    June 18, 2011 12:51 am

    I didn’t get anything for mother’s day from my ex, but our relationship is very much on par with you and LOD – usually it’s fine, we generally are good co-parents and then something bubbles to the top..

    But still, I told them tonight, “we are going to the craft store (michaels here) and making your dad a card for father’s day” that is what we do for all of our family and he is still our family.. No need for a big gift, a handwritten card from my kids beats hallmark every time.

    • LOD permalink*
      June 18, 2011 6:46 am

      Yes and yes and double yes.

  19. June 19, 2011 12:39 pm

    After four years, I decided to go out of my way this year. He had bought me a present with my daughter on Mother’s Day so I did the same for him. My daughter and I made him pumpkin pie which is his favorite dessert and I am having him over for dinner. He may have been a difficult romantic partner, but he is a good father and I want to recognize that.

    • RosieOutlook permalink
      April 10, 2012 10:25 am

      Molly, I like the last sentence of your post. I think it’s helpful to remember in any divorce to recognize each other for being good parents. The most important thing either pre or post divorce has to be the kids (if there are any)–My husband and I have had some extremely rough patches, and I think we both sometimes have a hard time remembering that our son should be our focus.

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