It’s less than a week before Father’s Day, and I can overhear my two daughters in the next room discussing what gifts they’re going to give their dad. They don’t include me in the conversation; they’re 17 and 16. Their plans don’t involve me. My older daughter drives and they each have found ways to earn money. But that wasn’t always the case, and isn’t for my son who’s 13, meaning if I don’t step in and supervise (i.e., either purchase a gift myself or urge him to make one), there’s a strong possibility he won’t have anything to give when the big day arrives. The question is, should I?
There’s a school of thought that says yes, even though for the past six years since my husband and I first separated, we said no. We actually said nothing at all, never discussing the issue. Not once. It wasn’t a conscious decision for us; I’m sure of that. It was just never on our radar. Sitting here today, I’m not confident that if I had to do it all over again, I would do anything differently. And it’s not because I harbor any resentment toward my ex-husband. I don’t. Or believe he shouldn’t receive a gift on Father’s Day. I most certainly do. But I don’t think the onus is on me to provide one for him on behalf of our kids.
I’ve never been shy about my belief that children should assume age-appropriate responsibilities. And after years of going to school and making Father’s Day gifts, they should know what to do. Acting for them, in this situation for my son, in my mind diminishes the value of any store-bought present he would give that was really thought of and paid for by me. Whatever it is, the gift should be conceived of by my son. If he comes to me asking for help executing a plan even if it’s to buy a gift, that’s a different story, and I’ll be happy to assist. However, this is where the buck stops and why all I’m going to provide now is a gentle reminder that Father’s Day is around the corner. I know from my children my ex-husband has already dropped hints to them for a while about what he wants, yet no one has ever approached me to make his request happen. If my children choose not to listen to their dad, they need to face the disappointment when they show up empty-handed.
They have friends, they will have lovers, and they will meet individuals… who will be deserving of their gratitude, recognition, respect, and affection. I want them to be aware of those moments and act appropriately when the time calls for it.
In 2017, my children put no thought into Mother’s Day. Notice I didn’t say none of my children bought me a gift because that’s not the issue here. There are many other ways to show appreciation besides spending money, and I fully understand my kids were unable to drive anywhere themselves or were rolling in extra cash. That said, my kids had plenty of time when they were on their own with a few dollars in their pocket, even if it was my money, and had full opportunity to handle these holidays independently. I know because a few years earlier my then middle-schooler used $10 of her spending money to buy two bracelets for me for Mother’s Day. After haggling with a local shop owner in town, she managed to get a lip gloss thrown in there, too. Pretty impressive, I thought, given her young age. Last year, however, she, along with her siblings, got lazy.
I called them out on it, and I wasn’t shy. My ex-husband hadn’t raised the subject with them. But at the end of the day, although it would’ve been nice had he issued a gentle reminder, I don’t think it was his responsibility to, and I didn’t blame him for it. They were already old enough to know better. And I know my children benefited more from seeing my disappointment firsthand. I’ll assume that’s why this past Mother’s Day was a far cry from the last one; my younger daughter handed me an inexpensive present, but something she knew I’d love and use, and my older daughter did the same along with a gift she made. I adored all the gifts equally. My daughters took their gift-giving one step further and included my mother, their grandmother, as well. My son, however, gave nothing, citing his lack of cash and means of getting to a store. Again, I called him out on it. “Then you should’ve gotten creative,” I told him. Perhaps next year he will. He needs to learn. Hopefully, being shown up by his sisters on Mother’s Day helped.
My children are involved in many relationships and will enjoy far more throughout their lives, not only the ones they share with their father and me. They have friends, they will have lovers, and they will meet individuals who will impact them in ways they can’t imagine today and who will be deserving of their gratitude, recognition, respect, and affection. I want them to be aware of those moments and act appropriately when the time calls for it. This skill can only be honed by occasionally letting the people they care most about down, even if it’s their parents, and then figuring out how to go beyond their own interests to lift their loved ones, and themselves, back up again.
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