Yes, another holiday that makes me a little nutty. What can I say?
I was greeted this morning with a warm hug and a "Happy Father's Day, mom" from my youngest. And you know what?
I deserve it.
There are so many dads out there who do what they're supposed to. They do more than provide the baby batter and then ditch. They're there for the long haul. They're the dads who show up for parent/teacher conferences. The dads who hug their kids. The dads who buy their daughter's maxi pads and tampons without flinching. The dads who don't take a sullen teenager's angst as an insult, but as a challenge to better their parenting skills and in turn, strengthen the relationship they have with that teen.
My kids are fortunate to have lots of these dads in their lives. Neighbors, the fathers of their friends, our sweet landlord, Dan. Henry's beloved 7th grade social studies teacher comes to mind. That man did more for Henry's self-esteem in 9 months than Big Daddy has in almost 14 years. Men at our church, the husbands of my friends, counselors at camp, coaches of teams. The world is full of good men, and I'm thankful as hell that my kids come in contact with some of them almost every day.
My kids had no idea whether or not they'd see their dad today. I asked them, repeatedly, if he had mentioned any special plans, if he'd set a time when he would come retrieve them today. There was no word, no email, no text, no call. And so we planned our day like any other day. Charlie had to work, William had his first Little League All-Star practice, Molly slept til ten and Henry continued to beg for more Microsoft Points for some super-important purchase on the XBOX.
Then, around noon, he texted. There was a BBQ at a relative's house, and were any of the kids available? I answered succinctly, politely. "Charlie has work, William has practice. Don't know for sure about Molly and Henry." And then I added, "To be honest with you, since we hadn't heard from you until now, they assumed you'd be celebrating the day without them." Should I have added that? Probably not. But I did. Because I want him to know that the kids feel like four afterthoughts when it comes to life with daddy. Four loose ends that need to be tied up.
And that's not me projecting my shit onto them. Honestly. I encourage them to be more proactive in their relationship with their father. I see how the fractured relationship with my own dad has a ripple effect on so many aspects of my life, and even though I know the kids already bear some impressive scars from the divorce, I don't want them to follow down this same path. I know there's still time for them to forge some semblance of a relationship with the man who makes up half of their DNA, and I push them to do that whenever I can.
But not today. Today I lobbed the ball onto his side of the court, and let it stay there. You know why? Because I'm sick to death of having to guess what his next move will be, of trying to keep my life with the kids flexible enough to accommodate his sporadic attempts at parenting.
I'm tired. Being both mom and dad 98% of the time is exhausting. My life is a milkshake of driving, parenting, cleaning, shopping, bill-paying, and working. And the cherry on top is the ex-husband with spastic communication skills. Life would be infinitely easier for everyone if we had a clear schedule, a firm grasp on what our responsibilities are.
Molly saw him last weekend, for the first time since April. She says she didn't speak to anyone over the weekend, other than a few brief exchanges. When he dropped her off on Sunday he said, "See you in a few months, when you need to catch up on your sleep again." Molly is 15 years old. Conversation with her is not only tricky, it's like a chess game and a tooth extraction all rolled up into one big frustrating ball. It's not something that you sit and wait for, it's something that you warm up for, you stretch and strategically plan. You learn to interpret the standard responses of "Nothing!" "NO!" and "Whatever." Sarcasm fails, every time. When she told me about her dad's farewell words, she was quiet, and her cheeks were red. What could I say? I did the awkward "try to hug the one who won't be hugged" move and told her I'm sorry.
William and Henry came home that same night, both claimed to be starving. I sighed, because these two are always starving, even if you can see bits of food from their last meal still clinging to the front of their shirts. But this time, they weren't sated by the slices of apple and chunks of cheddar cheese I tossed their way. They really were hungry. "Didn't you have dinner?" I asked. They both nodded, but then Henry added, "All we had was a pack of ramen each." Trying to be the Switzerland of ex-wives, I bit my tongue. But I had to ask..."Doesn't Secretary cook anymore? She used to make dinner for you guys, right?". The boys looked at each other, at the floor, then at me. William piped up. "Well, they had a nice dinner ready and I asked if it was for us. Dad said it was for him and Secretary. He said she needs the good food for the baby." Did I say I was biting my tongue? Biting it off is more like it. It took every single atom of restraint in my body to not say anything.
I got some bread, some lettuce, some ham and some cheese out of the fridge and I made my babies some big ass sandwiches.
It's these moments, and dozens of others just like them, that chisel away at me throughout the year. It's these moments that float through my mind as I lie awake in bed at night, trying to figure out what I can do to make life easier to handle for my four kids. It's these moments that crank up the heat under my heart, turning the simmer into a slow boil.
It's these moments that make me say "Thank you" when someone says to me, "Hey, Jenny. Happy Father's Day."
So, to all of the single mommies out there who bite their tongues, make those sandwiches, hug those teenagers and do it all while juggling a million other things? I say Happy Fathers Day. And I will leave you with an eCard someone sent me today. Yeah, it's kind of bitter, but it made me laugh a little.
Enjoy your day, friends.