by R.J. Jaramillo
Certain holidays and celebrations can be a little bit more difficult than others for a single parent. Valentine’s Day used to be one of those holidays for me, but I learned some fun personal and practical family activities to celebrate without feeling the Valentine Blues as a single dad.
Valentine’s Day with Your Children
The first thing I had to “re-think” for myself was the commercial aspect of Valentine’s Day. My mental picture of love letters, cards and flowers sent to the office, and a romantic dinner date was not the only way to see it happening for me.
Everything changes when you are divorced or widowed. When I was newly divorced, this holiday was just another date on the calendar that might or might not have fallen under my custody schedule. So the first year I discovered I had my children for the holiday, I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a special “Daddy Date.” I handwrote three invitations for my children and mapped out the evening’s activities to them on the invitation:
• A special dinner prepared by Dad featuring their favorite meal
• Dessert menu featuring fresh homemade cookies that we bake together
• My own handmade Valentine’s Day card with personal special wishes from Daddy
• A choice of one activity that we could all agree upon: bowling or a movie
My Daddy Date went perfectly, and I found the meal and all the activities brought us closer as a family.
Valentine’s Day as a Single Dad
On my first Valentine’s Day alone as a single parent, I had to “think outside the box.” Here’s what worked for me.
My community of friends really helped me out during my time of loneliness. There is a term nowadays where guys can go out and have a great time just being “the guys”… it’s called a “bro-mance.” My two best friends from college and high school took me out for some great food and great laughs. It made all the difference in the world for me to celebrate and realize that there is a difference between feeling lonely and being alone. As a single parent, we are never alone, but we can feel lonely. I realized that I am only a phone call away from anyone and that was a big life lesson learned that year.
My second suggestion comes from my Valentine’s Day this past year. I actually made a special meal for that special someone in my life: Me. It was another year of not having my three kids with me, and I actually was excited to have a rare and quiet evening to myself, just to enjoy my kitchen, prepare a big steak and sip a glass of red wine. My “dessert” was going to bed early, giving myself eight hours of sleep and actually feeling rested the next morning! I know anybody can relate to this subject of sleep, parenting and children. It was a great evening.
I hope my experiences help you create your own celebrations this year. Wherever you are, and whatever you do this Valentine’s Day, remember that as divorced and widowed single parents in transition, we all experience the same feelings and emotions.
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A father of three, R.J. Jaramillo is the founder of Singledad.com, a Website dedicated to single parenting and its mission to “Make Life Happen … Again!” He lives in Scripps Ranch.