A Gift For The Ex-Husband On Father’s Day?

Posted by Delaine - June 19, 2009 - Escaping: Books, Music, Films, Parenting, Trying to Get Along - 7 Comments

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I was browsing around on various forums today to see what/if moms were buying for their ex-husbands for Father’s Day. No doubt, some moms couldn’t care less about the day. But the vast majority said they’d ensure dad received ‘something’ – it was definitely in the kids’ best interest. The question was What?

If your ex is anything of a reader – even if just in the bathroom – I’d recommend a newly-released book called The 40-Year-Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad. It’s written by divorced dad Joel Schwartzberg and his writing is not only funny, it’s kind of vulnerable and wise too. I think newly-divorced dads could learn a thing or two from Joel, not only in terms of parenting, but on growing as a human being.

So there’s my two cents.

Here’s a story excerpt – as you can see, perfect length for the bathroom!

Dad Behavior

My family and I were picnicking in our local dog park when we overheard an argument between two men, clearly strangers. Their volume was rising rapidly, as if someone were adjusting it via remote control.

 

One man was alone; the other had kids behind him. There were some dogs nearby as well, eavesdropping as I was, just a little more conspicuously.

 

I forget what ignited their fight, but what I clearly remember is Family Man shouting, “Don’t EVER talk to me that way IN FRONT OF MY KIDS!”

 

I thought this was a curious thing to say. It’s as if his reputation as King Dad, Omnipotent Ruler and Knower of All Things (except as overruled by Empress Mommy) was somehow placed in jeopardy by a few angry words from a complete stranger. Is a dad’s reputation to his kids really that tenuous?

 

Dads, of course, are genetically compelled to look strong in front of their kids. We can’t help it. Even the least skilled of fathers — and here I know what I’m talking about — can always find something to fix, build, improve, and otherwise amaze their kids with. My children are young, so when I magically restart the computer or reattach the door of a Barbie Duplex, it’s like bringing fire to the natives.

 

I know I’m only a few years from becoming “Pathetic Dad” who can’t operate the latest personal technology or even get dressed without embarrassing myself, so I’ll take whatever adoration I can get now.

 

Dads typically pass down to their children traditions and skills like car maintenance, power tool expertise, hitting curveballs, and leaving the toilet seat up. My father passed to me the fine art of returning store-bought merchandise. Laugh if you will, but making effective returns takes diplomacy, cunning, stamina, and long-line endurance. Recently I was showing my own son how, with the proper alignment of strategic returns, coupons, and mild tax evasion, I was technically able to have Toys R Us pay us to receive a Bionicle playset instead of the other way around. I was proud. He was unimpressed.

 

But on the ride home, I watched Charlie excitedly open the toy, and explain to me the various ways this Bionicle was fundamentally different from the hoards of Bionicles already guarding his bedroom from sibling invaders. Sharing his enthusiasm with me was as vital to his delight as the toy itself. Every comment began: “Dad, check this out…”, “Dad, can you believe this…”, “Dad, what do you think this is for?” I didn’t need to do anything but drive, occasionally nod into the rear-view mirror, and stop for Munchkins.

 

It occurred to me that your child’s esteem is yours by birthright. As such, it’s also yours to lose. But it can’t be lost when you stop to ask for directions, firmly send him to bed, or walk away from a fight.

 

The fighting men in the park eventually went their separate ways without coming to blows. The dogs even looked disappointed. But the Dad who felt his reputation

was on the line in front of his kids really had nothing to worry about. Just steer your kids toward happiness, I’d tell him. They’ll almost always look up to you in return.

 

And if that fails, there’s always donuts.

 

 

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