Post #232 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompt – Matilda Butler
I’m Early But Consider This…
It is almost two weeks before fathers are celebrated across the US. We feature them with gifts and cards and special meals. If your children are young, you help them make the gifts and draw sweet (and savable) cards. If your children have grown up and left the area, it just may be you honoring the father of your children.
It all sounds idyllic.
But what happens when you are divorced? Odds are you don’t purchase a gift, cook his favorite foods, or search for just the right Hallmark sentiment. You and your ex no longer get along or want to spend time together. However, he still is the father of your children. What does this mean on Father’s Day?
First, I’m not a Dear Matilda or a therapist or a life coach. However, as someone who helps women write about their lives, I know how difficult family occasions like Father’s Day can be. I was reminded of this in an essay in Time Magazine that was published near Father’s Day in 2015. I saved the page and have moved it from folder to folder. Somehow it struck a note in me. With Father’s Day 2016 rapidly approaching, I pulled it out and decided I’d share it with you.
Susanna Schrobsdorff entitled her article “Happy Father’s Day to my ex-husband (really).” She said:
“Mustering up …gratitude is a lot harder since I got divorced. But it is all the more necessary now because, as it turns out, your marriage may end, but parenting is a lifetime gig. In some way, you’ll still be living with your ex-partner. You’ll be reminded of this just by looking at your children–the color of their eyes, the small gestures they got from their father, the way they flick a light switch, their handwriting. And yes, they’ll have some qualifies from your ex-partner you loved, and the habits that drove you bats. You don’t get to walk away from those. This is contrary to what you imagine before you separate. …
“There is no divorce from the kinds of celebrations and crisis situations that require both of you to show up for your children…”
I have to admit that I never thought about my ex in this way, and I realize that it’s time I do. Fortunately, we get along fine and have regular telephone conversations about our children even though they are grown. I value all that he has done for our sons and know that they have benefited having him as their father. They are doubly lucky because my husband has also loved them for now almost 47 years.
And yet I’ve never thought to wish my ex a Happy Father’s Day in all those intervening years. This year I will.
Memoir Writing Prompts
1. Take the occasion of Father’s Day to write about the ways you are grateful to the father of your children–whether your lifetime partner, your ex, or your spouse who has died. Think of three ways you are grateful and provide as much detail as possible as you write.
2. Then choose one of these three, the one that brought back the most good memories, and rewrite it as a Father’s Day gift to that person.
[Note] I realize this writing exercise does not work in all situations. There are fathers who were abusive to children and spouses. They don’t deserve gratitude. But perhaps there is another person who showed kindness to your child or children and you could write about that person. And finally, if you don’t have someone to write to, I suggest you stand back and think about all the ways that you are grateful to yourself for loving and supporting the growth of your children. No this isn’t narcissistic. Actually, as mothers we often undervalue all that we do for our family. Take the time today to write a letter of gratitude and appreciation to yourself.
[A Second Note] Some people don’t like the commercialism of holiday celebrations. That’s not a bad criticism. And if you feel this way, you might indeed want to consider a small memory vignette written by you and given to the father of your children. Your thoughtfulness will be cherished.