Image by Romel from here.
I thought we had developed pretty good coping strategies around Father’s Day. The boys bought presents at school for Grandpa, made cards for him and all was well. We didn’t attend any Father’s Day school functions, because – no father and grandpa was too far away.
This year something changed.
First, my seven year old was determined to go the Father’s Day evening at school. He initially invited his brother and then got upset that he could only bring one person (according to his teachers) because he realised that he not only wanted me there, but that I would have to be there by default.
After some tears, I convinced him that it would be OK for all three of us to go.
I wasn’t the only mum there, thank goodness, but that didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable. The room was full of testosterone and cologne. The activities set up for the dads all involved IT, as opposed to craft activities for Mother’s Day (don’t dads do craft and don’t mums do IT?) and we’d already been to an IT evening at the school a couple of weeks prior. But of course I wasn’t there for me – it was all about my little man. He felt uncertain about how to handle the situation at first, but eventually we settled down with an iPad and passed a respectable 30 minutes. He seemed happy enough to leave then.
One hurdle down, I didn’t give Father’s Day another thought, until Father’s Day stall at school. At pick up time, my older son told me he didn’t want to give his present to grandpa, that he wanted to give it to me. He even got his teacher to make a special gift tag for him – “To My Amazing Mum”. He then told me he didn’t have a very good day, because the Father’s Day stall upset him. A friend who was involved told me later that it was very emotional for him.
My younger son decided he wanted to keep his present for himself and then asked me “why don’t we have a daddy any more?”
These questions always come when I least expect them. The drive home from school, negotiating crazy traffic was not the best moment, but I dredged out all the reasons again, reminding them of what had happened and that their father had a new family now.
And then I realised how much that must hurt. I also realised that Father’s Day, instead of getting better, is going to get worse for them. As they become more self-aware and have to deal with the commercial and societal bombardment of Father’s Day messages, how can they not feel hurt? How can they account for a father who could sacrifice them like theirs did?
I realise that my own experience and bitterness still lies behind the messages I give them about their father, but how can I tell them the truth without it hurting them? Because no matter how I paint it, their father chose his actions. Actions that led to me losing all trust in him. Actions that made him an unsafe adult to be around. Actions that his children are paying for.
Thankfully, Father’s Day is only one day a year. I will be better prepared next year, now that I know the potential for hurt. I will tell them they can make cards and buy presents for me, or themselves.
My older son tells me he is his own father. My heart aches for him.
Come over and see what others are saying.