tough call

Should You Remind Your Ex About Your Kid's Birthday Or Let Them Forget?

A mom is wondering if she's in the wrong after her son was deeply hurt that his dad forgot his birthday.

A mom wants to know if she should have reminded her ex about their son's birthday.
The Good Brigade/Getty

It’s such a common internal conflict for single parents: do you let your kid discover that your ex is not the best parent, or do you cover for them so that your kid can be happy and continue to love both his parents?

That is the big question from a newly divorced mom, who is unsure she made the right decision when it came to her son’s recent birthday. Long story short: dad forgot, and she didn’t do anything to remind him or cover for him. She headed over to Reddit’s “Am I The A**hole?” to ask for a public opinion.

Here’s the story in her own words:

“My ex and I had issues and we are divorced,” she begins. “One of the big ones was he thought he was a great father but in the reality is I just presented him as that. If I planned a whole party I would say it was from the both of us. He would forget and then piggy back off all my work.”

Doesn’t sound like a great partner, honestly.

“My son’s birthday is this weekend and I had the kids and did a party, got the gifts and so on,” she continued. “Now halfway through the day, since there was no call from him to wish our kid happy birthday, it became obvious that he forgot. [My son] absolutely noticed by the end of the day was quite sad. I told him he will be seeing him tomorrow and maybe he has a surprise.”

She gave him a chance to redeem himself for missing a day-of birthday call, but even that didn’t help.

“Well, he didn’t plan a thing and he only remembered after our son basically yelled at him for forgetting,” she went on. “We got in a huge phone argument about me being petty that I didn’t throw his name on a card or even remind him when it was clear her forgot. I don’t see why I should since he is a grown adult and he should step up. He thinks I am huge jerk.”

And then she really started doubting her decision when her mom shared her own opinion: that she should have made her ex look good so that her kid wouldn’t have been shattered on his birthday.

This is a tough one, for sure.

Down in the comments, most people where confident that while it hurt her son in the short term, not covering for her ex was the right thing to do in the long term.

“You stopped enabling your ex's dysfunction. Good on you,” the most popular comment read. “In the short term, it may seem that covering for you ex is better for the kids, but it isn't. It would be far better if your ex learns to be a better father from actually having to face the consequences of his bullshit. Even if he doesn't, it's better that your kids know who he actually is.”

“You are no longer responsible for managing your ex’s life,” another person wrote. “The fact that he still thinks that you are shows how used to you doing everything he is. Your ex needs this wake up call to tell him that you are no longer responsible for him. And your mother is wrong — if you keep covering for him, you will be doing it for the rest of your life and will never be divorced from him, because he will never do it. After all, he gets someone to do all the heavy lifting of being a parent for him.”

Another person put it more succinctly: “Emotional labour stops with divorce.”

One user also pointed out that it’s actually for-real important for parents to remember their kids’ birthdays for safety reasons.

“Birth dates are also one of the only pieces of identifying information that children have because they’re too young for photo ID,” they wrote. “He should know their SSN’s too. This is important for their safety, not just looking like a good dad on holidays.”

It is extremely hard to not pick up the phone and make sure that your kid’s other parent doesn’t break their heart on a birthday or holiday. But putting yourself in a place where your ex begins to expect reminders — or where your kid doesn’t know that one parent isn’t pulling their weight — is a terrible way to go through life, for you and your kids.