Father's Day gifts in a divorce: Who buys? Who makes the cards?(Read article summary)
Father's Day gifts in a divorce fall to mom. Then one day, the teens say, "We got it, Mom."
Itâs Fatherâs Day No. 3 since my marriage ended. Thing is, the hoops I jumped through to get my kids to properly acknowledge their dad while I was married stayed the same after marriage. I still cajoled them to make a card and orchestrated the creation of an endless parade of paper weights, pencil holders and hand-decorated coffee mugs.
This year my kids are both teenagers, 13 and 15, and last week as we walked through the mall we passed a store window with a kitchen gadget in it. My son said it was something his dad might like.
I said, âShould we get it for him for Fatherâs Day?â
Both kids let out a long whining âNoooo.â
My son said it was Fatherâs Day, which meant the children â e.g. he and his sister â would figure out what to give their dad. No moms needed.
Really? I thought. No car, no money, and without me, I thought self-importantly, no direction.
Last year I had them make little âode-to-daddyâ themed collages on canvas. Original works of art you could hang! Try and top that, I thought. And what would their father think, if they forgot to make a card? Thatâs when I realized Fatherâs Day wasnât about my kidsâ father anymore, it was about me.Â
In fact, it raised a whole lot of issues I would never have connected to Fatherâs Day â like my own parenting insecurities, old resentments (how come he never has the kids make me Motherâs Day cards? Or buy me gifts??) and, probably hardest of all for me, the fact that I have a lot less control over my children than I once did.
At first it was a slow erosion of control, as they pushed against my decisions about what they should wear to school, eat for breakfast and whom to invite to their birthday parties. Then my marriage ended and the three of us kind of dove back in toward each other, holding on tight while the world spun out of control, looking for comfort and protection. But that was almost three years ago. This past year my children have both been pulling away from me. (Iâm not allowed to touch my son in public, for instance.) Letting go has been harder than I ever imagined. I know if Iâm doing my job right thatâs what is supposed to happen, but itâs not easy. And thereâs no âWhat To Expectâ book to help with this phase of child rearing.Â
When my kids say theyâll handle the Fatherâs Day cards, and that they will decide what gifts to make or buy, my first instinct is to protest, to supervise the card-making and gift-creation. Itâs not only on Fatherâs Day that I do this â itâs everyday.Â I realize on some level I want my ex-husband to see me as competent,Â efficient and organized, still the one who, of course, has the cards made and gifts wrapped, who â despite divorce and its generally sad, angry fallout â can still get her kids to make their father a popsicle-stick pencil holder.
But the truth is, weâve changed, all of us, and not just from divorce (or lots of yoga) but from the sheer force of time passing, of soul-searching, of children moving from tweens to teens.Â
So this year, Iâm not having a Fatherâs Day card-making session at the dining room table just to prove to my kids and my ex-husband how extraordinarily magnanimous I am! Look at me, Iâm so healthy! This year I wonât roll out the crayons, paints, colored pencils and glitter glue, I wonât suggest what they should write.Â
That day at the mall last week, when I offered to buy the Fatherâs Day gift, my daughter glanced over at her brother and then put her arm on my shoulder. âMom,â she said, with an infuriating hint of adolescent condescension, âWe got it.âÂ
I started to object, then stopped.
âOkay,â I said tentatively, looking at both of them. âYou got it.â