I’m navigating Tim’s birthday as a single parent for the first time. I just had such a hot mess of a phone call with his Dad about it. Background: we’re cooperative, but keep the communication to a bare minimum. I’m trying to be cool and functional and reasonable, but inside I’m still dealing with some strong feelings about him, and I know it shows in my voice and my decisions.
Here’s what happened: I emailed an invite to a bunch of parents about a fun party night for Tim for his 12th birthday. I’m always so last minute about these things! Right after I pressed send, I panicked; should I have consulted with my ex before unilaterally planning? Would he be angry and retaliate? Would be hurt if his dad wasn’t there for his party like he always has been in the past? On the other hand, I’ve always handled this kind of planning, and I don’t want to interact with the ex any more than I have to. Ugh! Minefield! Without resolving my decisions for myself, I hastily decided to just call his dad and fill him in.
My voice on the phone was fake polite, anxious, and over-compensating, with an edge of passive aggressive anger. In short, loaded down with baggage. I filled in the ex about the plan I’d made, and asked what he’d been hoping to do with Tim for a birthday celebration. He asked if he could take Tim for a birthday dinner on his actual birthday. Thinking that Tim might be sad if both parents weren’t there, I countered that maybe we should do it all together and invite some other relatives. Immediately I felt myself recoil from my own suggestion. I didn’t feel up to hanging out with my ex and his whole family! I stammered something about not being sure that was the best plan and ‘let’s work it out later’ and got off the phone. What a mess! Clearly I’m in no state to have a fun birthday dinner as a reconfigured family. (Happy birthday, son! Let me turn into an emotional mess all over your birthday dinner, isn’t this fun?) What was I thinking??
Here’s what I wasn’t being honest about: I’m assuming Tim’s going to be heartbroken to have only one parent there at a time. I’m trying to keep him from experiencing any more loss and pain than he already has. But if that hurts me, maybe it’s worse for him in the end? I think these are the questions we consider over and over in the process of becoming single parents, from the decision to separate or not to the way we navigate custody and holidays.
How do you keep birthdays and holidays fun and joyful, and how to deal gracefully with your child’s other parent?