Father’s Day 2013…
A new school, lots of hype in the week leading up to the imminent Father’s Day. In the school taxi kids were boasting about their dad’s. In class they made special gifts for their dad’s and at home I could pick up that something wasn’t quite right with my boy…
The Friday he came home with the Father’s Day gift that he made at school for his dad. “Mom, my teacher said I must give this to my dad…”
Now understand, my son has NO MEMORY of his father EVER being in his life. His father is absent, has been since before he was born! Yet, he insisted that I take him to his dad on Father’s Day! “Mom, my teacher said we must give this to our dad’s!”
This particular Friday, was the most heartbreaking parenting day for me, for him, for us. My son, 5 years old, crying his little heart out. Hating me with great intent.
“Mom, you are the meanest person ever! But I made this for my dad and my teacher said I must give it to my dad!” His sobs, a mixture of great sadness and intense anger for a situation that he was yet to understand…”I hate you!”
The more I explained, the more he cried. “Kai, I’m not taking you to your dad. It is not the child’s responsibility to go to the parent. I know that you made this gift for your dad, and you can give it to him when you see him one day. I am so sorry, but we not going to your dad on Father’s Day. Please understand”
More tears and heart wrenching sobs, “but mom, I MUST give it to him ON father’s day”
There was nothing that I could say to heal the pain. After a while he got up from the floor, took the gift, crawled onto the bed, sobbing. My tiny person’s heart’s been broken by the reality of his our lives… Nothing I said, eased the wound in that moment, no soothing words of love or hugs were welcomed…my heart ached so deeply that I could feel the pain crushing down on me.
After a while, when the sobs became softer, I cuddled up next to him “Kai, you know what we can do for your dad? We can buy a special box where you can keep his father’s day gift in, and anything else that you want to show him. And if you see him one day then you can give the box to him?”
This was the first time that my son expressed a great sadness for the loss of something he’s never had, a dad.
We never bought a box, there was no need to. He woke up the Sunday and ran into my parents bedroom and gave the gift to his Grandpa. The sadness, long forgotten, a new page was turned.
Explaining to a child that they cannot go knocking on their absent father’s door, with a gift in hand, is not easy! Explaining to my son the “role and responsibilities of a parent” and how everyone is different, and that some people just aren’t ready/capable of being a parent, is not the kind of conversations I envisioned for my son and I to have one day.
Being a single parent wasn’t in the plan…Then there is the challenge of finding the right words and tone. The words and tone that won’t create an unrealistic expectation, sharing a clear message, but also a message that is not filled with animosity for the other parent. A message that still translates into an I love you and it is not your fault, a message that clearly says “you are very special, don’t ever doubt that you are loved”
Fast forward to 2015, the first year, since my son began to understand the meaning of Father’s Day, and not once did he mentioned his dad! Not once!
This father’s day, he was excited! At school the teacher’s explained that the gifts they were making for father’s day could be for dad/grandpa/uncle/anyone that is their “Father Figure”. How wonderful that the school understands that not all children have a dad? How wonderful that they expressly mentioned the term “father figure”?
On Saturday my son baked his Pa a cake. He was too excited to wait for Sunday, and gave the cake and cards to him late Saturday afternoon.
This year our Father’s Day morning discussion went like this:
“So, what are we doing for Father’s Day?”
“I’m not doing anything with you, mom. You not my dad”
“I’m spending the day with Pa, he’s like a dad to me and it is Father’s Day!”
So grateful that we both have my dad in our lives! And immensely blessed to have had the courage to bring my son through a period of great loss, to where he is today…