My daughter was in third grade when she began to come home from school increasingly cranky and argumentative. When I asked if anything was wrong, she replied everything was ‘fine.’ (To this day, and she is now a freshman in college, everything is always ‘fine.’) But when, at the end of the week, she showed me an intricate collage she had made and I complimented her on it, she threw it to the floor and burst into tears. Only then did I realize the cause: At her public school, the kids had spent the week making Father’s Day cards and gifts under a teacher’s supervision. My daughter’s father (my husband) had died two years earlier. And my father the year before that. She had no one to give the card to and hadn’t wanted to admit that in school.
I cannot begin to explain how I irate I was – and still am – at the misguided school policy that had children spending time making gifts for fathers. (Like religion, doesn’t that belong in the home?) Surely, in a city as diverse as New York – or anywhere for that matter – we were not the only family without a father. Surely, too, there should have been more understanding of all types of families. Flash forward three years: I decided to switch my daughter to private school. One of the places she was accepted was an elite girls’ school. On their annual calendar: A traditional father/daughter dance. It caused knots in my stomach just contemplating it. For a different school’s entrance essay, my daughter had written about a photo she kept on her desk of her dad holding her the day after she was born and how it made her happy/sad. The head of that school wrote me a note saying how much she loved the essay. Choice made. (That, of course, wasn’t the only reason.)
I don’t know if either school has changed its policy, but I hope so. This Father’s Day, I will tell my daughter as I frequently do how proud her dad would be of her. She still keeps that picture on her desk. And I will send my thoughts to all children who have lost their fathers, and to the single mothers everywhere doing the best they can.