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Mommy Has Custody And Daddy Has Saturdays
Author: Shiloh

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You see them in the morning on Saturdays,
with their sons and daughters,
sitting in the booths at places like Friendlys
or McDonalds or Burger King.
The Weekend Daddies.
Daddy has a big, forced smile on his face,
the kids are kind of subdued, as kids go,
not the usual excitement you would expect
from a trip to eat with Dad...
because this is not a normal day for them,
because this is Saturday.
On Saturdays Dad picks them up
and spends the day with them,
before returning them to their mother.
You can see it in his face -
he is desperately trying to make his kids happy,
wanting them to enjoy being out with him,
mentally willing them to enjoy themselves
because he is there,
spending some time with them.
He's praying that somehow, some way,
today will be a special day for them,
and they will smile and let him know
that he has succeeded,
that he has been a good Dad today...
at least this one time.
He wouldn't trade anything
for these Saturdays with his kids,
but they put him on such a guilt trip
every time he sits across from them
at the restaurants,
every time they ride with him
in the old, half-beaten car he drives now,
because he understands that, from their viewpoint,
he has failed them.
He's not there any more at suppertime,
at bedtime, or after school.
He doesn't take part in all the things
a Daddy is supposed to take part in.
Mommy has custody and Daddy has Saturdays.
He's a Weekend Daddy.
If he's lucky, he gets invited to some things
that are meaningful for the kids,
but those events are shredded a bit at the edges
when he has to leave and go away again
after it is over.
He doesn't get to stay, he has to leave.
Try to explain that to a kid of seven.
It can't be explained, it can't be understood.
But today is Saturday...
maybe they can ride the carousel, or a couple of them -
that's always free.
And maybe they can window shop at the mall -
that's always free.
And maybe they can get another burger for lunch -
he has enough money for that,
if he just has a coke while they have a happy meal.
He prays it will be a happy meal for them.
He has saved a bit and believes he might have enough today
to take them somewhere and get them some special treat,
a toy, something to take home with them
to remind them that their Daddy loves them -
I've seen them as they come into the store,
the kids running around looking at the toys,
the Dad looking at the price tags.
Today I am ready for them.
Today I have a few things that I "marked down"
and put "on clearance," and I call him over,
and lift the box up onto the counter for him.
Today he can be the hero he so desperately wants to be.
Today he can afford to buy his kids a couple toys
as he tries to buy their love and his dignity back,
before he has to take them home. To their home.
Because Mommy has custody, and he has Saturdays.

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