When There's No Father on Father's Day

06/23/2015 09:02 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016


Photo credit: Zuhair Ahmad / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

While dropping my son off at daycare earlier this week, one of his classroom aides, asked me to step outside of the classroom so that we could speak privately. She said that she and the kids would be making Father's Day gifts, and beamed as she shared her idea to paint rocks that would read, "My dad rocks!" I saw apprehension suddenly wash over her face when she asked whether I wanted my son to work on the project.

As I stood thinking about what would be the best thing for my son to do, she then offered, "I know! He can put 'My mom rocks!' on his. My first instinct was to have my son's rock read the same as his classmates, but then I thought. That is simply not his reality. I felt myself growing aggravated that my and my son's circumstances are such that he has sporadic contact at best with his father, and that I am forced to even contemplate such issues. But then I brought myself to a place of whoosah and realized that it did not matter what the rock read: a) because at two years old, he will have no idea what is written on them, and b) our day to day clearly establishes who rocks. I told her that since there was no specific Father's Day message, his rock could read, "My mom rocks," and that he could give it to me as one of his regular art projects.

That problem was solved. But next came the Father's Day breakfast that was approaching. I remember all of the moms paired proudly with their kids taking pictures and swapping mommy tales when we had our Mother's Day breakfast. My heart ached when I imagined my little boy sitting at his class' table all by himself. The only son not paired with a dad. He would not understand the significance of the day or that he was minus one, but he would know that no one, especially me, was by his side. For days, I racked my brain as to how I should handle the day. Should I take him to school later that day so that he would miss the festivities? Should I request special permission to attend the breakfast with him? Or should I let him go to the breakfast alone? I rationalized that this could be the first of many Father's Day celebrations for which his may not be around, so maybe he should begin to learn how to deal with it starting now.

Sadness for my son filled my heart. I remember the longing I felt for my absentee father when I was not much older than my son is now. How I would sit sweating in a buttoned up coat on my living room sofa waiting countless hours for him to show as promised. Or those times when he returned me home to my mother, and anxiety instantly seized my little body because I did not know when I would see him again--if I would see him again. My pain of rejection was palpable. It lived in my soul and eventually became the beacon of wrong choices in my life.

And now here my son stands in my shadow. Similarly situated, feet poised to traverse the same journey. This was the last thing that I ever wanted for him. And, for his sake, I pray that life as a fatherless son will not be his destiny. But should that be the case, son, know this: I got you.

I am not dad, nor can I ever be. I am your mother, who wanted you more than the air that allows me to breathe. Without question, I will be by your side for every moment of your life from the most minuscule to monumental. I promise to fill your days with love, laughter, and adventure. Together we will explore as many wonders of the world that our days on this earth allow. No joy will be greater than seeing its beauty through your eyes.

But there will also be lessons.

Understand that everything that I impart to you is to cultivate your best you. I can't tell you how to be a man. But I can show you how to be a man of dignity, honor, and grace. Live life with passion and do your best at all times. And don't be afraid to love. You may quickly find that special someone or it may take a while. But when you do, commit to a life together. Create a family. Be the foundation of it. Protect and provide for them. And most of all, never begrudge or use as an excuse what you may have lacked in a father. Instead, let that be the inspiration for you to stand firmly and proudly in all of your magnificent manhood.

And anything else, we'll figure out together, as mother and son, along the way.