I grew up raised by a single mother who tried her best to give me everything that I needed in life and to teach me how to be a good person. She wasn’t the perfect mom and even now she drives me crazy and I drive her even crazier, but she is my mom and the only parent that I have ever had in my life. I do not know who my father is, what he looks like or anything about him. I know his name and that is about it.
I got pregnant at 16 and my son’s biological father left us when Anthony was about a year old. He was in and out of Anthony’s life for a while. I remember the day when Anthony was about two years old when he had talked to his father on the phone and was told that he would be getting picked up. Anthony was so excited and stood by the front door waiting for his father to show up, which he never did. I will never forget the look on that little face and it was plastered to the screen door when he realized that he was never getting picked up. I will never forget how angry I was that my son had to have his heart-broken at such a young age.
When I was 20 years old, I married Ben, a man who I only knew for two weeks when I married him. The first time that he met Anthony (who was 3 at the time) he was already married to me and didn’t even know what to do as a step-father. Anthony ran right up to him and asked “Are you going to be my dad?” and I just stood there holding my breath. I thought “We probably should have talked about this…”, but Ben swooped him up, looked him in the eye and said “Yes, I am”. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Three kids and a drug addiction later, Ben and I got divorced and Anthony hated my guts for it. I don’t know if he just loved his dad, was heartbroken that his dad had done the things that he had done or if he was mad at me for giving up on Ben. Our family motto was “You never leave anyone behind”, and in the mind of a 13-year-old, I had left Ben behind.
In May of 2008, my childhood sweetheart got off a plane from Iraq and we began our life together. He moved in right away and Anthony hated the whole thing. He thought it was crazy of me to let some man just move in with us, and he was absolutely right, but crazy is my middle name so I didn’t really care. I should have and lucky for me, it turned out to be ok. Stacey and I got married in 2010 and he became a step-father to my four kids and his three kids kind of got the short end of the father stick. Stacey has loved my kids, helped my kids with homework, given Anthony a job out of high school, has taught Flea how to change the oil in a truck, has paid for their doctor bills, their groceries, school clothes, light bill, water bill, gas bill, and put a roof over their heads for the last 6 years. He has worried about them with me, gone to school plays and picked them up from school. He has helped me lecture them and for the most part leads them all to Mass and Confession (we kind of both suck on this part lately). My kids have gotten him as a dad while his kids have not really, for reasons that are not all in his control, but some are and some are totally on me.
Homer, Anthony’s father, has apologized for not being there for him as he was growing up. He has tried to start being a part of Anthony’s life, and whatever comes of that is Anthony’s choice because he is an adult. I have always let him know who Homer was and never did I keep him from seeing Homer nor did I insult Homer around him, because I knew what it was like to not have your dad around.
Ben has had a lot of ups and downs but he loves my kids. He has never called Anthony anything except his son and he has loved that boy like his own since that first day they met. He has worked hard to try to get clean and calls the kids as much as he can.
And my husband. Stacey is one of the strongest people who I know. He has been overwhelmed lately with life and yet instead of just laying down and giving up, he is trying his best to be better. That is not easy when you are almost 40 and barely realizing how much work there is to being a parent, husband and just plain human being. But he is doing it. I love and respect him for it.
The reason that I am writing all of this is because it seems like it’s a new fad for women who are single mothers to put their pain on blast on Father’s Day. That is what all those “Hi 5 to me for being a mom and a dad!” memes on this day are all about. Pain. The pain that comes from being let down by someone you trusted, who you thought loved you and who was supposed to protect you and take care of your children. Deep down in the soul of every woman, we know that is what is supposed to happen when we give a man our body. No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that having casual sex is empowering, we bear the scars of that lie and we show them to the whole world when we try to hijack Father’s Day. I know, I have been there. I have been a single mother, abandoned, left to take care of myself and my children. I have been absent from my children’s lives because I worked 12 hour shifts to support them. I have been angry on Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day for most of my life. It is easy for me to sit here and say what I am saying now that I have a husband and a man who helps me, loves me, and takes care of me and my kids. But the reason that I am saying it is not for my sake, it is not to preach to you, it is not to rub it in your face that I have a father for my kids now, it is to help you understand that when you are bitter on this day you are telling your children that Fatherhood does not matter. That women can do it all alone and then you help keep the cycle going. One day your daughter will be alone raising kids or your son will walk away from his responsibility because they don’t know the value of fatherhood. And it will go on and on.
Fatherhood does matter. Fatherhood is an essential part of a child’s life. Can they survive without it? Yes, but it will be hard for them and why make life any harder? As mothers, it is our duty to make sure that our daughters know that children need a father, so they need to respect themselves enough to marry a good man who will be one to their children. We need to teach our sons that there is no excuse for walking away from a woman they got pregnant. (Even more importantly to not get anyone pregnant that they aren’t married to!) We need to teach all our children that love is a choice not a feeling. That their children deserve parents who put them first and above their “happiness”, and that marriage is about choosing to work things out with a person you vowed to be with “til death do you part” because it is what is best for the kids. (if there is danger or abuse, then that is a whole other issue) And even if in the end there is a separation of parents, that it is still their responsibility to co-parent their kids, not just leave them alone like wild cats to fend for themselves. Divorce is not an escape from having to deal with a person if you have kids with them. As mothers, it is our job to teach our children these things so that fewer children have to grow up looking out the door waiting for a parent that is never going to show up.
As Mothers, it is our job to uphold Fatherhood today. It is not “We are women scorned day”, it is Father’s Day. We are brave enough and strong enough to be able to honor men who are Fathers today, even if the fathers in our own life and in our children’s lives have not lived up to that honor. Yes. ALL women are capable of that.
**comments are closed because I don’t have the time to moderate or deal with craziness today.