John is a parent at my daughters’ school. He is an affable dad, but affable is not enough permission for me to throw a hug on him as I make my way to the parent holding bay to wait for the 3:00 pm school bell. He doesn’t give off a hug vibe. I think that handshakes are more of John’s territory.

To set the scene, John and I had been emailing back and forth about a hockey commitment. Caught in a vague moment of believing that I was sending my email correspondence to a huggable friend, I slipped up by replying to John with my cheery signature, “big hugs.”

In turn, John replied with the most perfectly succinct “wrong recipient?”. I felt myself wince and tighten with the uneasy realisation of having offered to bump bellies with a lovely bloke whose comfort zone is a handshake. I fumbled a quick apology in reply, wanting to crawl into the foetal position and rock myself in a quiet corner.

Little did I realise my offer of a hug was a testing ground for dealing with a second misdirected communication. This time the message was sent via text, but I was the recipient.

Crossed Lines

My phone beeped the alert of a texted invitation. My Miss 8 was summoned to share some holiday time with a few school friends. Instead of texting my reply, I rang back and did my chatty spiel with the other mum about our kids and school and nattered about our parenting philosophies.

Moments after the call, a second text arrived to my phone. Presuming that it was intended for me, I missed the heavy sarcasm of “Your lovely ex…”. My mind took a while to bend into the shape it needed to process that the other mum was taking a shot at me.  Not only that, my ex was actually the intended recipient. My head blurred by trying to comprehend the gossipy message.

Fortunately, I don’t have a lot of recent experience dealing with the sense of being betrayed. I keep people around me that I trust. And I had trusted the other mum with a few insights into how I go about being a single dad.

I have no issue with being sarcastically described as a “lovely ex.” I am firmly comfortable with the effort I make to be courteous and respectful and considerate to my ex. My children are worth me setting the best example of how to play nice, even through hearty disagreements.

I am not bothered that people gossip about me behind my back. The friends and colleagues who mean something to me care for me by making honest face-to-face conversation. I remind my daughters that gossip is harmful to those who engage in it.

I am a long way off worrying when someone fires a sarcastic pot-shot at how I go about being a dad. Being separated has not slowed up my efforts to do my best by my daughters. I regularly adapt my parenting to match where my daughters are at. I take seminars and then read all the books and chat through my parenting values with friends and talk to the school counsellors and consistently work to refine the best version of me that I can give my daughters.

Yet, I was riled that a private conversation I shared about some of my parenting ideas was being sold out in a demeaning way. I was upset that I had entrusted too much to the wrong person.


When you are making your way as a single dad, it is probable that someone will go about dissing you. Not everyone has that opportunity, and it is a firm foundation for a career in politics. Good for you if you can, in the blaze of malicious critique, just hold steady. If you reply with a feisty concoction of defensive insults and threats, then you have a little way to go in refining your single dad skills. Politics might not be for you.

And if your reaction is to let your kids see you shrug your shoulders or if you are more interested in thinking, “It’s been too long since I took my kids for a bike ride,” then your single dad expertise is pretty high. My estimation is that being able to shrug off the gossip and verbal daggers requires about three years and plenty of practice. A great gift to our children is to let them see that practice. Let them learn that refining ourselves is a life-long project.

I had shrugged off the comment in an instant. But, I was lost for a moment about whether the text message needed a reply. How do I go about being a single dad and show my daughters that I am worth more than to be dissed by somebody I trusted? So, that is when I decided I should ring and tell her.

Unfortunately, she didn’t take my call.


Photo by fauxels.

Published On: June 6th, 20230 CommentsTags: , , ,

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

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