Crazy Plaid Father's Day

Subtitle: Go right ahead and wish me, and every other single mom you know, a Happy Father's Day. Thank you.

Yep. Here I sit, it's almost 10:00 p.m. on Father's Day. I sit here with angry sad thoughts in my mind and a big glass of wine in front of me (with some ice cubes..dear God am I 90 years old or what?). I started the day with a positive outlook, with a spring in my step. With hope.

Hope that this would be a good Father's Day. I hoped this for my kids, and I hoped it for my ex-husband.  The high road is a tough one to navigate some days. It's awfully easy to take a shortcut down the other way. But for the past couple of years, me and high road...we've become travel companions. 

I want my kids to have a relationship with their father. I REALLY DO. For very altruistic reasons, of course: they need a dad, he needs his kids, they all so desperately need each other. I also have some less-pure reasons, reasons of a more selfish bent: I need a break now and then. I want him to do some, ANY of the parenting. I want a day off from teen angst and bickering siblings and driving duties. 

Bottom line is, these kids need their father. 

They didn't see him today. A couple of them called him, and received no response. I debated, for a long time, whether or not it is my job to nudge him. To remind him.  In the end I decided no. It's not my job.

I have no doubt he celebrated Father's Day. His shiny new wife seems to me to be a very traditional sort of gal, one who doesn't let holidays or milestones go by without due celebration. Last year they had a Father's Day pool party. Today was a gorgeous, postcard-perfect day in Minneapolis. A lovely day for a poolside soiree.  

I picture him unwrapping a gift from his 5th child, the one he actively parents. The one he sees every day and loves and takes care of like he used to tend to our babies. A necktie, perhaps. Maybe a gadget of some sort. Swim trunks? A framed picture of Baby #5 to keep on his desk at the office? I can see him reacting to the gift with exaggerated enthusiasm, eliciting a sweet gooey smile from his adoring son.

And then I think of how his first four children spent the day.  I think about their individual reactions to my nagging: "You should call your dad." And: "Have you heard anything from your dad?"

Each child had a different response. Charlie absolutely blew it off. "I called him earlier. Gotta go!" he said over his shoulder, on his way out to go watch his girlfriend's softball game.

Molly questioned me. "If it was Mother's Day, and none of us called you...how would you feel?"  

I answered her honestly. 

"It would break my heart, Molly" I said.  She looked at me, and in her beautiful 17 year old face I saw the face of the sweet toddler Molly who used to sit on her Daddy's lap and twirl her hair in the same offhanded way her father did. She still twirls her hair like that. Like him. 

Henry shrugged it off. "You really think he cares, Mom?" he asked me as we sat on the porch together. A surprise thunderstorm had popped up out of nowhere and we were enjoying the cool breeze that accompanied it.  "I'll see him on Tuesday. Maybe. I'll ask him what happened today. And I'll wish him a late Happy Father's Day."  Henry, the man child who just started shaving. The boy who tries so hard to be a Good Son to both of his parents.  The storm passed quickly, and the sun began warming up the porch again. 

And William. William is the one who incites the anger in me. All of them, separately and together, make me want to grab Big Daddy by the collars and shake him until he wakes up out of whatever mid-life coma he's in. But William...

William is hardening. My baby. The one who was so little when Daddy left. The one who was so quiet and easy going. He's still innocent and childlike, but now there's an edge. An edge that is new, and sharp. I don't like this hard-candy-shell that's forming around my baby boy, and I'm trying with all my might to keep it from advancing, from getting tougher. But it's not easy. A boy needs a dad. William needs his dad. 

"William, have you called your Dad today?" I asked him, as he was helping me put some groceries away. "I tried" he answered, his voice neutral and smooth as buttercream. I doubted him. Asked for proof. He got his phone and showed me the two calls he made to his dad. 

"He didn't pick up. And he hasn't called back." The neutrality of his voice was gone and I heard something there that was familiar, but sounded so foreign coming from this kid. 

It was the sound of someone realizing they're being written off. 

William has been making questionable choices lately, he was starting to hang out with a kid, a broken kid that I want so desperately to like and take care of but who sets off every alarm in my Mommy Security System. Another mom told me she'd heard some rumors about this boy, about a few of our boys and I put William on lockdown. Made him my very unwilling sidekick last week. Then summer hockey started, thank God, and my angry, confused little man was worn down, falling asleep before nine and not waking until ten the next day.

He wanted to spend time with some friends tonight. I talked to the moms of the boys and we concurred: it was okay. We went to the grocery store, William and I, and bought some frozen pizzas for him to bring along. When I dropped him off I wanted to hug him but I held back. Instead I said, "Do you have your phone?" He tapped his pocket..."Right here." he said.  I smiled. "You call me in the morning, okay?". He smiled back at me and then, my little boy hugged me. "I will, Mom" he said.

So I sit here tonight. I looked at Facebook and saw all the pictures of happy Dads and happy kids and had to shut it off. But not before I read something that struck a chord in me. A Dorothy Parker piece I'd never seen before. Somehow, it seemed to fit my mood, seemed tailor-made for the sourness I felt in my throat. For the defeat I felt in my heart.

"The Veteran"

by Dorothy Parker

When I was young and bold and strong, 
Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong! 
My plume on high, my flag unfurled, 
I rode away to right the world. 
"Come out, you dogs, and fight!'' said I, 
And wept there was but once to die. 

But I am old; and good and bad
Are woven in a crazy plaid.
I sit and say, "The world is so;
And he is wise who lets it go.
A battle lost, a battle won--
The difference is small, my son.''

Inertia rides and riddles me;
The which is called Philosophy. 

I read that, and something in me folded. I had been so pissed, so disappointed, so hurt on behalf of my kids. So freaking sick of the permanent stain that divorce has made on every mother effing aspect of life, even something as benign as Father's Day. I had wanted to maim and cry and yell and throw things and then....

And then I didn't. 

"The world is so; and he is wise who lets it go".

I let it go. I let it go for my children's sake, for my sake, and for the sake of the man who may or may not give a crap.  

Our lives used to be a solid color. Maybe a pretty blue. Or a soft green.  

But now they're plaid. A crazy plaid. And we are going to have to learn to be okay with that.


  1. I pray hard for all the kids in situations like this. I love William.

    1. Thanks Whitney. I love him too. Need to find the balance between trying too hard to "protect" him and just letting him fall from the nest.

  2. Hugs to you and your kids. It's a sucky situation, that's for sure. Thank God your kids have you. I know that's putting a big weight on you and it seems like sometimes you're going to be crushed by it but they have you and you have them.

    My kids had their first overnight this weekend with my cheater. He's been gone two months and he's now had them 1 night. They went fishing and the movies. The kids said they had fun and my cheater said they were well behaved. Of course, when you haven't seen Daddy hardly at all I'm sure you're on your best behavior, they save the nasties for me. This morning neither would give me a kiss before they got on the school bus. We had to run for it, we were a little late. Or at least I ran, they chose to walk and make the bus driver wait for them. I know they are going through a tough time but not kissing Mom is just wrong. Such a shit sandwich since I'm the one that's always here for them and they can depend on me but I get the crap. The beauty of children. I know I sound ungrateful too but it's hard to swallow sometimes.

    1. Ahhh..those first overnights with runaway Dad. When my divorce was in it's infancy, just about where yours is now, I got in trouble for calling my ex "The Fun Uncle". But that's what it was like..he was no longer in that Father role, but rather, a goofy fun uncle they'd see once in a while. Movies! Candy! Toys! It was like a freaking holiday when they'd see him.

      You have company with your shit sandwich, dear. I'm still right there with you. And I'd like to blow sunshine up your butt and tell you "Awww it gets better, the dads step up to the plate and take on their fair share of the crap" but in reality, most don't. I hope yours mans up more than mine did. The kids really need it...not just your kids, all of them.

      But...to end on a less bitter note...please keep in mind what you wrote: They have you and you have them. Short term: it's hard to appreciate. Long term: it will be good.

      Thanks so much for reading.

  3. This makes me so mad. And sad, but mostly mad. I mean, he can't return an effing phone call? So sorry you all had a shitty day.

    Plaid is beautiful. Hugs to all.

    1. Thank you Traci ♥

      I think plaid can make my ass look massive but you are right: it's beautiful! Embrace the plaid, ha.

      See you on the Ruzzle :)

  4. Boy did this hit home with me. My heart is so sad for your kids...they are great kids and are so lucky to have you.

    This was the 2nd father's day my kids didn't see or talk to their dad. I know yesterday was hard for them although they tried to play it off like it was no big deal. My daughter said "I could tell by looking at facebook and instagram all day that there are alot of genuine dads out there." It broke my heart.

    They got me a small gift and beautiful card thanking me for being so strong and taking over the role of 2 parents and said "you are all we need". As much as I loved it and appreciated it (and cried), I know I am not all they need...they need and want their father. I don't want to be 2 parents...wish he would get his head out of his ***, step up to the plate and realize what great kids he is missing out on. Can't help but wonder how he felt yesterday...did it bother him or did he not give a crap since he probably had his new cute step-grandchildren with him? If mother's day went by and I didn't see or talk to my kids, I would be devastated. I will never get it.

    1. Awww..Sil...listen, I have not been drinking (it's early) but can I say that I love you? This made me cry. Sad tears and sweet tears and tears of camaraderie. Bless our sweet kids, and your daughter's summation of fatherhood in this day of facebooking/instragramming/tweeting: "There are a lot of genuine dads out there." Yes, there are, girl.

      You are so absolutely right: we are NOT all they need. We are all (and more) that they need in a mom, but no matter how hard we try, we can never fully replace dad. And that sucks.

      But...I think it's our duty to suck it up. Agree? We can cry and feel bad and wonder what goes on in the brains of these cold men, but we show our kids how to just get on with it. Getting through these holidays never seems to get any easier.

      It makes it less suck-tacular knowing I have such good company. Thank you <3


    2. You crack me up Jenny!! I love you and your blog too...even though we've never met, I feel like I know you and consider you an awesome friend. Your advice and support have helped me more than you know! Despite some of the crappy circumstances I've had to deal with, I am actually proud to be part of The secret club of divorced moms with great kids!!

    3. Hey Sil and Jenny -- I wanna be in your club too! :)


  5. Plaid IS beautiful. For a long time I tried to tell them it was cereal when he was making them eat sh*t. But now I'm putting less effort into that, and trying to stand aside sometimes and let them see little pieces of Who He Really Is. And hope to God they figure out how to love him anyway. And NEVER want to be like him.

    1. Hugs to you Nell. I like the point you brought up, someone else mentioned it on my facebook page: when do we stop sugar-coating these dads? At what point (if these IS a point) is it okay for us to pull back the curtain and let our babies see that the wizard is really just a little, scared man?

      I love what you said: "hope to God they figure out how to love him anyway". When that happens, my dear, we will know we have succeeded.

      Thank you so much for reading!


  6. ((Hugs)) to the kids and you Jenny. I think sometimes stuff like this is harder on us than the kids.

    My son surprised me and asked to spend Father's day with his dad (even though he's been out of school for a week and a half and dad hasn't even called..ick!).

    1. Hugs back at you! I agree. Kids seem to be better able to roll with the punches..no matter how hard.

      Awww good for your little man. Did he end up seeing him? That's sweet. I hope his Dad loved him up.

    2. Yep, he spent the day with him and he said they had a decent time.

  7. Jenny,

    I read your comment on schmutzie's blog and had to respond because it resonated somewhere inside. And then I read your blog. "The world is so; and he is wise who lets it go". Oh my god. I am putting that up at work on the board in front of my face. It's the truest kind of true.

    My kids could have written this blog entry but with me and my mother as the subjects. They accepted the "let it go" philosophy long before I did. They're so much smarter.

    1. Hi Donna Lee! Thank you so much for reading! I loved, LOVED Scmutzie's post. I had never heard of her before..she's pretty awesome.

      I'm so glad you liked that Dorothy P. quote. She was amazing and so freaking spot on. What a fabulous thinker.

      Kids are so smart, I agree 100%. Mine are very patiently waiting for me to catch up with them :) Baby steps.

      Thanks again for reading, and especially for saying hello.


  8. It sucks that your wonderful kids dont have their father as involved in their lives as one would hope but honestly, with a bad ass mom like you, who needs him?

    Your kids are better off and still know they're loved tons by the one that really matters, they're mom ;)

  9. This is a great post, and still rings true today for many households. Happy Father's Day HHF!

  10. I'm a so angle Mom, too. It breaks my heart to see kids feel pain and loss, and all I do my very best to love and protect and learn to let go of what I can not control. This is a wonderful blog post; thank you for sharing.


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