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A Letter to My Ex-Husband on Father’s Day

Image source: Monica Bielanko
Image source: Monica Bielanko

You never really know what kind of parent someone will turn out to be.

It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world — and not everybody is up to the task. I’ve known kind, intelligent men whose personalities seem tailor-made for parenting who can’t hack it on the front-lines of parenthood. And conversely, I’ve witnessed hardened bad boys transform into gelatinous piles of mush the moment their babies are born, tackling the dad role with gusto.

Who knew what kind of father the scrappy little rock’n’roller from Philly I married 11 years ago would become? I didn’t.

I don’t think he had any clue either. His own alcoholic dad ditched the family when he was nine. He had spent the 12 years prior to our first meeting and subsequent quickie marriage touring the world with his band. Long days on the road, even longer nights in smoky clubs. Not exactly the ingredients for exceptional parenting. Hell, not even a recipe for adequate parenting.

And yet.

This man was born to be a father. It is his greatest joy, the thing he does best, the thing he loves most. Better even than songwriting and guitar playing. His bond with our children is a revelation to me. It endlessly amazes me and I offer up silent thank you’s on a regular basis. Because I know what it is to grow up without a dad. I know what it did to my heart and mind and how desperately I attempted to fill the holes my dad’s absence tore in my personality.

I was (and still am) a scared, insecure girl without an anchor. One of the most curative forces has been witnessing my ex-husband with our three children. So I wanted to use this opportunity to tell the father of my children how thankful I am that he is their dad.

Dear Serge:

In the wake of our separation and eventual divorce last year you wrote this to me, and I want to share it so the world knows what a caring, compassionate human being you are.

“… it’s over now. We have three magic kids. As hard as it was for us all those years, it’s impossible for me to look back at any of it now and say it wasn’t worth it. Because, in my book, it was worth it. We laughed some. We loved a special dog together. We loved a special needs dog together. And we had great sex at least, what, three or four times, right?! Haha. But mostly, we made three magic babies. And our individual lives are forever bettered by that alone. I know you know that. But I wanted to tell you I know it too … Of course, our lives will continue to move apart in a million different ways, but because of these cool kids we got, there will always be a connection, just like you always told me since our separation. We won’t hang out all that much. We won’t probably know so many things about each others lives, and that is so surreal to me right now! But we WILL always have this unbreakable connection even if we piss all over it. I don’t want to piss all over it. I can’t. It’s too sacred. I’m never gonna have that mom/dad connection with another human as long as I live. We may move on to the point where we don’t even see each other or even think that much about one another someday, but still: the connection will remain. We will carry it with us until we both die.”

If the goal of parenting is to do better by your kids than was done by you then we have already won, Serge. Our own dads were virtually non-existent in our lives and yet, in spite of that fact — or maybe because of it — you have become the best dad imaginable. The dad who wakes up in the night to feed our baby, the dad who carries that curly-headed cherub around in a Bjorn even though the chubby guy no longer fits into it because you can’t bear to let go of baby-wearing, the dad who spends hours upon hours making birthdays and Christmases magical, the dad who panics at the slightest sniffle and drags his babies to the doctor in spite of his ex-wife’s declarations that it’s just a cold, relax for godsakes, the dad who cried fat tears as he sat next to me and proudly watched his daughter sing during her kindergarten concert last week, the dad who has taught our kids that magic exists and that their imaginations will take them the farthest in life.

They are the creative, imaginative, compassionate, wise, beautiful beings they are because of you.

While it didn’t work out for us in the marriage department, in the parenting department, we are winning. YOU are winning. I look forward to a future of co-parenting with the best partner I could ever ask for. Thank you for making some of the hardest decisions of our lives with grace and style because it’s what was best for our babies. Thank you for continuing to treat me with kindness and respect, even when you don’t feel like it, because I’m the mother of your children and you recognize that continuing to love me is another demonstration of your love for them and that guiding them through life together as a team is not only our toughest task but our biggest gift. Thank you for loving Violet, Henry and Charlie the way you do, I can’t fathom sharing them with anyone but you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Love,

Your ex-wife.

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