Here I go again, writing about what I don’t write about: the boys’ dad.
We (and by we, I mean I) decided that we would make him a gift this year. After all, he tried. Regardless of what I would have wished for him to do, he did what he could: sent child support, was decent to me, and bought them winter coats and additional Christmas gifts. Considering the last nine years…it’s huge.
So, I thought it would be nice if I finally did what I had planned to do for Father’s Day and send him some pictures of the boys from the last few years. Which then turned into a scrapbook. And, well, I am sure lots of people wouldn’t agree, but I thought it was a nice thing and the right thing to do.
Then, I suggested to the boys that they make him cards. In general, they weren’t looking for me to direct their free time today, so they did it a bit begrudgingly at first, and then got into it as they always do when they are creating things. Apples and the tree and all. But then, when all was said and done, my eyes fell on a piece of construction paper on the floor. The words were huge and screamed up at me.
Best. Dad. Ever.
Now we had watched Elf last night and Buddy had been proclaiming his love for his dad that he had never met even though said dad was kind of a dick and I thought well, that’s what kids do. They love. Unconditionally. Just because. If you have a mom: she is the best mom ever. If you have a dad, likewise is true. Except…
I took a shower. When I got out and the boys started their turns, I checked the box that we were preparing to send and sure enough the offending paper was in there. I took it out.
They wrote other lovely cards. Perfect, really, for the occasion. One was sealed so I couldn’t snoop too much. So I didn’t feel TOO badly that I took the “best dad ever” proclamation out. I taped up the box without it and we trooped off to the post office.
But then my little Jiminy Cricket started chirping and I felt like I needed to have a chat with my fellows. After all, what does being the best dad ever really mean to them? I couldn’t very well let them believe that just being a father makes one the best dad ever, right? It has to mean something more to them, or what will happen when they are older? Will they think it is all right to just skip out and skip back in when it works for them?
I leveled with them: I took the paper out of the box. The one who wrote it said, “I think I know what you are going to say.”
So, I asked, “What do you think makes the best dad ever?”
“Someone who is there for you, who feeds you and helps you and plays with you and teaches you.”
“I was just trying to make him feel good.”
We talked about all the ways we could make someone feel good without stretching the truth. We talked about what it means to be a good parent and what type of parent they want to be. We talked about all the ways that I am surely not the best mom ever, but that I try.
It was a sucky conversation. One cracked jokes and tried to end the conversation that way. The other brooded a bit and kicked at a stuffed animal. I fought back tears, while I said that the important thing was thanking him for what he had done and given them and that it was OK to be angry and disappointed and sad sometimes about what had passed, but that the best thing was to be hopeful for the future and be happy for the present.
I left them alone to play together before I really started crying. Brothers. The only ones that know. I hope that as they get older and can articulate their thoughts and feelings more that they will be able to talk to each other and realize what an incredible gift that they have in one another. Another boy who has come from the same place. Who realizes what the other has been through. Who knows how it feels.
And I pray that someday their father will live up to the title they so want to bestow upon them. They deserve that. And if he doesn’t, I pray that they will know how hard their mom tried to make it OK either way.