Thursday, June 14, 2012

Father's Day, SMC Style: Awkward!

Ah, Father's Day. It's the day when dads are toasted, feted with a barbecue, and given presents such as a new tool, golf club, or Calico Joe, the recently published John Grisham novel about a baseball player. (Saw it advertised on TV as a great choice for dear papa.)

Who am I kidding? I don't really know. It's been such a long time since I've celebrated the holiday.

My father died in 1986, so I haven't celebrated it for twenty-six years. And my boys, being the products of a single mother by choice and an anonymous sperm donor, don't have a father. I suppose we could recognize the day with an uncle or grandfather. Problem is: my sons don't have those either. Moreover, I have only ever had the former . . . yet not in seven years. Besides, I never celebrated Father's Day with an uncle anyway.

Obviously, I am very much out of practice. Then again do I even need practice? Unless I take the opportunity to salute myself (and many SMCs do salute themselves) -- well, we are doing the parenting job of mothers and fathers -- I will not be visiting the Hallmark store anytime soon. I suppose my sons and I could be invited to celebrate a friend's Father's Day. But wouldn't hosting both a woman who has not provided a father for her own sons and the sons themselves be a bit awkward? I should say so.

Speaking of awkward, people often don't know how to treat the SMC family in regard to the holiday. They even occasionally make outright gaffes. Any woman who has been a single mother by choice for as long as I have -- eight and a half years -- surely has chocked up at least a few stories to tell. More likely than not, she remembers those stories because the lack of a father for her child or children is the most sensitive and personal issue she faces.

When my oldest son was in preschool, the teachers instructed the boys and girls to make cards for their dads. I couldn't help spotting these sweet mementos in the cubbyholes at pickup. Then I looked in Christopher's cubbyhole. No card. That makes sense, I thought to myself. No dad = No card. But very soon after this discovery, I realized that I felt left out. What's more, it caused me to wonder what Christopher was doing while the other children were decorating cards. I resolved to not allow this to happen the next year. Just before Father's Day, I would ask the staff to make sure Christopher made me a card.

My strategy seemed foolproof . . . that is, until last year when Charlie, my second son, came home from a different preschool -- one attended by at least one of my sons for the previous four years -- with a card in hand, just as I'd requested. The problem? The card bore absolutely the wrong message. Written in the teacher's handwriting, it said: "World's Best Dad." DAD??? Are you f#%^*+ kidding me? It was no joke. When I pointed out the faux pas to the school director, she laughed. Yes, I suppose the careless mistake was laughable. Yet plenty of other SMCs would have been IRATE. Me? I was annoyed and disappointed. There was no excuse for it other than sheer negligence.

Just another example why single mothers by choice need a damn good sense of humor!

Two years ago when Christopher was in kindergarten, I worried about how his class would recognize Father's Day. I was relieved to learn the class did nothing special because the holiday fell on the day before the last day of school. Too much was going on to add yet another project to the school day.


Last year my son's teacher actually asked ME for my opinion on recognizing Father's Day! I told her I didn't want to deprive other students of celebrating the day in class if that's what she planned, but since she asked me I gave her my preference: no special attention paid to the holiday. And that's exactly what happened, bless her soul.

This year I also dodged a bullet in the classroom. With not even one snow day, school let out for the summer on time -- before the holiday. If there had been as little as two snow days to make up, Father's Day would have taken place first. That might have meant celebrating it in some way or talking about it in class after the fact.

Just yesterday, though, a mother at school did manage to put her foot in her mouth. While watching the second-grade play, we chatted briefly. "What are you doing for Faaa...?" Her voice trailed off mid-word as I leaned over to say, "What?" I couldn't hear very well with the show going on. She tried again: "What are you doing for Faaa...?" Then she seemed to catch herself. "Nevermind," she added. I realized afterward "Faaa" was the beginning of "Father's Day."


The holiday is just one of those days we, as an SMC family, have to endure. And for those of us who have also lost our own fathers, it might be even more difficult emotionally. But I treat it simply as an extra special Sunday: I want to do something different on this day and perhaps out of town.

Incongruously, we live in a traditional family-oriented community, so the place is swarming with wonderful fathers. They will be out in full force at the beach, restaurants, and ballfields, as well they should be. By and large, they are great fathers, and I salute them.

Yet for someone like me, seeing them all so happy with their families on Father's Day could be hard to take. It might have been back in the early days of single motherhood. However, I am way past that now. For me, it was never an issue of jealousy; rather, of what could have been. Nevertheless, I don't waste my time dwelling on the past. My life today is completely in the here and now. I am playing the cards I have been dealt to the best of my ability, and I accept where I am and who I am.

All Oprah-esque thinking aside, why rub it in the faces of my boys what they don't have on the what they don't have's special day? What purpose would that serve? The weather is supposed to be lovely on Sunday, so I'm thinking a mountain climb might be in order.

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