4 Words that can RUIN a Birthday

photo by Stuart Miles, mydigitalphotos.com

One of the highlights of the year for parents is our kids’ birthdays.  Their excitement is so contagious.  As I write this we’re celebrating my son’s 14th birthday and I’m listening to a gaggle of boys wrestle and holler upstairs.  It actually sounds like the roof is about to cave in.


I love to hear their laughter as I work on frosting the tye-dyed birthday cake I’ve prepared.  Hopefully the frosting will hide the section I broke trying to get it out of the pan too soon.


Yet there is a little piece of my heart that is melancholy.  It’s the part that wonders if I should ask those 4 little words, "Did your father call?".  We know better than to expect a gift or even a card, but most years there is at least a phone call.


This is something I was totally unprepared for.  If you’re like me, there are a lot of things you expected to change when you got divorced.  But there were also a lot of things that really shocked or surprised you.  This was mine.  My ex left the city, and the boys’ lives.


It breaks my heart to think that they might believe even for a moment that they did something to cause his absence.  It puts me in a tricky spot because I try never to speak negatively of him in front of them.  But with each month that goes by without seeing or hearing from him, it gets harder and harder to think of positive things to say.


I will say, though, that I prefer no phone call at all to the year he called and said a gift was in the mail… a gift that never arrived.  The sight of one of my boys excitedly checking the mail day after day in hopeful expectation...  it’s almost more than a mother can bear.


What causes this?  What makes a father stay away?  Is it guilt?  Do they think days and weeks and months can pass without anyone noticing their absence?  Do they think the kids are better off without them?  I just can’t wrap my head around it.


And still, I will continue to pray for their father.  I pray that his eyes and heart are opened.  I pray for healing of any and all hurts, habits and hangups that prevent him from being the father he was called to be.  I pray for radical change in his life, before he misses the chance to make amends with his boys.


And I thank God for the man he brought into our lives to love and lead our family.  A man who takes seriously the job of teaching all our children what fatherly love looks like.


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