Father's Day is this weekend, and I just wrote down a reminder to take my teens out so they could pick a few things out for their dad to celebrate. Sure, I could leave it up to them. My oldest has his license and they all have money to spend that they could buy him something, but I want to make very, very sure that they do enough.
I won't be there with them on Sunday — their father and I separated over five years ago. But that’s just a minor detail. The man I married so long ago and had three kids with, the person I still parent very closely with, is a really good father, and I’ll always want to recognize that fact.
He was present when I took the pregnancy tests — all fifty of them. He was as excited as I was when we found out the sex of each child. We made a tradition of buying their first outfit followed by a greasy lunch. He went to every doctor's appointment. He helped with feeding and diapers and walked them around for hours on nights they couldn't sleep.
We’ve always co-parented well together, even since our divorce. He puts their needs first and makes sure the kids are happy. He plans fun adventures and does things like walk around the mall for hours to take them shopping (something I know he doesn’t enjoy). He's canceled his own fun plans for days when he wasn’t supposed to have the kids so he could come to get them if I was sick or something with my job came up unexpectedly. He jumps at every chance he has to spend extra time with them.
I feel lucky each and every day that we are on good terms. Regardless of how I feel about him as a romantic partner, I will always believe he deserves to be celebrated as a father. It’s my job to make sure my kids remember what this day is about and how lucky they are.
My three teens have busy lives of their own and something like Father’s Day barely makes it on their radar. So, I remind them a few weeks beforehand that they need to do what their dad wants to do without complaint and they need to put in some effort into making or getting him a card. My ex loves to go sailing and hiking, which my kids aren’t crazy about. I remind them every other day is about them. Their dad has does so many things for them and made sacrifices since they were born so, no complaining about what he chooses to do on Father’s Day.
“The day is about your dad,” I remind them, probably more than a few times. I always get, "We know, Mom, you've already told us many times," followed with an eye roll. But their snarky reactions won't stop me from mentioning it one more time as I drop them off with their dad for Father’s Day weekend.
I take Father's Day as an opportunity to remind them their lives are great because of their dad. Teens can be self-centered and only think about themselves and what they are getting out of every experience — even the really good kids — and mine are no different.
It would be easy to drop them off as usual and hope for the best. I certainly could leave it all up to them now that they are older and wash my hands of Father’s Day. But, this is a day for them to look outside of themselves and do something nice for their dad.
They need to make the day special by spending time with him, putting down their phones, and going on that hike (or whatever he wants to do) without complaint. I want them to know celebrating him for one day is only putting in a fraction of the effort he has put into them every single day.
He does a lot for them and deserves to be recognized. We might no longer be married, but he will always be my children’s father, and it's my job to make sure his children make him feel special on Father's Day.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.