Tips on how to celebrate Father’s Day when Dad is deployed
Holidays are especially hard when dads are deployed. Solo Moms take on the role of both father and mother during those months, and—although they adapt quickly—Father’s Day is a poignant reminder that something is missing. All the attention on dads during this time of year can be hard on both solo military moms and their kids. Here are some suggestions, put forth by other Solo Moms, to encourage you during this rough patch:
- Celebrate later. I’m sure you’ve seen the Christmas lights still on houses in March when military families are waiting to celebrate Christmas until their deployed service member returns home. Rebecca H. did this for Father’s Day last year. “My husband was due home for his midtour leave about three weeks after Father’s Day, so we just waited for him to celebrate,” she said. This Solo Mom was happy to wait and enjoy watching her young son spend time with his father. The day didn’t matter; the experience did.
- Skype. Technology makes all the difference during deployments these days. A great way to celebrate with your kids while Dad is gone is to set up a time to Skype with him. Of course, this is a very popular day for Skype, so depending on time zones, the Internet may be slow. Consider celebrating a day before or after to get the most out of it.
- Care packages. These can go both ways! Dad can send something to the kids, and the kids can send something to Dad. Preparing care packages is a lot of fun. Ask the kids to make projects and cards, and shop for Dad’s favorite snacks. (Keep in mind the temperatures in June.) They can add them to a pile or make a decorative box ready to ship. It would be fun for Dad to send something, too, maybe a book about an upcoming trip or something that they like to do together.
- Daddy Dolls. The ever popular stuffed doll that can be personalized with a picture of Dad can take center stage on this special day. Plan a day for your family doing things you’d normally do with Dad, and take along the Daddy Doll. (Or, if you don’t have one, make a “flat daddy” that can be taken along with you.) Document the day with pictures and videos, and send them to Dad later on. Of course, it’s not as great as the real guy, but it’s fun for the kids.
- Photo shoots. Pictures as presents are all the rage these days, and themed photo shoots take the cake. This year, make some for Dad. They make great presents for later on, as well. We did one a few years ago with the kids and the dog, and I e-mailed them to him while he was gone but also put them in a nice frame for his office upon his return. Although most men would never ask for pictures, we know they like them.
- Grandfathers. They are not a substitute for fathers, but grandfathers did raise some awesome kids. While Dad is away, spending the day with Grandpa would be super fun. They spoil our children when we are tired, they have endless energy to answer questions, and they give the kids the “man time” that they crave. If you’re really lucky, they may even take the kids away for the afternoon so you can take a nap!
- Skip it. Depending on the age of your kid(s), you could even skip it. Littles don’t really understand what is going on, and although you’ll still want to celebrate Dad, the timing isn’t crucial. Or spend the day making things for when Dad returns. Attention spans are key here. If they have five minutes to draw a picture for Dad, then that’s the time you spend. Of course, if they are school-aged, they may spend time working on projects with their class, and then it’s unavoidable.
- Join other Solo Moms. Your village is going through the same thing or has in the past. Meet up with other solo military moms and plan an adventure that you and all your kids will enjoy. You know how much fun it is to take four moms and 15-plus kids to the zoo and then watch everyone else’s reactions? Do something fun with your military family, and try not to spend too much time harping on the fact that Dad’s not home.
Solo military moms know that our kids are resilient and constantly adapting. There’s no reason to think they wouldn’t enjoy whatever you have planned for that day. Homecoming is on its way, and that will overshadow whatever else you’ve done during this deployment.
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.