When you’re an Ex or have an Ex, the holidays can be tough. The real holidays – the kind when there is no mail delivered and the stock market is closed – are always a challenge, but those days tend to be planned and executed with logistical precision to make sure that everyone is getting their allotted face time and nobody’s feelings get too hurt. But the trickier holidays are the Hallmark kind…Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day… those days can leave you emotionally weary and depleted.
Skipping those that aren’t in season, let’s discuss Father’s Day. As the female you have some control over Mother’s Day. It is within your power to demand that your children at least behave for the day, if not take you to lunch or walk the dog or demonstrate some other form of priceless affection. But Father’s Day can get tricky.
For starters, it falls right in the middle of what for many is the beginning of school vacation. Be they recent graduates or just 8th graders released from academic shackles for 12 weeks, most kids want to hang out with their pals and take advantage of some summer fun. They don’t want to be “hangin’ with the ‘rents” when the opportunity to tag along at Canobie Lake or the beach presents itself. So the likelihood that Dad’s spawn are off and running is fairly high. How much energy do you really want to spend making them curtail their adventures to acknowledge a day created by a greeting card company…and let’s not even get started on why praising a parent ONE day out of the year is morally wrong….
Next, as an Ex, what is your ethical obligation to provide some sort of wrapped or written acknowledgement of the day? It’s a given that the kids have purchased neither card nor gift – that’s what Moms are for – but if your heart isn’t in it, well, there’s not much that will get the job done graciously and effectively. Which begs the question: Do you or don’t you buy something for the kids to give to their dad? No acknowledgement of the “holiday” is awkward, as is a gushy card about his wonderfulness. Presumably if you still felt that way you wouldn’t be Ex-ed and reading this column.
Then there are complications when you have a mixed and/or blended family. Scheduling logistics can be a nightmare if there are step-parents or children from two different fathers living under your roof. Who goes where, when (and why?), and will there be emotional fallout from sending the children off in different directions to honor different men on this day? And if you are dividing up the kids to go their paternal separate ways, doesn’t it dilute the presumed meaning of everyone getting together to pay homage to Dad? Frankly, the whole day is just exhausting, not to mention expensive if you go in the gift/dinner/golf/celebration direction.
Having never been a big holiday person to begin with (can you tell…!) I tend to note Hallmark holidays as simply a day when getting a reservation at my favorite restaurant may be problematic. But if you are going to observe the day and feel perplexed about the scope of your observation, follow these simple rules:
- Keep it simple and sincere and save the biting comments for another day
- Reciprocate in similar monetary scope: flowers for Mothers Day equals a nice bottle of aged scotch; sparkly jewelry equates to a new driver or putter; zero plus zero still equals zero
- If you buy a card, make it something the kids can read and sign
- If the ridiculousness of the day is making you nuts, recite this Miranda Lambert phrase until you are Zen: “hide your crazy and start acting like a lady” …after all, that’s what Emily Post would have done….