I had just finished stringing cupcake liners on a piece of yarn to serve as party decorations for my daughter’s 10th birthday. The “Cupcake Wars” birthday extravaganza preparation was nearly complete. I now needed to wrap her birthday gifts in the fun cupcake wrapping paper I found on a fluke. Wrapping gifts is my favorite part of any celebration. I find nothing more delightful than producing a pretty package for the recipient.
This year, her dad and I decided to go in together on a joint gift and each pay half the cost of her first iPod. This was an unusual arrangement for us to share in gift giving with each other. But with a bigger ticket item, we thought it necessary – so in went $50 from each side. This is one of the things I appreciate about my co-parent. Despite our divorce, our parenting philosophy on gifts has remained uniform and unchanged. We both agree in moderation with gift giving and have never fallen prey to a common post-divorce parent trap – that is, to try and “outgift” each other.
I finished wrapping the gift in a giant box to throw off any hint of an iPod and suddenly paused when it came to labeling the gift tag. My former spouse is married. Sophia has a step-mom. Was this gift from Mom and Dad? Or Mom and Dad and Step-Mom? I felt that familiar feeling of annoyance prick my pride. Immediately shame followed because I knew why I was annoyed.
I did not want to share in the gift giving glory with her step-mom. I wanted it all to myself, and a little bit for her dad. But to share the joy of giving this gift with another woman who did not birth my daughter ten years prior, was beyond the grace my initial instincts could muster. I hate that I feel this way. It makes me feel ugly, petty, and mean. But I share it now, because I have learned in the last 3 years she has been Sophia’s step-mom that it is slowly and steadily getting easier for me to move faster past my initial unflattering thoughts. I can move with more ease than before to a place of doing what I know is the right thing.
I wrote: “We love you. Mom, Dad & Steph.” A true statement and a true representation about from whom the gift was being given. Her step-mom’s income goes into her dad’s household along with her love and support of both my daughters and it would be wrong for me not to acknowledge that she is a part of Sophia’s family.
When I passed the gift to Sophia to open, she casually read the tag aloud as if it was the most normal thing in the world – and in her world it was. I saw a moment pass between my former spouse and his wife, who were at the party, where he nudged her and she shyly smiled. In this moment seeing my delighted daughter and her satisfied stepmother, I knew I did the right thing. And for me, this was the real gift.