I have been divorced for almost six years. That’s six years of Father’s Days without my boys’ dad in my house.
Should Father’s Day be celebrated by children? Wives? Parents of children who are fathers? All of the above? What about ex-wives?
For the years after my divorce when my father z”l was still alive, Father’s Day was something we all celebrated together. My ex and I would have the kids make cards for our dads and we would have a meal together, typically hosted by my mom. Because we were all together, it was kind of easy for me to celebrate along with my kids for their dad. And indeed, I feel very strongly that fathers get acknowledged on Father’s Day whether they are your father or someone else’s father. It’s a day to celebrate men who are fathers. Right?
So I would pick out a gift with my boys for their dad. And they were pretty young when we got divorced, so I admit I would pick out something I thought my ex would like for the first few years. Now that my boys are older and not entirely clear on boundaries, they suggest that I buy very expensive fancy gifts for their dad; sometimes it’s stuff they want to have in his house for them (“Let’s buy him an air hockey table!”) or sometimes it’s just stuff that they wish they could buy for their dad (“Let’s get him a tuxedo!”).
I love buying gifts for people and buying things for my ex is no exception. I don’t go over the top because I get that that is awkward. I have the boys pick a fun card; they usually choose something with an animal on it and some funny saying. Or one of those cards that makes a ton of noise and plays SpongeBob music when you open it. When they were too young to write, and even in the painful years right after divorce, I would cry as I asked them to tell me amazing things about their father and I would write them down.
Dada gives the best hugs.
Dada reads to me.
Dada loves me.
The tears would fall as I helped my sons pay tribute to the mighty man who is their everything and will be for the rest of their lives. I am grateful for his staying home with them and homeschooling them. They are sensitive and kind humans and he is part of creating that in them.
Now that my father is gone, Father’s Day has become about my ex, but it has also become more and more about me acknowledging the men in my life and my sons’ lives who father them in different ways. My uncles get cards as do my ex-husband’s uncles. Yes, I send them Father’s Day cards. (I send Mother’s Day cards to the women in his/our family as well!) I acknowledge our neighbor Mason, who has been such a positive influence on their lives, and Manfriend, who is here so much for so much of their growth.
There are so many ways to acknowledge the men in our lives who make a difference. Some may be fathers and some may be father-ish. Some may not have had kids of their own and some are daddies to dogs and cats who need them and love them.
I have chosen to expand my definition of who gets a Father’s Day wish from me. Without this expansion, our world would only be smaller. Cultivating a sense of appreciation and gratitude is important for my kids, and it’s important for me to be constantly reminded that my sons’ father is so valuable, as are the many men in all of our lives who contribute to our sense of what it means to father.