Last May, my beautiful goddaughter, Sally, turned 1 and I was blessed to be included in this event. I have known said goddaughter’s mom ,Barb, since high school and we are the best of friends. One year prior to this event I was in the delivery room as Sally was born and stayed overnight until Sally and Barb were released from the hospital. Ever since I have been supportive of Barb and Sally in every way possible causing most of Barb’s family members to refer to me as the Baby Daddy (and yes I am female!)
Sally’s real dad, Mike, lives two states away but has (for the most part) been present for the special occasions including Sally’s first birthday. The day started nicely with lots of sunshine and family members on their best behavior. I had come early to help set up and volunteered to help Barb’s sister collect a few last minute items at the store. Mike spent most of the pre-party day in the basement putting together a really cute wagon/tricycle. The day moved on and it came time for cake cutting. Barb’s dad asked who would like to cut the cake as Barb was busy with Sally (still nursing). I said I would as I have much experience doing so as my grandmother has worked in the catering business for 60 years and has taught me how to cut cake swiftly. Suddenly Mike says that he wants to do it as it is his daughter’s cake. I said okay would you like some help.
Now just a small tangent. Mike and I are not friends. He has annoyed me in the past and I was putting on my friendly face to deal with him. He has made several small comments in the past (and present) about my relationship with Sally and Barb. Barb and I are very close and have been mistaken for a couple on many occasions. We aren’t a couple but have been friends for many years and the fact that I watched her give birth has made us even closer. (I often joke that I watched her give birth and she didnt!) Sally and I are very close as well and I spend a great deal of time with her including her spending the night at my house.
Now back to the story at hand. Earlier in the day, Sally refused to come to Mike and screamed when he tried to pick her up. She ran to me and would not let me put her down. (This has happened before.) Now I don’t know if this had something to do with his attitude but he responded with a firm, “No.” I left it alone and since Sally was not interested in cake we began opening her gifts. I looked over to Mike cutting the cake to see him using his fingers to place the cake on plates. I approached Mike and said, “Hey, you shouldn’t touch other people’s cake. Its unsanitary.” Mike replied, “Stop being a germaphobe. My hands are clean. I just washed them.” My reply was, ” Its still unsanitary. Use a fork.” Mike then shouted, ” Look I got this. Its my daughter’s cake.” At that point I threw up my hands and went to help with the gifts. As gift unwrapping ended Barb mentioned that it was late and I needed to get going. ( I had just finished graduate school and was going to a party held in my honor) As I got up Mike stated, “You not staying to help clean up?” I replied (curtly), “No, I have a party.” Mike, “Well I see where your priorities are.” I did not reply and simply walked upstairs to exit the house.
Now I had already cleared my early departure with Barb and her parents. This party was being held in mine and 4 other girls’ honors but they had stated they were not going to start the festivity until I arrived. As I exited, Barb’s mom asked where I was going and before I could answer her husband stated, “Her graduation party.” I stated (to them only), “And plus I need to leave before I commit murder and get blood on your newly painted walls.” (Barb’s dad is a cop) They both giggled and said have fun at the party.
The holidays are fast approaching and I am worried that Mike will get the best of me and my friendly face will disappear. So I need some advice on how to handle a P.I.T.A barely there father who gets pissed at me because his daughter does not know him? Thanks! 1209-11
I’m afraid you won’t like my answer one bit. By your own admission, Mike has made the effort to travel from two states away to be there for important milestones in Sally’s life. We can deduce from your story that Mike is not persona non grata or some nefarious influence but is being invited into Sally’s mother and grandparents’ home to participate in his daughter’s life. The fact that you mention there will be future functions where Mike, Sally and Barb will be in attendance indicates that Barb and her parents are extending invitations to Mike and apparently will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
You further mention that everyone in the family is “on their best behavior”. Everyone but you, it appears. You are the one who initiates the conflict. When Barb’s dad asked who would cut the cake, and Mike stepped up to take on that task and Barb’s dad delegates that task to him. Mike declines your offer of help yet you can’t help interfering with criticism on how he is cutting and serving the cake. Neither the host or hostess appears to have a problem with how Mike is executing this so why would you think you had the authority to assume oversight as if you were the host of this party? If you don’t want Mike’s fingers touching your cake, simply wait til he’s done cutting the majority of the cake and cut your own piece later or decline to eat any. A piece of cake isn’t worth the angst you created. And Barb’s parents’ giggles may have been nervous titters one does when confronted with a comment that was quite inappropriate. You appear to have been contributing to the tension in the party.
When Sally refused to go to Mike, you should have kindly told him that this is a common phase in small children to have stranger anxiety and then worked to encourage Sally to get more comfortable with Mike. I view it as a positive that Mike was upset that his daughter did not want to come to him. I don’t view it as positive that you seem to relish this.
If you love Sally, you will do nothing whatsoever to undermine her relationship with her father. She will need her father and you are not her father. You should have a common goal with Mike, Barb and Barb’s parents to pursue what is in the best interests of Sally. Being contentious with Mike in Barb’s parents’ home is not in Sally’s best interests since it has the potential effect of discouraging Mike from attending future events in which it is quite likely you will also be invited. If you love Sally, you will not only not undermine her relationship with her father but should be encouraging it as best you can.