Father’s Day, Single Mother Style

Scan 3(Marie Lambert)– When I was in elementary school, I was firmly convinced that sometime in my pre-natal days, God had made a deal with me: if I couldn’t have a father, then at least Father’s Day wouldn’t come during the school year.

Holiday themed arts and crafts seemed to be a major part of my pre-middle school curriculum, and for every month there was at least a day dedicated to the creation of seasonally appropriate knick-knacks. October through December were the real moneymakers of course, but then there was MLK Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day (admittedly, a bit of a stretch), Mother’s Day, and congratulations, kids, school’s out!

Our crafts for most of the holidays were fairly neutral in terms of intended recipient—apart from Mother’s Day. The week before Mother’s Day I always threw myself into lavish decoration of the year’s gift–usually complete with an illustrated list of reason why my mom was the best—but all the while silently thanking God that our school ended before June began. June meant time for another holiday craft; June meant Father’s Day, and a Father’s Day craft meant that I would have to stare out the window or read a book in the corner or think what was for lunch—all of which I would do whenever fathers were brought up in my daily life.

The fact that I was raised without a father is one I’m sure many do not know about me, although I have mentioned it in various public spheres. As a child, I dealt with the absence of this customary parent in several stages: absolute denial, replacement, and gradual forgetting.

In my very youngest days, I rarely thought about fathers and my lack thereof, instead seeming to believe that I was some kind of Immaculate Conception, having sprouted from my mother’s head fully grown with pen in hand. At some point, my mother discovered this erroneous belief, which she corrected by sitting me down for a long talk about human reproductive biology. Thus marked the beginnings of my feeling that there was something wrong with me and my life, like I was missing out on something essential. These were the years of missed “Daddy-Daughter Dances” and Girl Scout camping trips for fathers only, years of classmates asking awkward questions and me struggling to provide even more awkward answers. I used to pretend book characters were my foster fathers, my favorite being Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter series, who provided me not only with a father-figure but also the siblings I’d always longed for.

Eventually, however, people stopped asking questions, and I’d stopped caring about having to answer. So I didn’t have a father, what of it? I wasn’t in prison, or pregnant, or dropped out of school, as so often the children of single-parent families are reported to be. Thankfully, I had the privilege of a wide and generous family network who could help support me and my working mother. I grew up in a loving and for the most part stable environment, and looking back on my twenty years of life, I can’t help but be thankful that my biological father has not been a part of it. This is not to devalue to role of fathers (if you want to open up that can of semantical worms) but rather to raise the standards for the title itself.

The person who I want to honor on Father’s Day is not the person who contributed half of my genes and then didn’t stick around to see what happened. That is not my father. Biology alone does not make a father; fatherhood is something that requires a lifetime of dedication and work.

I don’t care how you choose to celebrate the third Sunday in June, but don’t you dare presume to tell me who my father is.

My father is the one who worked two jobs to pay for my education. My father is the one who taught me how to change a tire in a dress. My father is the one who coached a soccer team of hyperactive third-graders just to spend more time with me. My father is the one who cried at night behind closed doors, hoping I wouldn’t hear. My father is the one who showed me how to be strong when someone you love abandons you. My father truly made me into the person I am today. I would not replace her with anyone in the world, and she sure as hell deserves more than one day of recognition a year.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom.