I am a single mom by choice who was raised by a single mom. You would think Father’s Day would be one of those days in June I skip over, but that is absolutely not the case.
Father’s Day has never been a negative holiday for me. Complicated, sure, but I’ve never landed on the day and felt anything but gratitude for the men and women in my life who helped parent me.
When I was a child in school, I made most of my Father’s Day crafts for my mom. Sometimes I made them for my grandfather or the uncles who were active in my life at the time. Never once did I panic, wondering who I should spend the day with or who I should thank or honor. I owe this, in large part, to my mom who always made sure I knew I was surrounded by people who cared for me.
I’ve tried to parent my son with this same message.
When my son was 3 years old, I received my very first Father’s Day gift from him. It was an adorable tie decorated with tissue paper squares. The knot of the tie said “Dad” and the bottom said “Love, W.”
When I pulled the craft out of his backpack, W looked up and said, “It’s for daddies but I made it for YOU!”
I felt such a rush of love and gratitude in that moment. It felt like W got that the day was about celebrating — no matter the person. This was the first year I used Father’s Day to more seriously talk about all the different kinds of families in the world. It was important for me to remind him that every family is special and unique.
Some families have a mom and a dad and siblings and they all live together. Some families have two moms or two dads or two moms and one dad or one dad or birth parents or one grandmother … there is no typical. Everybody is normal.
A few times teachers have pulled me aside before Father’s Day and asked me, “What should we do?”
When this first happened, I was annoyed and I’m sorry about that now. I’m incredibly thankful for teachers who ask because I recognize that not all single parents are the same kind of single. At this point, I leave it up to W regarding to whom he wants to dedicate his Father’s Day craft. For the last couple of years, he has made beautiful gifts for his grandmother, and I love that.
When I talk about Father’s Day with W, I talk about honoring a parent or person who is helpful like a parent. Not always, but sometimes this leads us to talking about his sperm donor. While many families have fatherhood and conception stories interwoven, as in, “Your father and I conceived you,” W does not.
His donor is not his parent. He knows this, I know this, and some days I need to remind others of this.
My grandmother started a lovely Mother’s Day tradition with me when I was a kid. I adopted my first cat when I was about 6 years old and on the next Mother’s Day, my grandmother presented me with a gift — a toy doctor’s kit — and told me it was a gift from my cat. At this point I had only been a pet parent for a few months, but the responsibility of cat parenthood didn’t truly hit me until I was holding a Mother’s Day gift.
In the past, W has been gifted small trinkets on Father’s Day from his stuffed animals. This year, his new kitty will be the gift-giver. W has been an amazing pet parent to his cat and I have been so proud watching him learn and embrace new responsibilities. Being honored on Father’s Day is a small way to remind W of this.
While not all single moms have a problem with Father’s Day, some may have a hard time — I wouldn’t assume either way. And though I can’t speak for all of us, I can bet those of us raising sons hope that one day they will be fathers with a bookcase full of “Happy Father’s Day” gifts.
This year, my son is one step closer to filling up that shelf.More On