Parenting is hard enough without relationship difficulties getting in the way.
But what is one parent supposed to do when the other royally messes up?
Especially when it’s just in time for their kid’s birthday party?
A mom wrote into the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit when found herself in a unique situation where she felt pressured to teach her ex-husband a lesson and to do right by her daughter.
Redditor Fun-Organization-Mam needed to hear from others if she had misstepped at her daughter’s birthday party when she was forced by her ex to seriously think on her toes.
The Original Poster (OP) asked the sub:
“AITA for ‘setting up’ my ex-husband [to] look like a bad father?”
The OP knew she was in for a challenge when her daughter wanted a Harry Potter-themed birthday cake.
“When my and ex’s daughter ‘Megan’ was turning 13 she wanted a tiered Harry Potter cake (she loves the movies). She was very specific in what she wanted.”
“I told her as gently as I could that I didn’t think we’d be able to afford that.”
“And my Ex took that opportunity to be the ‘fun parent’ and said in a doting voice, Oh baby don’t worry, Daddy will get you your cake.’ She was all smiles and ran off to get her bags.”
When the OP tried to give her ex some tips on making this happen, he wouldn’t let her speak.
“I told him if he was going to promise this to order it early, cuz bakeries require advance order.”
“He got all huffy and said he ‘knew what the f’k [he] was doing’ and I should mind my business.”
“I said anything involving our daughter IS my business.”
“He said he didn’t need my help, and I should just handle the birthday party and he’d get the cake.”
“I said okay then they left for the weekend.”
But the OP knew what she and her daughter were in for by putting faith in her ex.
“I know my Ex. He puts things off that aren’t about him. I knew he was going to forget to order.”
“Usually I’d pester him so he wouldn’t forget. But he said he didn’t need my help so I decided to not bring it up unless he did.”
“But I did call a friend I have who started decorating cakes to order the cake from her. It cost a bit more than I’d have liked but not as much as I’d been worried it would.”
“Well he never brought the cake up again.”
“At least not until the DAY BEFORE HER BIRTHDAY.”
“Where he called me, frantic. He forgot to order the cake.”
“And now NONE of the bakeries will take his order without tacking on a MASSIVE fee cuz there’s no way they can have the cake ready unless they focus their FULL STAFF on ONE cake.”
“I was going to tell him not to worry, I ordered the cake for him.”
“But then he says ‘Why didn’t you remind me?!’ I just snapped and said he needed to figure this out and he better have a cake tomorrow, then I hung up.”
Naturally, what the OP’s ex showed up to the party with was a disaster.
“He brought a cake… a plain white sheet cake with red trim and one of those print out sugar decals on the front of Harry Potter and his two friends.”
“And a wax ’11’ candle…. she was turning 13.”
“He revealed the cake DURING her party so everyone was sitting quiet and Megan looked heartbroken and tried to be nice but she asked what happened to the cake she wanted.”
With her careful planning, though, the OP was able to save the moment.
“Ex floundered and I let him for a few seconds before laughing ‘HAHA JUST KIDDING!’ And then I went and pulled the cake I ordered from the kitchen.”
“Megan LIT UP and everyone laughed and it was just one huge joke and the rest of the party went great.”
“But after everyone went home and Megan was in her room Ex tried to lay into me about ‘humiliating him’ and ‘letting him look like a bad father’ and I told him the only one who made him look bad was HIM.”
Some of the OP’s friends don’t feel the same way about what she did, though.
“I think I was justified but some mutual friends think I should have just told him I got the cake to keep things civil between us.”
Since posting, the OP came back with an update after the situation got inevitably worse.
“I never told Megan or even planned to tell her (not until she was older maybe) but she started acting very chilly to Ex for a long while after her birthday party.”
“When he asked her why she admitted to almost walking into the kitchen when he and I were whisper arguing the night of her birthday.”
“She found out he’d completely forgotten to order the cake and the ‘joke cake’ was actually the REAL cake he got her. So she was very cross with him for a long time afterwards.”
The OP also wanted to specify that putting her ex on the spot just sort of “happened” and wasn’t intentional.
“To everyone thinking I purposefully waited to have him reveal the ‘joke cake’ before showing the cake I ordered; I didn’t.”
“I’d PLANNED on pulling him aside before the party and letting him know I just went ahead and ordered a cake for him. Then we’d take in the big cake and leave whatever he brought in the kitchen.”
“But…. he showed up after all the guests had arrived.”
“So I didn’t have time to grab him before he sat the sheet cake box on the dining room table where everyone saw it. And I knew everyone would notice us taking his short pink box into the kitchen and coming back out with a taller white one… I thought on my toes.”
Fellow Redditors wrote in, rating the OP’s role in the birthday disaster on the following scale:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Several Redditors gave the OP a big “NTA,” saying she couldn’t make her ex-husband out to be something he wasn’t already.
“NTA. Um…you actually saved him from ‘looking’ like a bad father (putting that in quotes because he doesn’t look like one, he is one) by having the cake she wanted ready and making it look like his sh*tty contribution was just a joke.”
“I am extremely glad that this man is your ex and that you are there to be a real parent to your daughter.” – lightwoodorchestra
“Thinking of how this plays out it sounds like an elaborate dad joke to anyone who isn’t mom, ex husband, or now their daughter. NTA. Ex is the a-hole, completely.”
“And to blame OP, who is no longer obligated to harass him into being an adult, for not reminding him is insane to me.” – SunshineSaysSo
“Funny thing is, if the idiot had been relieved and had shut up about it, Megan wouldn’t know this deadbeat dad forgot about her. Then again, the fact that he doesn’t remember her age should have given her a first clue…” – LaTeeacher
“He deserved to. It may not seem like a big deal to adults but it is to kids. And he deserved to feel like crap for F ing up his one promise…” – S3xySouthernB
Some also joked about the sheer number of obligations the father had to the party.
“Right he had 1 job for this party by the sounds of it.” – littlekitty198
“Hey, he had all kinds of jobs. He had to show up, he had to bring a cake, he had to get candles, he had to remember how old his daughter was, he had to come up with excuses for his disaster of a cake that his ex saved him from…the list goes on!” – blackmatt81
“Yep. And guarantee this f’k up of his will not teach him a thing. NTA.”
“This is one of those types that makes everything about him, doesn’t reflect on his part, and doesn’t learn from his mistakes.”
“Look how he tried to turn it around and make his f’k up into her embarrassing him. Tool.” – peteywheatstraw1
Others agreed but felt the OP’s daughter unnecessarily suffered in this situation.
“I agree that OP needs to stop enabling him; an early milestone birthday party is not the time or place for it if it can be avoided.”
“There will be plenty of opportunities to ‘let the chips fall’ that don’t include a public display.” – Splatterfilm
“I think it was petty to not tell him you got the cake, but also I’m not going to tell you not to be petty.”
“He acted like an a**hole, blamed you for him being an a**hole, then acted like you should be held responsible for making sure he’s not an a**hole. I’d also want to let him squirm a little after that.”
“It’s a pity that your daughter’s opinion of her father has been affected, but you didn’t do that. A combination of his incompetence and circumstance did that.”
“If he wants to make big promises to his daughter, then he has to learn to keep them or he’ll get much more than a few days of the cold shoulder.” – SecretlyFBI
“Be glad you didn’t show the cake you got to your ex before. Cause he would have passed it in front of your daughter as a cake he got for her.”
“I get that parents forget stuff, even mine did. But they never forget a promise they made to be, specially on occasions that are special to me.”
“He’s being a sh*tty dad and is upset that you refuse to be a sh*tty mother with him. He should really step up as a father, and be glad that you actually saved his face. At least in front of her friends cause now she knows the truth” – mia_scheherazade
But some also pointed out that “Megan” deserved to know more about her father’s character.
“Yes, this. Better to learn now than when she’s an adult and you can’t cover for him.”
“My mother did a lot of covering for my father after they divorced and I thought he was the greatest. He was not, and it wasn’t until I went to college and she couldn’t cover for him that I figured it out.”
“Disappointment in your 20’s stings just as much as disappointment in your teens, and I wish I had known what kind of parent he was before so I could have focused on my relationship with my mom.”
“I haven’t spoken to my father since my wedding, over 13 years ago now because I was sick of always being the one to reach out and I was too old for my mom to remind him.”
“NTA OP, he needs to be the father he wants to be, not the father he wants you to pretend to be for him.” – ssstonebraker
“He was completely fine snapping at you and making you feel like sh*t. He doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings but his own. You are out there safety netting your [daughter’s] feelings from him.” – Purdygreen
“She is protecting the daughter’s feeling but she’s also enabling the dad to be a screw up by doing back up. She needs to step back when Dad makes a promise and let the chips fall where they may.”
“And let Dad & Megan’s dynamic happen. If he promises Megan a gift, that’s on him.”
“What if he promises her something really big like a trip or a car? It’s really hard but if Megan is disappointed or embarassed because he failed his promise she will form her thought on it.”
“Mom on the other hand protected dad also from Megan’s disappointment.”
“Dads are notorious for being the ‘fun’ parent a lot of the time because they have the financial means over moms and that’s about it. He would never had ‘helped’ mom out that way. I also don’t think OP set him up to look bad at all.” – p**spot718
This undoubtedly was a stressful situation for the OP, and while thinking on her feet, she probably did her best.
Now after her teen overheard her conversation with her ex-husband, she’ll need to decide whether to save her ex from this situation, or allow her daughter to learn young who her father is beneath the surface.