At times having an absentee father is more frustrating than having none at all. I am sure I am not the only single mother who has come to this conclusion. Sometimes, it feels like all I do is damage control from one or other of my ex husband’s well-meant (or not so well-meant) comments, letters, or gifts.
The latest came late last week in the mail. Robert was so excited to get a letter from his dad in a lightly padded envelope. It contained a card with a picture of a reindeer. Inside it his father drew a detailed picture of a Christmas tree complete with presents underneath and an electrical plug for the lights.
The main thrust of the letter, however, was the “present”. A magic shell that his father and stepmother found washed out on the beach. They put in a lot of effort to make it into a necklace that “will protect Robert from hurricanes and bad wizards”. For the magic to work, the father said in his card, Robert has to sleep with the necklace under his pillow before he puts it on. Now it all might have been good with me if the shell hasn’t arrived broken into a dozen little fragments. I immediately bemoaned the cheap father who was unable to put the thing in a proper protective envelope. Admittedly I wrote a very uncharitable email to that effect, saying that next time please a plain card would do very well, since he cannot afford the expense of good packaging required.
In a later conversation with my mom, bless her kind heart, she gave me a different perspective. She said that it was perhaps a good thing that the shell arrived broken to smithereens, and that the good power of the universe was obviously not happy with the hogwash in the card. She thought that it was not good to bring a child up with superstitions and belief in magic. A child should believe in God and guardian angels, rather than black magic and superstitious stuff. I was amazed at her insight and though that it would have been a burden for Robert to carry this meaningless talisman from his father, whether out of love or duty. My mom said that the way she understands my ex, his actions are ruled by his ego, and that he has to be put centre stage, and that was basically the function of the shell, so that Robert would keep it always, a permanent reminder of his father, like a doggie tag.
My mom also laughed off my fears and trepidations at reading the card to Robert. She advised me to play it off as a joke. His father is joking with this story about the shell. Another of her ideas was to tell Robert that the good angels destroyed the shell en-route because they knew it was fake. I was so relieved to hear this simple wisdom.
As for my ex he will always be ill-equipped as a father. In the old days he used to draw inspiration from me on what to send his children, and that was years before I became a mother myself. Now obviously he draws it from his 3rd wife, who has deep insecurities. I have seen my son’s father wearing a necklace that must have come from her, his own tag. I can see how she might have contributed to the necklace idea.
In any event, my son’s father was never good at choosing appropriate presents. Last year the holiday present he sent his son was sparklers, which may have been an illegal airmail item. Some people simply lack the parent mindset, Robert’s father is one of many.