Whether you’re now a one-parent family because of a death or because of a divorce, if Dad (or Mom) is absent, and especially if the absence is fairly recent, both you and the kids have a lot to be sad about.
It’s time to give yourselves something to be happy about.
Now, I’m not saying that creating a happy occasion is going to make up for Dad’s absence. That’s silly…about as silly as the family that gets a dog after Dad leaves or dies, just to console the children. (Which is not the same as buying a dog for protection after Dad leaves or dies.) Since when does having a pet make up for not having a dad around the house?
And having a celebration doesn’t make up for it either…but it does temporarily help to dispel the gloom. Inevitably, when the kids (and you) look back on this year, it will be seen as The Year That Dad Left or The Year That Dad Died. But that doesn’t have to be the only thing you and they remember the year for.
Celebrations don’t have to be associated with major events. What kind of occasions or celebrations can you create to dispel the gloom of Dad’s absence?
Here are some celebrations and occasions to consider:
The (your family name) Monthly Picnic–Indoors in Cold Weather
In summer, of course, it’s easy. Find a good spot, relax the rules about healthy eating for one evening a month, and enjoy yourselves. Over the winter months, sit on the living room rug, near the fireplace if you have one, and feast on picnic food.
Celebrate the half-birthday of each family member (you too, Mom!) as it occurs. One small token present, cake and ice cream, and perhaps the celebrant’s favorite meal (if it’s something reasonable) and favorite game.
Tall Tale Contest
Gather in the living room or family room (or outdoors in warm weather) and see who can tell the biggest tall tale. Create a certificate on your computer for the winner.
Gather after dinner and have each family member tell the three things he or she is most grateful for. This brings everyone to a realization of how much there still is to feel good about and happy about in spite of Dad’s absence (and any financial or other practical hardships that might result from that absence).
Sunday Night Family Prayer Service
You don’t have to be Christian to pray on Sundays, and you don’t have to be a regular church-goer, temple-goer, or mosque-goer to pray at home. Write a brief service (with no sermon) and have the kids be a part of it. Better yet, if they’re old enough, let each of them take turns writing and conducting the service. You can incorporate prayers from your faith’s prayerbook, Bible, or other writings, and/or original prayers written by you and/or your kids, and hymns from your religious background. If you or one of the kids is especially creative, you can even write the words to a hymn and set them to an existing familiar tune. If someone could turn “On Top of Old Smoky” into “On Top of Spaghetti,” why can’t you also turn that same tune into, “I Thank God for So Much”?
Everyone dresses topsy-turvy. This could mean wearing your underwear outside your outer clothes, or wearing your button-front shirt upside-down, or wearing your t-shirt backward, or any other interpretation you want. Since it’s evening, you’ll want to serve breakfast for dinner. If you normally say a prayer before eating, say it after dinner instead. (Don’t worry. It’s not sacrilegious. And I’m sure God has a sense of humor.) You can even try speaking backward: “Salt the pass please.” “Is it here.” “You thank.” “Welcome you’re.” Fun have!
July 1 is the start of the second half of the year. Whether you let the kids stay up till midnight and blow horns, or serve “Shirley Temples” to drink, or simply have them make new resolutions, you can find a way to celebrate this new half-a-year.
Ben Franklin’s Birthday
Ol’ Ben sort of discovered electricity…without which you’d have no computers, no TVs, no videogames, no automatic dishwashers, no electric lights, no iPods…the list goes on. So mark the date—it’s January 17th—in whatever creative way you deem appropriate.
• • •
Well, there you have a smattering of suggestions. Feel free to add to them or improve on them. You have the idea by now. And keep the custom going…not just the first couple of years without Dad but for as long as the kids live with you…even if you remarry in the meanwhile. When they look back, whether it’s a year from now or from the lofty perch of their adulthood, they’re not going to forget the year that Dad left (or died), but they’re also going to remember all the fun, the warmth, the special times they had with Mom. You’re creating good memories. You’re bonding a family.
~ ~ ~
Cynthia MacGregor is the author of over 100 books, many of them for parents or kids, many of which help with difficult situations. These include The Divorce Helpbook for Teens, The Divorce Helpbook for Kids, After Your Divorce, and Jigsaw Puzzle Family, all in print, and such e-books as Solo Parenting and “Step” This Way. Learn more about them at Cynthia’s website, www.cynthiamacgregor.com.
Cynthia is available for copywriting, ghostwriting, and editing. Email her at Cynthia@cynthiamacgregor.com.
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