Fathers Day Dilemma - My 6 year old has stumped me!
June 13, 2007 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Father's Day Filter: How to best handle this day for my son whose father has no contact with him because of molestation??? (LONG)

My son is 5 years old (turning 6 in two months). I was never married to his father nor did we ever live together as a family. He left me when I was 8 months pregnant. He is current with child support (he knows if he doesn't pay he can lose his truckers license). My partner has been with my son since he was 1.5 years old and has been his co-parent from the very beginning. My son adores her and he proudly tells anyone that he has "two mommies."

Interestingly enough, the father suddenly became interested in seeing his son and playing the father role when I met my partner. He still claims that I left him for a woman when in fact, he was married to someone else when he was with me. I have always allowed him to have contact with my son via weekend visits and telephone calls. When my son was 4, I learned that this man was molesting my son and doing other inappropriate things to him (physically/verbally abusive with my son and his step-son). My son would act out very sexually with me and with himself (trying to look down my shirt, pull down my pants, pull my head towards his genital area when I would dress him, try to french kiss me, constantly touching himself, etc). My son started to withdraw from him by not wanting to talk to him on the phone (my son would get angry when I would try to force him to talk) and he would cry when I would drop him off for the weekend visits.

I took him to a psychologist and my son told him everything. The psych. was forced to called Child Protective Services. All visitation and communications ceased. The father took me to court to gain custody because he was pissed that I ceased visitation and the court denied it of course. They gave him supervised vists and allowed him to visit my son at school. This all happened at the end of last year. My son from Day One has hated going to these supervised visits (there were 3 in total). My son would scream and cry and the center would have to call me to pick him up. When this would happen the father would show up at the school the next day with toys in hand and trying to put things in my son's head ("I have all the toys you want at my house" or "tell your moms I love you and them very much"). He has a very good relationship with my son's teacher because he is very good at playing the victim and I can tell that my being with a woman is unsettling to her. She gives him full access at the school.

Anyway, during one of his visits to my son's school, he went to the bathroom with my son and touched his genitals and asked my son if he missed when he used to touch him. I immediately took my son to his psych. and the psych once again called child protective services. We went to court and the judge has now suspended all contact that man can have with my son. My son has never been happier. Ever since he stopped going to that man's house his sexual behavior has stopped, he is less agressive and much happier. When I told him he would not be seeing his father for a very long he said, "Yippee!!" He never talks about his father and with the help of his psych. and me and my partners efforts, he is very well-adjusted. The psychologist has told me that he is convinced that my son wants nothing to do with his father and that he is developing like a normal six-year old. He sees no trauma.

This past weekend, my son asked me very matter-of-factly: Fathers Day is coming so what do I do? I responsed by asking him what he wanted to do. He told me, "Nothing." I asked him if he wanted to send his father a card or anything like that and he said, "No!" I told him that we could celebrate that day by doing something fun all three of us because we were both like his mommies and daddies. He said, "Ok!" That was the end of that. My question is: did I respond in a productive way? Is there anything else I should say to my son to reassure him or to make him feel that it is not wrong or that he is not less of a person because he will not be celebrating Fathers Day in the traditional sense? He biologically has a father but that man has not acted like one so it pains me to give that man that label when there are man out there who truly deserve that label. Sometimes I think I am taking this harder than my son is but I want to be sure that I am responding to these questions my son may have in a positive manner.

Thanks to all who respond.
posted by workinprogress to Human Relations (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IMHO it sounds like you did and are doing the best you can do in a very complicated situation. I think the idea of doing something fun with your partner and your son for Father's Day sounds like a great idea (reinforcing that *this* is your family) and thank God that the father is no longer in contact with your son.

Speaking as someone who is 18 and not a parent, I would say just keep doing what you're doing, continue to have your son see a psychologist and it sounds like everything just might turn out for the best!

And yes, it sounds like in some ways you may be taking it harder than your son... but that's because you're an adult, and you understand things like sexual abuse. And also, you're a mom. Isn't worrying about your son part of the job description?

Again, sounds like everything's going as well as it could be. Keep it up!
posted by Zephyrial at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2007

I think you responded in the most productive way possible. You let him decide where his own boundaries were, and you offered him a way to celebrate a parental holiday with the parents he has. I don't think you could have done it better, and considering the history there, you have my absolute admiration.

Stop worrying, you did fine.
posted by headspace at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2007

IMHO you responded perfectly.
posted by Benjy at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2007

Before I got to the end, I thought "Surely the answer here is to let the boy bestow Father's Day honours on the partner?" Sounds like a bright and well-adjusted bairn. Don't worry about it. Bio-fatherhood is extremely overrated; there is no harm in forgetting a dick "father" and transferring affections to somebody who actually deserves it.
posted by kmennie at 10:07 AM on June 13, 2007

It sounds like your family is dealing as well as can be hoped with a bad situation.

Whatever father issues your son may end up struggling with, I doubt how to spend Father's Day is going to rank prominently. I don't think you have to talk about it or explicitly reassure him about it. The implicit reassurance of having a family that loves him will count for a lot more.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2007

I echo the feelings above and want to emphasise that your approach allowed him to feel empowered which is what is ruined by abuse. This is what stops people healing from early abuse IMEO. Carry on like this and there is every reason to believe his healing will be as complete as is possible in these cases.
posted by Wilder at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2007

Sounds like you're doing a great job to me.

If you really want to include a male father figure in his life, why not look to your own father, or your partner's?
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:17 AM on June 13, 2007

I would simply point out that sometimes there are difficult decisions to be taken when abuse is in the picture. The poster referred to the finacial support for her son "Truckers licence" so presumably that would disappear if he were incarcerated. Some victims of domestic violence are often in the same boat. I take your concern about false allegations and like everyone else wish that this man was behind bars but real life isn't often as neat as the movies. That's not a criticism.
posted by Wilder at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2007

Another voice to praise your handling of this - it sounds like you're doing a great job, and it sounds like your son is developing better than anyone could be expected to in that situation.

I love how you gave your son the choice, and let him answer with what he was comfortable with. Well done.

((and markovich.. wtf?!?!?))
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2007

You gave your son a great response. Just because there is a day marked on a calendar as "ABC Day" doesn't mean you have to do anything to celebrate. Making it a family day instead is a great option.
posted by onhazier at 10:32 AM on June 13, 2007

One more voice to say you're doing great. Please don't worry about it.
posted by languagehat at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2007

I think that schools nowadays don't force kids to make Father's Day cards or anything, so that should be taken care of.

I would tell him, "Just like we don't celebrate Kwanza/Christmas/Yom Kippur/whatever because we aren't a part of those groups, we're not celebrating Father's Day. But let's be happy for our friends that do celebrate."
posted by k8t at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2007

Kudos to you, and your son, for getting through all this.

My thought: if he has two mothers, why not have two mother's days?
posted by WPW at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think you did fine too. Alternatively, "Father's Day is for celebrating the people in our lives who are there for us, who we admire, blah blah blah whatever you want. Is there anyone you'd like to honor that day? What would you like you do for them?"
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2007

I agree with the Kellydamnit; though I think having a fun day with you and your partner is a good idea, if he has any grandfathers it might be nice to bring him into it. I grew up without a dad-though he was no where near as much of an asshole as your ex-and I used to make Father's Day cards for grandpa at school, etc. I think it was important for me to know that there was a man in my life who loved me and cared about me, and I think that having my grandfather as a father figure brought me closer to him.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2007

I want to echo everyone saying you handled it well. However, I do want to point out one thing:

Biological parents only matter as much as you make them.

Maybe the guy gave your son half of his genetic material, but that does not mean he must have an important role in your son's life. If (as I think sounds like it would be best) your son never sees or hears from his biological father again, what is he missing? Nothing except abuse. That certainly isn't something to mourn.

I know plenty of people, including myself, who have grown up without their biological fathers in their lives. That doesn't mean we have not had father figures, and positive influences, and enjoyable, healthy childhoods. My mother always made sure to not emphasize "blood," and so I never even cared that the guy who gave me my genetic material wasn't in my life.

It's not unusual or inherently bad to grow up not knowing who your biological father is. It will not cause psychological harm to have an abusive person removed from his life. He will only grow up to feel bad about not knowing his biological father if you train him to emphasize biological relationships, but you don't need to do that.

Again, you're doing a good job. This is a terribly difficult situation, and you are to be commended for how you're handling it. I just want to reassure you that, really, biology doesn't matter. What matters is love, and it is perfectly wonderful to chart family relationships in terms of that, instead of DNA.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2007

I want to clarify. My biological father was in my life until I was around 10. I just meant that, after that point, I had no contact with him and didn't know him any more.

So, my comments don't only apply to those who have never met their biological parents.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2007

I'm so sorry for everything that you're family's gone through. Absolutely, you did the right thing. If you or your partner don't have dads/father figures you plan to spend the day with, no reason not to just follow your little guy's lead!

You've got a lot of things to worry about just being a mom, let alone all this other stuff. Don't let this be another thing to worry about--just have a great day on Sunday.
posted by lampoil at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2007

I think you responded in the perfect way.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2007

Take the little guy to the movies that day.

Honestly, first thing that popped into my head when I first saw the thread!

(BTW please tell me that teacher was at least disciplined or otherwise held responsible. )
posted by konolia at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2007

(BTW please tell me that teacher was at least disciplined or otherwise held responsible. )

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2007

Thirded, and you did great.
posted by tristeza at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2007

I think you did great. I'm sorry to hear this story, but the redeeming feature in it is your behavior, which has been perfectly appropriate.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2007


And, yeah, you did awesome.
posted by sneakin at 11:44 AM on June 13, 2007

Sounds like a job well done, but you need more? Mmm I gave it a little thought and I was thinking, what about some hand picked male role models for him to observe and store up notes on?

You know like ok, THAT was not a Dad (whatever that was it's just not classified as a dad) but these people are Men, some men are Dads and this is the kind of cool stuff that Men and Dads do. So just some everyday guys worthy of being called Men that... well what is 'Dad stuff'. For me, fishing and robbing the bee hives... and anything that brings that smile right there... That is a Dad. Any decent man meets the specifications and any decent man realizes a boy needs to put a name to a face especially if that name is 'A Man' or 'A Dad'. To a boy they shouldn't really be all that different. (We could pick that apart but you get my jist)

(For the record to me the ideal family is just a bunch of people and some love. But something, that to me, is more exact is little boys and little girls need to see men and women so that they've 'seen the map' and have an idea of where they're heading)

So anyway when Fathers Day comes up he smiles, yeah Dads (men I like, and that like me too) are cool huh?

Even though I'm posting this anyway I do apologize, I can't sleep... And when I can't sleep I end up here and then begin to post as my alter ego Dr Insomnia expert extraordinaire. I promise there is logical thought in there somewhere.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:31 PM on June 13, 2007


and you're doing great.

Also, nthing the suggestion to include mommies's daddies in the celebration, if at all possible.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:47 PM on June 13, 2007

You did great. I agree that some male fatherly figures might be good for the boy, but you have to work with what you've got.

Have you considered having your partner adopt him?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:10 PM on June 13, 2007

Sixthed the kudos. Bravo workinprogress, you're taking excellent care of that boy.

Thirding the male figure in his life. Has one of you two got a brother, cousin, friend he could hang out with?
posted by stereo at 1:42 PM on June 13, 2007

I remember as a kid in school, around president's day, writing little essays on the president of our choice (I picked Andrew Jackson, I always thought he was kind of hot), coloring in pictures of presidents, learning about the qualifications and duties involved in being the president, etc. Maybe you can think of father's day in the same way-just use it as an opportunity to talk and think about being a dad, in general. The chances are that your son will be a dad one day, and it will be good for him to learn that HIS biological dad is an unfortunate anomaly and that most dads are cool people (just like his moms!). You could talk about seahorse dads, that actually raise the young inside their bodies - they're the ones that are pregnant! You could watch movies and tv shows that feature awesome dads, as well. Atticus Finch and Heathcliff Huxtable are two of the great dads that immediately come to mind.
posted by cilantro at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2007

Do you have pets? I didn't have any of the dilemmas you're facing but nonetheless I always got Mother's Day presents from my cats :) It was a cute thing to do.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:30 PM on June 13, 2007

My question is: did I respond in a productive way?

Yes, without question. He is capable of articulating his feelings about his father, and you're allowing him to control his relationship with his father rather than forcing him to do relationship-maintaining things (large and small) that he doesn't think are appropriate.
posted by davejay at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2007

Why not go to the zoo on Sunday and all of you can see all of the animal dads?
posted by nimsey lou at 4:37 PM on June 13, 2007

This may be bordering on affirmation-filter, but you did awesome.

cilantro's got a great idea -- introducing him to "Awesome Dads in Fiction/History" would be a great idea.
posted by blasdelf at 7:08 PM on June 13, 2007

Another thing, don't introduce a male role model as a "Male Role Model". Find some way to introduce some opportunity for him to do something cool with somebody that happens to be a cool dude.
posted by blasdelf at 7:10 PM on June 13, 2007

As a father, I'd say you're probably OK to either not do anything about father's day if he's OK with it, or explain that it's usually for a father but you and your partner are his caregivers now, and maybe you could celebrate yourselves as a family, as an alternative. Anyways, my best wishes go out to you for having to deal with this obviously tough situation.
posted by mattholomew at 7:19 PM on June 13, 2007

I'm jumping on the affirmation bandwagon too! I also want to suggest that you get some psychological attention yourself. It doesn't sound like you have huge big issues, but I think it would be helpful to have an impartial third party to discuss these types of things with you. Good luck with this, you're ahead of the curve here so far.
posted by bilabial at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2007

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