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Should I Send a Father’s Day Card?

stitched heartDear Chump Lady,

I’m struggling right now because Father’s Day is coming. My dad is dead and I am nearly divorced from my husband. I have children who are 17, 21 and 24. My 21-year-old is autistic but verbal.

What do I do about these special holidays, Father’s Day, Christmas, and birthdays for him?

Personally I don’t want to do anything but every time I pass a card display I just about have a conniption of sadness thinking about the day going by and him not getting anything, because I don’t think the kids are actually going to do anything.

We’ve had a restraining order against him for over a year and although that has gone by the wayside now there are hard feelings. And the kids own some of those feelings on their own. Things were tough before we separated and things have been tough through this year of separation. There were times when he was excruciatingly mean to us.

I have had a conversation with all of them telling them what they do for him for these holidays is on them at this point because they are all adults or nearly adults.

I’m not really asking you what I should do for him. I know that you would probably say just continue to be no contact. It’s not my job. But what do I do for me? Because believe it or not, the lack of a Father’s Day is a big void for me. And as I sit here with tears in my eyes over this, I can’t even believe I feel this way.

So I guess what I would ask is what did you do to get over not doing Father’s Day for the x?

Thanks,

Muthachumper

Dear Muthachumper,

Me? I can’t say I ever struggled with this. When you’ve been blessed with the sort of fuckwit who goes years without seeing his son, never remembers his birthday or Christmas, owes thousands in back support, defies multiple court orders, but enjoys popping up occasionally to do a parenting victory lap? Hallmark greetings don’t quite express what I want to say. There is no “I Eternally Regret Breeding with You” card section.

So, no, I don’t get gooey thinking about the sperm donor who canceled his subscription to adulting. And neither should you.

Fathers’ Day is for fathers. The guys who show up. (In our house, that’s Mr. CL and my dad.)

Personally I don’t want to do anything

Honor that feeling. Sit with how OKAY it is to not want to do something thoughtful for the man you had a RESTRAINING order against. (Really, Hallmark has a woeful lack of cards for your situation too.)

The very best thing you can do now — like, you literally have a court order about this — is NOT engage with him.

but every time I pass a card display I just about have a conniption of sadness thinking about the day going by and him not getting anything, because I don’t think the kids are actually going to do anything.

You cannot protect your ex from the consequences of his actions. HIs relationship (or non-relationship) with his kids is HIS problem. It’s HIS crisis to fix. His relationships to heal. Your job is self-care and building a new life. Not playing chaos clean-up crew in Aisle 6.

Perhaps you’ve been habituated to making your ex’s feelings paramount to everyone else’s? Regardless of what he does? Decolonize your brain.

You could be projecting sadness where it doesn’t exist. You imagine YOU would be sad. He might just be hitting golf balls with Schmoopie that day, oblivious. In any case, his sadz is NOT your burden. It’s HIS.

I know that you would probably say just continue to be no contact. It’s not my job.

Oh hey, that’s exactly what I said.

But what do I do for me? Because believe it or not, the lack of a Father’s Day is a big void for me. And as I sit here with tears in my eyes over this, I can’t even believe I feel this way.

I think you’re missing the dream of what you thought four children with this man would be — a legacy, an intact family, security, a much happier ending. And you wanted the best your your children, as we all do. You wanted two parents who were fully invested in them. So, you’re grieving that loss. Holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day do have a way of glorifying the Nuclear Intact Family. In the early days of divorce, those reminders have a way of making you feel less than, like Valentine’s Day can do for single people.

So I don’t think you feel sad for your ex so much as you feel sad for you. There’s been a father-shaped place and now there’s no father. You don’t have a dad to lean on and the man you invested so much of your life in turned out to be a fuckwit.

It happens, Muthachumper. Blog flipped 36 million this weekend. It happens to a LOT of people. This bred-with-a-fuckwit thing is an epidemic.

But what do I do for me?

Enjoy the weekend with your kids. Celebrate you. Divorce yourself from the idea that your family isn’t complete without a fuckwit. You have a whole family. You HAVE a legacy. The strength you are a modeling right now is a great legacy to your kids. You didn’t tolerate abuse. You’re STRONG. And, Mutha, you’re enough.

I know that’s become a self-help guru buzz phrase — you’re enough! But it resonates because it’s true — you’re ENOUGH. Void? What void? What don’t you bring to the table? Cheating? Verbal abuse? Restraining orders? Who are we missing?

You’re there and you can DO this gain-a-life thing. Divorce isn’t final yet, it’s totally normal to feel wobbly. But you’ll come out of this.

Meanwhile, don’t sent that card! Don’t send an ashtray or one of those leather handled shoe horns (who invented Dad gifts anyway?)

He may be your kids’ father forever and always, but he’s your EX.

Please make that forever and always.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “Personally I don’t want to do anything but every time I pass a card display I just about have a conniption of sadness thinking about the day going by and him not getting anything”

    Have faith that, in time, those feelings will pass. Continue to let him navigate those holidays on his own; you have your own holidays to celebrate.

  • “What do I do about these special holidays, Father’s Day, Christmas, and birthdays for him?”

    Nothing. Your kids are 17 – 21. Their relationship with him is the one HE forged with them.

    There is no rule that says you can’t go out to a nice restaurant on Father’s Day and enjoy it for your own sake. After all, you’ve been playing the part of two parents for decades now – why not celebrate your efforts? Call it “Parent’s Day”, if that helps.

    • Yep, my ex rarely did anything for me on my birthday or mothers day. I always made a fuss over his days, when our son was young.

  • I was terrific at picking out gifts for my ex. I would pay attention all year to his interests and preferences. Gift giving was one way we expressed love. It was enough of a societal norm that he also participated.

    But when he became distant and told me that all he wanted was “space and to be left alone”, I gave him a divorce. That’s the last thing he’ll get from me.

    • “I gave him a divorce. That’s the last thing he’ll get from me.”
      This x a thousand!

      After I busted Cheater-ex, he told me that I couldn’t make him talk…….so, I made him single!

  • My current partner was chumped by his ex who also abandoned their children. On Mother’s Day, we unofficially celebrate him being both mother and father to his kids. So here’s a thought: celebrate your role as father as well as mother on that day. Hallmark is sadly lacking in the complexity of parenthood, so no card, but do something nice for yourself 🙂

    • THIS ^^^
      Celebrate YOU for Father’s Day. It’s your day to celebrate. You are mom and dad.

      Ex deserves nothing. Ex required a restraining order.

      And your kids are old enough to decide for themselves what they want to do based on their relationship with their dad.

      You can also use that day as a day to celebrate your dad’s memory.

      You can still use that day in a great way for yourself. Just don’t waste that energy on your ex.

      • Yes! That is what I did. I bought myself a drill and tools needed to do a project in the house. I gave my husband back all of his tools that has been gifts from me and my parents. His birthday is June 20th so it is right next to father’s day. Our 8 year old wants us to make something for him, but I say she can, but I will not. He left 4 1/2 years ago, sees her weekly, and has not done any of the requests needed to show recovery from sex/porn addiction and alcoholism to lift the custody order. I am trying to accept the fact that amends will never be made.he thinks he is entitled to skip the court orders.

    • What a great idea!

      My first thoughts while reading what Muthachumper wrote was, “He is not your father therefore it isn’t your job to send him a card.”

      One of my children had a friend whose father was a great influence on his life. My son was included in many of the things they did as a family and the father was an integral part of all that went on.

      I have always considered him as a surrogate father to my son and I have made a point of acknowledging him over the years for the part he played in my son’s life. On Father’s Day he is the one I acknowledge with a short email expressing my gratitude to him for all he did for my son.

      He had kids of his own but always made my son feel more than welcome and a part of their family.
      An oasis of sanity amidst the vacuous space his biological father created by his non-participation in his life.

  • MuthaChumpa, if you want to do for someone, do for yourself. Give yourself a Father’s Day Card, you have been the better Father for your kids. Take yourself out to a nice Father’s Day Spa, give yourself the gift of pampering. You’ve been the Dad for your kids for how long? Acknowledge that and do for yourself.

    If you really need to buy that Father’s Day Card, do so and take it and a floral arrangement to your closest Nursing Home. Leave it there in honor of your Father.

    That cheater didn’t earn a Father’s Day Card. He didn’t earn any recognition, but you did. Honor yourself on Father’s Day.

    • “If you really need to buy that Father’s Day Card, do so and take it and a floral arrangement to your closest Nursing Home. Leave it there in honor of your Father.“

      That’s a really nice idea!

      • I understand these feelings all too well.

        I’m not sure the writer is truly upset about her horrible ex but more feeling an empty space within herself.

        My father passed away when I was a young adult and Fathers Day was rough even when I had a father and a father-in-law.

        Is your father buried nearby? Could you bring or plant flowers there? If his ashes were scattered, can you visit that place?
        If he had a favorite hobby or place, perhaps you can do or visit smoke place to bring you some peace and good memories.
        Work on your garden or plant a tree in your dad’s honor that you can nurture and watch grow.

        Here are some additional ideas:
        https://www.verywellhealth.com/ways-honor-deceased-dad-on-fathers-day-1132519

        If you can spend the day with your kids, make it just a fun day rather than about their father.

        It does get much easier. I always remind myself that all these stupid Hallmark holidays only last 24 hours. If you can make it thru those 24 hours, you’re a champ!

        • Oops. Sorry for the typo!

          “ My father passed away when I was a young adult and Fathers Day was rough even when I had a husband and a father-in-law.”

    • I take flowers to the cemetery for my did on father’s day. He loved his rose garden so I bring him roses.

    • I love the idea to take to nursing home, and treat yourself.

      As a SPED teacher I also understand that maybe the thought was to help your son with Autism get a card for his dad. Maybe help him find online card or take him to card shop if it doesn’t overwhelm him.

      Wish you the best. I am separated from cheater and filing for divorce this month. It is a loss for the intact family that I grieve the most, not him.

  • What would your dad have enjoyed on this holiday? Would he have liked a burger? Then have one in his honor. Did he enjoy a good mystery novel? Then get a cup of coffee and linger for an hour in a bookstore picking one out to read in appreciation of all the things he did for you. Did he love baseball? Then watch a ball game and send a donation to the local parks and rec department in his name. Do you have lots of time on your hands? Then do all of them for Father’s Day.

    • My own father passed away when I was only 8 so I have had many years doing things like this. My father was a supporter of the humane society and also a volunteer at the school for the deaf, as he learned ASL in high school. I make donations to both organizations in his name every year. I live too far from his grave to visit so this is my way of remembering him.

    • Eilowny:

      These are beautiful ideas. Our fathers may not be here any more, but the love they gave us lasts a lifetime, so we can still honor them.

  • He doesn’t deserve anything. Sometimes that is the naked truth.

    Making peace with the new reality takes time.

  • For a couple years post divorce, I sent my XW Mother’s Day cards. Eventually I realized she turned any sentiment I expressed into a weapon. No more.
    My wife and I met a young woman in a group we were all in. She was going through a divorce, had a father who sexually abused her as a child and a mom who was not all there. We kind of adopted her for a few years. She ended up going through seminary and spending a lot of weekends at our house talking theology and life around the kitchen table. She is now a pastor in Texas! We get phone calls and Facebook messages on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. So my point here is that while our biological parents aren’t always there or a positive influence other people can be, or better yet, you can be that person.

  • Father’s Day can also be turned into “Single Mom’s Day”. Twice the parenting, twice the holidays. That’s how it works. 😉 Do something nice for yourself!

  • At first I read this and I was thinking, “WTF?? Why would Mutha give a rats ass about ex’s Fathers Day??” and then CL hit it on the head: it’s a reminder of the intact nuclear family, in a sense- and she’s mourning that, in a way.
    I think you have to disassociate in your mind that celebrating FD = celebrating the nuclear family dynamic. FD is an opportunity for us kids to remember our connection to our dads- when we are young our other parent facilitates this bond for us a bit, but as adult kids, it is on us to tend that relationship, and it is not linked to whether the parents are together or not. Have a fun and peaceful FD Mutha. Screw him ❤️

    • Yes! In my humble opinion (and forgive me I don’t mean to offend anyone who feels differently), children in their late teens, twenties, and up, are completely responsible for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day as they see fit. My kids do that, and they would be even if their parents were still married. I stopped buying my ex Father’s Day cards years ago, when we were still married, when the kids got more capable and it became their job.

      Mutha, I get the feeling you are used to doing everything for everybody and putting yourself last. I’m not a therapist, but wondering if what you are really grieving here is your sense of self, your sense of purpose? What are you doing with your life now? You are free to make it as beautiful as you want. You’ll get there. It takes time. I’m five years out, I was in the darkest place, and now I couldn’t be happier. You will be too. ((Hugs))

  • I have encouraged my 5 kids (34-18)to have their own relationship with their dad. They are all different and only one still has any sort of contact with him….solely from pity.
    Me? I pray my kids find peace with their choices. I know I have. He was never involved with them and is no more than a sperm donor to me now….and to most of them as well.
    He made his adulterous bed and now must sleep in it. I know I sleep well with my choices.
    In Short….do what makes you feel better but know it will change nothing.

  • Mutha might also be missing her dad. Our emotions about this holiday can have all sorts of crossovers. I miss my dad. and I miss my intact family. But I learned to be more self aware of not facilitating my ex’s relationships with his kids. My children are good and decent to their father. I’m ok with that because it’s their choice. But they dont let him slide.

    • I can relate to this. My dad died in February 2020, right before everything went crazy with the pandemic. I don’t remember feeling anything about Father’s Day 2020 because I had stuffed all my feelings about his death away in order to deal with covid.This year, however, I am feeling quite sad about an impending Father’s Day without him.

      I like the idea of doing something my dad enjoyed on Father’s Day. I also thought that maybe Muthachumper has had other male figures in her life she could think of, and send a nice note to, like mentors or friends.

  • When the person I married killed our life, there were no casseroles. There was no outpouring of sympathy. There wasn’t a legion of friends asking me to let them know if there was anything they could do. There were people who blamed me for what he did. I didn’t even know if I could tell people.

    Thankfully there is Chump Narion to alleviate the confusing grief experience of being cheated on. A fellow chump yesterday gave me the words to describe my experience. She said, “You are grieving the death of your life.”

    Yes. Exactly. And when we are cheated on and our lives are destroyed, we don’t automatically receive the sympathy and support that is so readily offered with almost every other type of loss.

    Cheating is cruel and abusive and it’s intentional. The reason my brain trips over Father’s Day is because cheating and destroying our family, leaving town to go live with his Craigslist “sole mate”, and becoming a ghost in his daughter’s life, and up to this writing is assigning blame to me is completely at odds with being a good father.

    So in response to his being a fake husband, I am not going to issue a fake Father’s Day award of any kind. In abandoning us I became her only parent.

    If you want the accolades associated with being a good parent, you have to act like a good parent. Cheating and lying and abandoning your family cancels those accolades IMHO.

    • “You are grieving the death of your life.”

      Living is so much more difficult when yours is the life that’s been taken. You’re very lucky to have a friend who truly understands that.

    • Having said all the above, this just in!

      Since DDay, October 2017, I have been healing a little each day with
      No alcohol
      No drugs
      No cigarettes
      No crazy spending
      No relationship or dating; being on my own
      Not too much goofy eating…..

      And it has been a Shawshank Redemption sewage tunnel crawl with off the charts pain like I have never experienced, without the anesthetic mind-altering substances and misguided coping mechanisms I have been letting go of since I got into recovery, mentioned above……

      And about an hour ago, while working around the house, a very good positive physical sensation came over me. I felt hope. I experienced a physical sensation of looking forward to the future and what tomorrow will bring. I felt a physical sensation of excitement and a feeling that good things are coming my way. I had a feeling that I am going to come out ahead in all this. I have not felt this since my life, the mirage I was in, was destroyed.

      My physical world has disintegrated badly since DDay. It’s the main indicator that something really bad happened to me. I am an Uber Virgo and the chaos has caused a lot of anxiety for me, even though I know it’s a normal symptom of trauma. I have felt so paralyzed and unmotivated to get a handle on it.

      So today I did my fridge door. It is now edited, clean, and organized. And hope, that thing with feathers as Emily Dickinson so eloquently said, landed on my shoulder.

      😊

      • That’s wonderful, Velvet Hammer!!! I’m so happy for you.

        (By the way, I appreciate that you wove in references to Shawshank Redemption AND Emily Dickinson in one post. #skills)

      • I have a new definition for what I’ve been going through: Shawshank Redemption sewage tunnel crawl!

        I love you guys. We will get through the tunnel.

    • Totally. Great post.
      My kids don’t have anything to do with the fw unless absolutely necessary. He wrecked our family and caused them tremendous pain. He’s not getting so much as a card or a call on Father’s Day.

  • I think that you are sad because, as CL said, you have a father-shaped hole in your life.

    I get that. I don’t know how long it’s been since your father died, but I know that for a couple of years after my father died, every time I’d pass a Father’s Day display, I’d feel sad, knowing that I couldn’t get him a card. It may be–and here I’m playing armchair analyst–you shifted your grief from your own loss to investing in Father’s Day for the children.

    My advice is to own the sadness. This is a normal part of grief, and it is okay to mourn the loss in our lives. Let your children do what they want to do for their father. Your oldest is autistic, but he is certainly capable of determining if he wants to do something for his father. If he does, then that’s fine, but if not, that’s fine, too.

    In the meantime, don’t expect much from your FW so celebrate the day for you. Fix a nice supper, enjoy a glass of wine. Go take yourself out to dinner (and if the kids are around, you can take them, too–if you want!). Build a bucket list of things in your area you’d like to see or do, even if they’re cheesy as can be. If your children don’t want to be with their father, maybe you could all build a bucket list of things you’d like to do or see in your area but you’re embarrassed to admit because they’re really cheesy (I want to visit a local “haunted railway” which I have been told is really horrible, but it looks like fun because someone did this on their property).

    My ex-BIL’s children are now grown. Ex-BiL cheated on his wife, just as CheaterX cheated on me and their father cheated on their mother. Those nieces celebrate Father’s Day by making posts to their mother’s page to show their support for her stepping in to fill the shoes their own father left empty. This isn’t to say that one day they won’t have a relationship with their father, but more that they know who had their backs. They know who showed up.

  • After my mother finally divorced my father, and after a campaign where he tried to blame her for turning the children against him (delusional, he did that by himself, long before they divorced), and after he actively tried to spread lies about my mother, and back up his threats to ruin her financially for having the temerity to divorce him, I lost my temper one fine day and sent him a letter. I am surprised it didn’t burst into flames before I put it in the mail. He did not acknowledge the letter, but he did change some of his actions.

    Basically I told him my mother had always been the glue that held the family together, and she had always made it clear she loved her children even when she disagreed with us. We all CHOSE to stay in touch with her. If he wanted contact with his children, he would have to treat my mother better. End of story. She was the one who invited him to family events. She was the one who had information about our lives. If he wanted “in” he was going to have to treat us with respect even if he did not actually feel respect for any of us. At that time he was suffering from the consequences of his actions. He was old, and alone, in declining health, and no one was rushing to be his friend.

    Amazingly, he acted better, and started providing some things he had stolen from my mother in their divorce. I don’t believe he was sincere, but he was desperate for some attention. We were raised to be polite children. As long as he acted this way I sent him a father’s day, birthday, and Christmas card. It is hard to find cards which only convey a sentiment towards the holiday without praising the recipient, but I somehow managed. Most of my other siblings did not even do this. When we attended family events and he was there, we were polite. We always did whatever we could to avoid actual conversation, providing vague information. He never got my children’s address or phone numbers, he had to send information through me. But he did get to know they graduated from high school and college, were working, and when my first son married.

    In my opinion, he received more than he deserved to receive, but my mother was cared for and he knew not to trash her in front of us. It was an uneasy peace, but it was better than war.

    My sons are adults. They call their dad, sometimes, but do not send cards. I talk to them all the time. We rarely talk about old times, but sometimes there s a funny story or memory. They make their own choices, I do not tell them what to do. He is my EX, and I don’t celebrate his special days. He tries to recognize mine, just to see what is going on. I really don’t worry about it anymore.

    Just because there is a holiday, you are not obliged to participate. It is part of the “should” mentality. No one else knows your situation. You can choose to love and respect those who deserve your love and respect. A biological relationship alone is not enough to merit your time and attention, in my opinion.

    • Portia, as usual, your post really resonated with me. My daughter did something similar with my ex MIL. One Christmas shortly after my divorce when my kids were visiting her, ex MIL started to bad-mouth me, blaming me for the divorce. My daughter told her straight up that if Daughter ever heard that ex MIL was bad mouthing me to anyone, anywhere she would never speak to her again. My kids are the only grandchildren on both sides of the family so this was a very serious threat. Since then, I have heard from various people that ex MIL either says nice things about me or says nothing at all. She may be mean but she isn’t (entirely) stupid. 🙂

      Your comment about picking cards made me laugh. I always bought the cards for my MIL and it would take forever to find a card I could actually pay for without feeling like a massive hypocrite. She wasn’t the “warm, caring center of our family” so I’d be damned if I was going to pay good money for a card saying she was!

  • I’m curious what to do myself in this situation. Our son is 7 and FW shows up when it’s convenient for him. Our mediation agreement indicates that the other parent helps the child pick out a gift for the other parent. For Mother’s Day, FW told me to “STFU” when I told him to make sure our child is in a car seat when he goes places because he’s putting his life in danger. This Father’s Day our son will be with him – I truly don’t want to spend my money on this poo stain who cheated and abandoned his family and is now playing the sadZ that he isn’t a good dad.

      • When they were little, I helped my kids pick out a cheap grill brush. Every year, a cheap grill brush.

    • That is the strangest thing to put in a mediation agreement. Surprised someone’s attorney didn’t flag that provision as inappropriate. However, if I were you, I’d honor it. When it comes to these legal agreements, I encourage all chumps to keep their side of the street as squeaky clean as possible. If you ever decide to take him to court to reduce his custody time cause, say, he’s putting your child in danger as he appears to be doing, you want to show a judge that you did every possible thing by the letter of the agreement. You want to look saintly to the court–full of good will and compliance.

      So, buy him a card at the dollar store and have your child sign it. Done and done.

    • Picture frame with a picture of your child in it.

      Major neutral and criticism-proof.

    • Suggestion: Cheap candy bar as a present; it can go in a nice $ store or Walmart card (about a buck for candy bar and a buck for the card). No expense for wrapping gift. That should be in compliance with the agreement.

  • Another facet of the same jewel: you can choose to see your feelings as your own positive trait — compassion — and not as anything else.

    Compassion does not require action. It is simply a feeling that can stand alone. The fact that chumps see pain as a thing we must immediately work to relieve makes us vulnerable to the tactics of those who hurt us. When we learn how to let pain stand without a personal motivation to change it — especially the pain people create for themselves through dysfunction — we move further from codependence and toward a healthy blend of independence and interdependence.

    It takes time to embrace the choice to feel feelings without assuming they should result in some action. Start practicing that now. That’s the work this experience calls for. Like with all new development, it is awkward at first, but as you practice it, its benefits will become more visible and it will become easier for you.

    Sit in a quiet room. Let the familiar conniption feeling come up. Soothe your own heart through the feeling like a mom soothing a child’s fear. Review all the advice and perspective you received here about how your ex had options and abuse and neglect and cheating were the options he chose. He chose to be where he is now. He did what he did, and now we are here.

    Breathe deeply and repeat to yourself the message that he made his choices and he can make new ones whenever he likes, and maybe he will make different choices later and maybe he won’t, but you can’t control that anyway, so it doesn’t belong to you.

    It doesn’t belong to you. Nobody’s choices belong to you but your own.

    He is the sole pilot of the vessel that navigates him through his life. He chose this. Neither his choices nor his outcomes belong to you.

    Breathe and release the pressure to bear his pain. That’s his to bear. You have plenty of your own. Give his share of the load back to him and focus your energy on yourself and your kids where it belongs. Everything you pull away from the ex is more you can share with the kids. That is a good thing.

    These are my thoughts. They may work for you, they may not, you get to choose.

    You have all my best wishes as you choose for you!

    • Thank you so much for these words. That means a lot to me. If he was a bricklayer and his job was to build walls and for the last 16 months he never showed up to work and he never put down a single brick, he would not get bricklayer of the year award. He wouldn’t even get a paycheck.

      He has not seen the kids since we separated, partially due to the restraining order, the only time he’s communicated with our youngest she didn’t text him back fast enough and he sent her eight more texts which got more and more abusive as they went on. She doesn’t want to text with him.

      My boys don’t want to untangle themselves in this either. They know where it goes.

      I need to stop giving participation awards to someone who isn’t even trying. I’m going to let it go.

  • Muthachumper, I think you really want to help your kids feel better. It makes us suffer to see their suffering and deep disappointment about their breeder.

    A card will not make things better for anyone, you or your children. And it might send the wrong message (there’s been a restraining order).

    Be brave and keep busy being the sane parent. Give yourself a Sane Parent’s Day present!

    How I wish I could make my grown sons understand that their father is not their responsibility. As I write my middle son is having panic attacks and one source of his panic is his father’s dumb situation.

    • You’re absolutely right. Sending a card would send the wrong message. It would send the message that was on the card and all of them are:

      You are a great dad
      I’m lucky to have you
      You are not the turd that I’ve seen in action all of my life.

      They love me enough that if I made them do it they would. I love them enough not to do that to them.

      He can think whatever he thinks about their motivation but the people that matter know. He would rather have alcohol and the woman he’s living with than a real relationship with the children that he fathered.

  • Grieving takes a long time and takes weird turns. Shopping at Target can trigger those hard moments. I remember looking at light bulbs and deeply missing the lamps in the family home.

    Meh takes a long time, the journey involves changing meaning to things like holidays and parenting and even shopping at Target.

    To the newly chumped reading this and totally getting the post, you are not alone and on an incredible journey. Love to you.

    • Breakfast cereals that he liked used to trigger me at the supermarket. As did seeing medicated dandruff shampoo (that he always talked me into buying for him, as it’s expensive).

      I’d feel a pang and think WHY did you have to be such an asshole? We could have had a nice life.

      But the intensity of all of those feelings lessens more and more over time

      He has bought our kids favor, so they suck up to him. And that is their choice.

      • But buying favor wont replace real love. Guess which lasts longer?

        XW (reason I’m here) was bought favor from both of her P’s. She (admittedly) has confused her retirement account / trust fund with their true affection.

        You’ve got something more valuable. Its your superpower over his wallet in the long run.

  • I remember dropping off the kids on mother’s day 30 odd years ago and hearing ” i know you can’t stand me but not getting me a least a card is like using them as a weapon ” I told her that she drew first blood and I’m not responsible for your feelings. After all she cared less about the kids let alone me when she chose her path. I understand what op is talking about I got that way from time to time but I had to remember that all I ever wanted was truth and faithfulness. Never got either. As far as the kids , I helped them make drawings and such as gifts for her but I looked at it as my quality time with them

    • NYNB
      Good on you Dad. Way to reframe that. Boiz project!! That’s challenging self discipline and they’re silently absorbing your modelling of courage and committment- them knowing despite all the detritis you’ve hacked through.
      I get into my grand daughter’s presence, what makes her tick and she totally gets it. I don’t allow any xw-anything to get in the way of me and that child’s relationship. We own that ground. Which i typically am ROTHFLMAO. she keeps me in stiches.

      Any road… ” i know you can’t stand me. (this is where my brain shut off)
      but (que MY AA sponsors Voice) “EVERYTHING AFTER the word “BUT” is
      R&J!!(Rationalization and Justification)
      …not getting me a least a card is like using them as a weapon ”.
      Que me…”PFFFFFTTT”

      Be well Brother

  • It’s a good day to honor all of the men who stepped up in fatherly ways for my kids, and for me: neighbors, teachers, coaches, the owner of the gas station I frequent (who proved the most excellent and utterly unexpected source of wisdom and support). They are all wonderful reminders of what good men can and should be, and I love them for it.

  • MC,

    A Father’s Day card (or indeed a Mother’s Day card) is earned, and your children are old enough to decide for themselves as to whether your STBX has done enough to deserve one and (if they send one) the amount of though and feeling they put behind it.

    As an aside, Ex-Mrs LFTT recently lambasted our 3 children (now 24, 22 and 17) for not sending her a Mother’s Day card and for failing to put out a “love you Mum” blast out on their Instagram accounts. She just cannot see the correlation between her behaviour towards (them that stretches back for years), and their decision not to play into her “I am the Mother of the Year” narrative.

    My advice is to stay well out of the whole thing. Your childrens’ relationship with their father is for them (and him) to manage; it is something that you do not and cannot control, even if you want to for all of the right reasons.

    LFTT

    • “She just cannot see the correlation between her behaviour towards (them that stretches back for years), and their decision not to play into her ‘I am the Mother of the Year’ narrative.”

      Cheaters can be so daft! I marvel at how my ex insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he was a great dad. I’m not sure how he squares that with his adult kids wanting nothing to do with him. They went NC for, as you put it, behavior that stretches back for years, well beyond the affair!! Oh, wait. He squares that by blaming me. *sigh*

      I wonder if these types have some dark moments when the truth flickers.

      • S@35,

        Sadly, I’m pretty sure that they don’t ever feel that “dark moment when the truth flickers.” In my (admittedly limited) experience, Cheaters are not big on introspection or self-examination. Much easier for them to deny everything and then leap straight to blaming someone else for the consequences of the decisions that they took unilaterally.

        And the kids said that they wanted to split the Mother’s Day card between me and my mother :).

        LFTT

      • > Cheaters can be so daft!

        In my experience, and in every story I’ve read over the years, cheater delusion goes far beyond infidelity and spills over into every area of the their lives: careers, finances, friendships, family, everything.

        These people are disordered, and their dysfunction shows in everything they do.

        Few people seemed to really understand this until Chump Lady came along and started changing the narrative.

  • CL hits it when she says what a fw is thinking on fathers day is not for us to discern. They are likely thinking something totally different and it is not ours to project normalcy on them.

    FW left shortly before fathers day 5 years ago. After telling the children (my suggestion or he would have just left), he went upstairs to finish packing. I returned to the kitchen as he was about to leave and he was looking at a hat that my then 11yo son had placed on the counter with happy fathers day written on an index card. I said what’s that but realized before the words were out of my mouth that it was the hat that son had purchased on his own with his own money. I broke down crying but FW picked it up like a trophy and headed out the door without even looking for son. All I can say is he didn’t have a reaction anything close to what I could imagine.

    Fathers day passes like a regular Sunday at my house and my kids have mostly been at my house for the last five years.

  • I have a friend here who always says Happy Father’s Day *to me* (even though I already get Mother’s Day), because as she says “you play Mother & Father, all but just a couple of weeks a year!”

    It’s still early for you. Once you have more distance, you’ll be steadier. I’m early days, we’d go into a restaurant and the server would look at us (party of 3) and say “are you waiting for 1 more?” I think it’s like the bat signal or pheromones, or something, as now, 6+ years later, they NEVER ask us that. They just say “party of 3, right this way”

    Don’t underestimate how much just more time under your belt will give you. I bet this time next Father’s Day, you’re feeling much, much better.

  • So what did FW give you for Mother’s Day? I’m guessing nothing except heart ache. As chumps we are always looking out for FW who doesn’t deserve our attention. why? For me, it is because in part that is how I would like to be treated by FW. I’d like an “your a great Mom” sentiment on a card. ‘Thanks for all you’ve done”. If he felt that way….instead I’m reading an infidelity blog daily trying to understand the bomb that he lobbed into my family’s life even 4 years later. Thank you for being here fellow chumps. Hugs.

  • Send flowers to a nursing home or hospital & address it to “The Dads,” & cheer everyone up who comes into contact with them.

    Save your thoughtfulness for those willing & able to appreciate kindness.

  • Our son wanted his dad to take him to pier fish. He hinted without directly asking for fear of rejection I’m sure. My dad was the male who heard him and paid for a place that I could take him. My brother loaned us the equipment. I have zero experience in this area but was willing to learn. Thankfully some people saw this and helped him. We were both already sad because of a nasty confrontation he did to me before we left accusing me of going there to meet someone else and our son really wanted his dad to do this with him. I was a solo parent and my thoughts on this turned to anger thinking I had to play both parent parts. Standing on that pier I got the clarity of fuck you and fuck this. I’m not a dad. I’m a mom and a damn good mom. It was still a few years before we left. On Father’s Day I buy myself flowers and think of my dad. I’m not sure if the kids think of theirs at all.

    He never acknowledged me on any occasion because of the discarding. He said he didn’t have time to get anything. Plus I got the standard fuckwit of you’re not my mother so do not ever expect anything from me on my first Mother’s Day. I was myself and continued to do things for him on special occasions and it was never appreciated. Now I focus on myself, kids, family, friends and it’s so much sweeter.

  • Ah! Honoring other people. Something chumps excel over, something cheaters go to hell over.

    *My first Mother’s Day, with a child that was a dynamo, working full time and still providing 80% of domestic household duties.
    Cheater: “I don’t know why I HAVE to get you a gift. You are not my mother!”
    I informed him that our daughter can’t walk or drive to the store yet, and she has little money.

    *The rest of this is not a joke.*
    Angrily, he handed me a paper bag on Mother’s Day after work.
    Inside was a blank card, unsigned envelope and a receipt from CVS for the card.

    Utter and total passive aggressive POS. When I balked in disbelief, he exclaimed how I ALWAYS reacted about his gifts “Nothing is ever good enough for you!”

    Ya. Father of the fricking YEAR, material here, LaDIEs! Line up to the left…..

    • So, NO. I don’t think chumps should worry a bit about Father’s Day. Many, many many many many cheaters showed selfish behaviors that displayed their aptitude.
      ** I jokingly used to call it “Crappy Pappy Syndrome”

  • CL is spot on as always. Fathers are as fathers do. You had a restraining order against this guy…his own kids can’t stand him. That you still feel bad for him is a sign of the deep codependence that was in your relationship. I highly recommend you seek therapy for that.

    I personally don’t have a rule for this. My cheater ex is still doing a reasonable job at the father thing. He flounders alot because he’s an emotional robot and inherently selfish and self serving, but he does, in fact, largely show up for our kid. We’re pretty well no-contact except for stuff to do with our kid, but last year I got him a father’s day gift, because it felt right at that moment in time. The years prior I hadn’t. This year, I’ll leave it up to the child but offer to help her get him something if she wants the help. I don’t feel that I owe him anything, but if the mood strikes me to have some gratitude for him, like, doing the bare minimum of being present…then I act on that.

  • My thankfully-now-ex gets no contact kibble from the ~30 year old daughter. None. Zero. Nada. Totally her decision, although I believe he & the downgrade blame me. I never told her her dad was a shitheel–I didn’t need to! She saw my breakdown in her senior year of college. And, he tossed her some gaslighty BS that she rejected (aka “his side”). She has also seen me pretty much rise from ashes, and appreciates the effort.

    As to card from me, welp–he’s not my dad! (My dad was awesome, a WWII vet, literally constructed from integrity, etc. His dad, not so much. A Jesus Cheater of the first order, preying on his graduate students and members of the choir of any and all genders.)

    I say: hold tight–treating you badly and all his shit behavior frees you completely from any obligation. You don’t need to make him feel good in any way shape or form. You have three terrific kids–focus on them! If you *really* need to observe the day, do something fantastic for the kids.

  • Father’s Day 2020, DS22 was covid sheltering with me, home from junior year at college. DD24 live in our hometown, in an apartment after her Asshat father & HoWorker/Wife didn’t let her live with them when she crashed & burned for the second time out of college.

    Anyway, fully expecting DS to be with Asshat on Father’s Day, I played it chill and asked as I left for work “are you around for dinner?” He said probably not. As I was leaving work, I saw my daughter come into the mall and then she texted a photo of a Mrs. Field’s cookie cake. As an aside, I used every opportunity in life to purchase a cookie cake and my children LOVE them. They can’t get enough of them. It’s now a complete joke about Mom & cookie cakes. Anyway, I went home and DS was still there. I kept expecting him to leave, yet he stayed. I waited to later to make dinner and I asked him again if I should make some food for him. He said yes. So I got to spend “Father’s Day” with DS. He chose me over a Mrs. Field’s cookie and dinner with Asshat and his sister. Just Wow! I didn’t gloat, felt grateful for the time with DS & honestly still can’t comprehend what would have made DS decide to not spend time with Asshat. In fact, from what I can tell, he spends very little time with Asshat since 2017, when he blew up our world.

    I’ve not had the urge to “save” Asshat for years. I realized I’d done that every since I knew him. Without me, I know he’s going to make horrible choices, including placing selfish HoWorker/Wife above his children. Sad but that’s their new reality.

  • “If I can’t make peace with my father, then I will make peace with his absence” Radical acceptance of what he did and who he really is.

  • I think that the issue with these calendar events (Mothers day, Fathers day etc) is that it reminds us that our life is not “intact” and puts a failure perspective on it.
    I get a bout of sadness every Mother’s day as I see the social media posts honouring mothers which hurts like hell, when mine has pushed me so far away to the point that we are now estranged – and as a result of this due to chosen loyalties, it has also estranged my Dad, leaving me no family support at all going through a separation and more than one D-Day.
    The FW’s fathering is like many experiences here, gone AWOL. He was much like that during 22 years of marriage too. He used to get the fake honour of being a father for his sporadic involvement.- a Happy Fathers Day card and the kids handmade notes to him proclaiming best Dad. Meanwhile that super sperm donor was chasing skirts around town and then sleeping it off the next day while on Dad duties. Facebook reminds me as I videoed him sleeping on the couch one day when I got back from my morning outing.
    As he is now quibbling over child support payments and of course making no effort to do any parenting, that will be his legacy. I am both father and mother, rebuilding a broken family and a child who has become very discouraged with life. I knew it would hurt to leave. It was easier to spackle, but the truth of the situation was a tough burden to bear for the rest of my life. Who wants to grow old with a FW? Eeck. The thought of him disgusts me now.
    Hallmark is making money from their fairytales…good for them. Real life is my life, and acceptance of reality. Take those days as a day to heal…make it special for your reality. ‘Survived a Cheater’ day.

  • I am in the same position, Muthachumper. My beloved Dad died before I was divorced and my kids were adults. My daughter hasn’t spoken to her father in six years. My son has very limited contact with him. So Father’s Day is a huge void for me too. But my take on this varies from yours. Not only are my kids adults but allegedly my ex is too. I’m sure my kids feel *something* every Father’s Day. My daughter covers whatever pain she feels at her lack of a father by having a “No Dad Day” celebration with her similarly situated friends. My son sends his Dad a text and then comes to me and laments the fact that his Dad blew up our family. Does my ex feel sad that he doesn’t get a card? Maybe? But I try to be careful not to project how I, an actual, empathetic human being, would feel if I were in his position because he is not an actual, empathetic human being. He is a narcissistic, serial cheating, emotionally battering, fuckwit. He wreaked his relationship with our children. It’s on him to fix it. The lack of a card is a CONSEQUENCE of his behavior. It’s up to him to make amends with our children. Until he does (and he won’t), he will just have to suffer that empty mailbox.

  • Lots of good advice here. I’m not a parent but very much wanted to be one. Time ran out as I searched for someone that felt right to have kids with. Maybe I idealize the feeling of parenting as something amazing that people do together. I remember the ways my desperate pleas with the men I chose were in part motivated by “no! when you behave like that / treat me like that, I think of what that would show the kids!” I wanted these guys so much to be good Dad material, and I guess picked guys like my own Dad. Mutha, I wonder how your relationship with your own Dad was, and whether the way your kids feel about their father stirs up your feelings on that front.

    The other day I was in the drugstore and saw the Father’s Day cards and thought, ok, let me get one early. Then I just stared at all the cards and couldn’t find one I really wanted to give. All the sentiments were like, “Thanks for always being there for me!” and “You had the best sense of humour!” and “You’re the best Dad ever!” I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one.

    The “Dad’s a cunt” card above made me laugh. I went to the site to see if they had the sentiment I need. But my Dad isn’t a total asshole either.

    I like what someone above said about finding a card that acknowledges the day but doesn’t go overboard praising the man. If only they’d make a card that says: “Dad, I begged you to deal with your issues so that you could stop swinging between either being a mansplainy, defensive, emotionally abusive boor, a sad sausage, and just ignoring me, so now that you’re feeling your mortality and you’re trying to be nice I guess that’s good, it’s better than nothing. Even though the whole process of sending you a card makes me feel sad, and even though I know you far better than you know me, I suppose I’m grateful that we have something. HFD!”

    Reading the comments here where the moms actually tell their kids that they are responsible for their own relationships with their Dads BLOWS MY MIND. My mother will still always tell me my Dad’s a good guy and I should be nicer.

  • You got to earn father’s days cards.

    My kids are much younger .
    I drive my kids to the shops and help them chose what they want to give their mother on those days .
    I have started doing this, after I noticed on my birthday how unhappy they were that they didn’t have any gift for me. I think it is normal for the kids to have a card and a gift for their mum , so I helped them to have wrapped gifts on my ex’s birthday.
    Needless to say she thought it was an attempt to reconcile and send me a stupid message.
    But she understood it later and now helps the kids to get me a gift as well.
    Once they are old enough, I will of course step out and have nothing to do with it.
    It is tricky . Often the question “what would be best for the children?’ can answer many of those dilemmas. If you make your decisions in anger , they will pick up on it. And if they see that you are a civilized person who can treat the ex with some respect , then they will pick up on it as well.
    It is 3 years for me – I am proficient in the art of grey rock and don’t have to show the ex any emotions. That also means that I don’t have to show her any negative emotions any more. I know how I fell about her , that will never change. Whilst grey rock initially is more a defense mechanism for chumps, it is actually also our strongest weapon. The ex fumes and carries on and shows her anger at every opportunity. I just smile and wave.

    • This is all very profound, thank you for sharing. Indeed, in these “gift wars” the kids often end up feeling bad, in one way or another. It’s normal and healthy for a young kid to want to give their parent a gift on a special occasion, even if that parent’s an asshat.

    • AFS, what a profound post. Thank you. I do not have children, sadly. My Dad died shortly before the ex left me and during the horrific devaluing. 2 years ago starting this month. Dad was dying on UK Father’s Day in June. Soul-destroying times and memories. I appreciate your views about grey rock and its application to negative emotions. I’m divorced but not yet 2 years from DDay itself (November 2019). The negative emotions arise when I’m tired, feeling flat. Your approach will help me reframe those emotions so that I feel them but in a different way.

  • Call me a Bitter Bunny, but I feel a special happy feeling about the fact that my kid does not remember his dad’s birthday nor Father’s Day, and I surely do not help him “remember” it like I did over all those years when I was a faithful and in my opinion good wife. I know it bothers BAM and I am petty enough to smile knowing it.

    • Dixie – I totally get it. I have got 50% custody , I wish it would be more.
      But the kids see the ex a lot, and dates like mother’s day often get reminded of at school.
      My kids love their mum and would be unhappy if they would forget a gift. So I do it for them.
      Your situation is different. What does your son feel about forgetting his dad’s birthday? If it doesn’t matter to him, then I wouldn’t bother either

  • Oh, the joys of these holidays! When Mother’s Day rolled around during my marriage, my ex liked to hiss, “You’re not MY mother.”

    That I was mother to our three children meant nothing, of course.

    And I used to think I loved that man. SMH!

  • My friend tried to encourage her teenagers to celebrate Father’s Day until she got a Father’s Day card from her daughter saying Happy Father’s Day mum because you’re an amazing parent and my father’s a complete arsehole’

  • To anyone having this problem with Father’s Day. I recommend highly TV series ” Better Things ” season 4, episode 8 called ” Father’s Day. ” Sam Fox is a working celebrity without any filter trying to raise her daughters — Max, Frankie and Duke — in Los Angeles. She’s mom, dad, referee and the cops. This entire series ” hits you where you live .” Hope this helps.

  • An example of hoovering that adult children of abusers have to contend with.
    A younger acquaintance (married for almost eleven years with two boys) had to go to court for an order of protection against her father. After eight years of no contact. She grew up in a home riddled with domestic violence. Her husband, mum, stepfather and her younger sister accompanied her to the proceedings. No Father’s Day greetings for that nutter.

  • Sending a card for older/adult kids is also a form of being a buffer between them and the FW. It’s really hard to step away when you’ve played that role for so long. When kids get old enough to make those choices (contact or no contact), honoring their choices is important. Stepping in as a buffer or protector says you don’t trust what they’ve chosen to do. If we say their relationship with the FW is theirs to choose, our actions shouldn’t contradict that.

  • Make yourself a ritual for the day. Maybe it will end up being a day you pamper yourself or maybe it will be a day of remembrance/ healing. But get out of the funk and do something for yourself until you feel you don’t need to spend energy on it anymore. Think of it as though you’re honouring you’re own loss/ injustice.
    Grieving the absence of the person you thought you married is hard, but not insurmountable. You’ve already realised sending a card will be ineffective, I have full faith you’ll find a way that works for you.

  • I made a lot of stupid mistakes during separation because I was in so much denial, but one of the few things I did right was to tell both college kids that they were in charge of their relationship with their father. I would never block them or force them in any way. I wouldn’t buy cards either. They were commuter students and stayed with me because he ran off to an entirely different area of the country.

    Of course even at that age, they were shattered when he finally left for good. They had been through so much chaos growing up. He had almost nothing to do with them in the first year of separation when I was so seriously messed up that I didn’t know what I wanted. They both later told me that they pretty much gave up once he was gone.

    Naturally I was accused of blocking them and controlling their email and phones. As if that was even a remote possibility with that age. He tried to put that I had to stop doing that in the agreement which enraged my attorney of course because it was completely illegal to bring in that sort of thing for other adults. There were other things my ex tried to insert related to them that my attorney said were pure junk but we left in to appease him.

    Neither has any kind of relationship with him at all. I’m glad they owned that for themselves. What a life lesson that you don’t have to be close to damaging people.

  • All I had to do was read the title of this post, and I had my answer: Dear God, no! Hope this reply from Tracy and CN helped you figure things out, Muthachumper. We’ve got your back as you head into this week! And FWIW, your name and icon are fierce – and you obviously are, too.

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