When your parents divorce, can you invite them both to your birthday?

Our elder has some tips on how to avoid the awkwardness.

Dear EWC

My parents just barely separated and are working to get divorced. My dad has problems with prescriptions, pushing my mom around and a lot of other not so good things but he’s still my dad. I’m having a birthday party soon and I was wondering if I should invite him. I know he’d be offended if I didn’t invite him, but I also know it’ll be weird and awkward. Also, my mom would be uncomfortable. Do I need to invite him and if not, how do I tell him no as painlessly as possible?

Folk replies

I am sorry that your parents are divorcing. But divorce only changes their relationship to one another; it does not change their relationship to you. Because your mother will always be your mother and your father will always be your father, there will be many occasions in the future when they will both want to be there for you. I am talking about stuff like school activities and performances, sports games, graduation, holidays, and, of course, birthdays. The birthday you have coming up is your first one since your parents’ separation, so it is up to you to figure out who you would like to have at your party to celebrate with you. It is your birthday, so what you want matters more than either your mother’s discomfort or your father’s hurt feelings.

I think you have two choices:

First:

If you would like to celebrate your birthday with both your parents, invite your father to your party. Your dad may have problems, but his problems have nothing to do with you or your birthday. Under the circumstances, your mom may not be comfortable having him there, but if you tell her that this is what would make you happy on your special day, she will understand. Because your parents love you, they can put their bad feelings for one another aside for a few hours if you ask them to.

Second:

If the idea of having both your parents at your party is stressing you out, you can ask your dad to do some special father-son thing with you to celebrate your birthday instead of coming to your party. Maybe there is a movie you would like to see with him, or maybe you would like him to take you camping or to an amusement park. Maybe you would just like him to shoot some hoops with you and a friend. Think of something you would like to do with your dad — and then ask him about doing it before the party.

I know you are trying hard to think of your parents’ feelings, Josh. But it is not your job as their son to look out for your parents. It is their job to look out for you.

Once you decide which option you want to choose, you should talk to your mom and dad and let them know how you feel. It’s OK to remind your mom that you still love your dad despite his problems and that you still want to be with him — even if she doesn’t. It’s also OK to remind your dad that just because your mom doesn’t want to be with him, it doesn’t mean that you don’t.

You deserve to have both your parents present for the big moments in your life — if that is what you want.

I hope that whichever way you decide that you will have a very happy birthday. We are always here if you have any other problems or concerns that you would like to talk about. Please write back and let me know how things are going. I will be thinking of you.

Letter #: 428068
Category: Family

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