I was having coffee with a good friend one morning discussing how we manage to budget life with our large families and the impact our new husbands would have on our children. She went on to discuss how her ex-husband always made his weekends with his kids all about fun. They spent tons of money, buying frivolous things, seeing every new movie as it came out, going to amusement parks, eating dinner at restaurants, and basically getting as much excitement you can for a child in two short days. He’s such a “Disneyland Dad!” she exclaimed with exasperation.
I had never heard the term before, but I understood what she was saying. I could tell she wanted to be able to do all those things with her children, but someone had to be responsible and budget-conscious. There was no way she could afford to keep up with her ex, nor did she want to. With a large family, planning, organization, well thought out economical meals, and limited expensive activities are a must. But the expression stuck with me. After we said our good-byes and I pulled out of her driveway I realized,
I married a Disneyland Dad.
The thing is, when you look up the expression, it is defined with such disdain:
This little gem of a definition came from Urban Dictionary. There were some other versions that were truly awful.
A few days later while reading one of the local “Moms Pages” on Facebook, that word popped up again. This mom was so angry at her ex-husband for always showing their children a good time and lavishing them with gifts on his weekends. She looked at it as him trying to show her up and look like the better parent to their children. She was positive everything he was doing was some sort of competition to make their kids love him more and to make her look bad. I didn’t know her, the ex, or the kids, but part of me felt like someone needed to step in and defend the dad that was getting bashed from every mom on the thread. There were so many women that seemed to relate to her. Honestly, the post made me angry.
I remember one of my first dates with Jose, we spent the day kayaking the Guadalupe River. I hadn’t been divorced very long and I was hesitant about getting into a new relationship. Luckily for me, he was persistent. We talked about our ideas for our future and I vividly remember the confident way he said, “I want it all, Liz. I want a wife, I want a house full of children. I want to come from work at night and have my kids run up to me saying Daddy, Daddy, we missed you!”
I almost paddled far, far away.
That was exactly opposite from what I wanted. I was jaded. I wasn’t even close to considering marriage after what I had just went through, and my children were already grown. I had a grandson and the idea of having more children didn’t appeal to me at all. I’m glad I stuck around though, because here were are, a big, blended family, married and expecting our 8th child! I’m so happy. But that was the moment that I could see how important his children were to him. How much he missed seeing them everyday and what a wonderful father he was!
Back to the Moms Page on Facebook. I had had enough. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this dad was just trying to show up the mother and it was all some mean competition to buy the childrens love, but knowing my own husbands sadness when we take his kids back their mom, I decided to speak up…
“Here’s the thing about many non-custodial Dads, they love their children. They miss their children. Often times they don’t fight for custody because even though they really want their kids with them every single day, they make that sacrifice knowing kids need their mom and moms needs their kids. If they have standard visitation, they usually only have the kids 4 to 6 days a month. That means, you, as the mom have 25 days of memory making; whereas we only have a few. When our children grow up and look back at their childhood, we want them to remember good times with BOTH parents. We want them to realize that even though 2 weekends a month is a short time, it was a good time. We did exciting things outdoors, planned fun activities indoors, and tried to pack a months worth of memories into a couple of days.”
I’ve said it before in my “An Open Letter to the Mother of My Step-Children” blog:
“I know things aren’t always easy between you and their dad, but you did love him once. You saw all the wonderful things in him that I see. You valued him enough to have children with him. (And I must say, you make beautiful babies together!) I think sometimes, after a divorce it is easy to remember the faults of a person while forgetting their positive attributes. He is a wonderful, loving father. He gets giddy in anticipation of their arrival and is sad when we return them to you.”
Moms, it’s not always a competition. It’s not always trying to buy love, make you look bad, or showing off. Please remember, our Disneyland weekends we have with your children are all we have. We want to be part of their lives and we definitely want to be part of their memories.