The one thing that we almost always agree on in contested custody cases is that “Mother’s Day goes to Mother; Father’s Day goes to Father.” We automatically insert this into the orders without much thought, discussion, or argument. Sometimes creating this simple agreement provides us with a starting point which allows us to agree on other things; like which parent will have the children on Halloween, Christmas, Spring Break. Reaching agreement on these issues is tough. People going through divorce feel powerless and agreeing with the other parent can intensify their feelings of vulnerability. In truth the opposite is what happens more times than not: the parent who can find a way to offer and agree to things that are reasonable, that are truly child centered, is the one who has a way better chance of being satisfied with the outcome in their case.
I tell my clients who are Fathers to help their children pick out cards or make gifts for Mom. I do the same with the Mothers for Father’s Day. My clients do not always like this suggestion. They have been hurt and manipulated by the other parent. Why should they do anything for them at this point? The answer is easy: it is what is best for the children. The child will be cautious but excited; she will be relieved that she does not need to sneak around about this. Perhaps the parent watching this will see things through the child’s eyes in a way that had not been possible before.
I remember buying my Mother a can of Aquanet hair spray for a Mother’s Day gift. I was 5 years old. I had to choose between the purple or pink can. My sisters selected handkerchiefs and my brothers chose candy but I was sure my gift was the best. It was what I saw her use every day, so I knew it was perfect. It cost $2.89. Mom loved it. We remembered that day forever. It was corny and funny but it was something we laughed about every May for the next 50 years.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are pushed upon us. We accept the fact that the retailers have conspired against us to get us to buy more golf balls and cigars for Dad and flowers and perfume for Mom. But that aside, they are important days. Help your child honor Mom on Sunday in whatever way you can. It is an example of that mysterious directive to “learn to successfully co-parent.” It’s what the court, your attorney, and your children want from you.