Dr. Wendy Walsh: Oh, man ... Father's Day is coming up again. I have an uneasy relationship with this particular Hallmark holiday, not related to its reputed roots. In case you care, Hallmark is actually not the inventor. The creator of Father's Day was a single man named Charles Berlitz, whose father, Howard Berlitz, died of cancer in 1867. Charles made the day up to remember him. (That's according to Wikipedia, though historical facts have been known to be hazy on the Internet.)
History aside, Father's Day is a tough one for me because I am a single mom with a just-short-of-deadbeat babydaddy. The idea of celebrating his annual 39 nights of childcare and the few pennies he's thrown my way does not thrill me.
I dream of being the other kind of single mom -- the one with the involved ex who does his duty at holiday pageants, birthday parties and cheerleading competitions and is on the phone when the kids need him. Just this morning, I tried to set up a playdate with another single mom for this weekend, and she told me that her ex was taking the kids for the whole weekend to celebrate Father's Day. Wow. Sounds like Mother's Day to me.
In our house, we will struggle to create a couple of construction-paper cards and I'll pray he won't cancel on brunch with the kids. I have spent years trying to celebrate this man, but he prefers to be reclusive.
So my real work on Father's Day will be to help my girls make sense of this mess. That's all we can hope to do as single mothers: try not to take sides, and let our kids have whatever feelings they are going to have. It helps to bring the subject up if children are avoiding talking about feelings. Providing a verbal map for them to navigate through their many mixed emotions is an important job for all mothers.
As for my M.I.A. babydaddy, I try to teach my kids empathy and compassion by suggesting that Daddy had a bad childhood and the way he expresses love is a little different. I also remind them that he does love them dearly, and that he is working very hard so that we will have food to eat. And then I turn on my shower real loud and have a little boohoo myself.
In truth, I don't dream about being that other kind of single mom. I dream of being an intact family so Father's Day would celebrate something real. There are 14 million single mothers in America. Does anyone else have these feelings?