One of the hardest things about being a military spouse is there are often times when I’m forced to parent solo. I give serious props to every single parent who does this full-time, all the time, but for me this is a temporary situation.

I’m used to handling most holidays on my own when my husband is gone. It can be a physically and emotionally taxing endeavor with two small children who still require a large amount of hands-on help. My children are still at the age where they are learning the importance and significance of different holidays and they don’t yet comprehend why we celebrate them beyond the superficial fun of the season. Bearing the emotional labor of a holiday on my own without any kind of secondary parental buffer taxes me mentally and I often have to plan ahead in order to ensure I don’t wind up without any means to get through the actual day.

Father’s Day is a unique dilemma because it is a glaring reminder that the person we are supposed to be celebrating isn’t here. It becomes even more important than most other holidays that I recognize it in a way that won’t make his absence even more difficult on my children, but also still honors him and recognizes what a great father and parent he is—because that is something I feel compelled to do whether he is here to appreciate it or not.

With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve included some of the ways I recognize everything my husband does for our family, his contributions and sacrifices—but in a way that’s fun for the kids:

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1. Sending care packages
Depending on the situation, this isn’t always an option, but we utilize it when it is. I let the kids make a small craft or draw a picture with Daddy and sign their name with a list of all the things they love about him, and slip in a card from me along with some of his favorite snacks and goodies. When this isn’t an option, we may do similar activities, but place them on the mantle instead.

2. Documenting the day
This means planning specific activities in his honor, whether it’s a special arts and craft, singing songs, or baking special treats, just as we would if he were here. We also take pictures or video of them and post on Facebook or send to him to enjoy when he can so the kids can see this is an important day whether Daddy is home or not—and so my husband can still feel celebrated even though he’s not here to experience it in person.

3. Recreating the day
Eventually my husband will be home again, and although it won’t be Father’s Day, he will want to make up for the time he’s lost with his kids. Whether it’s a special family outing or having a special daddy/daughter day doing some of their favorite things they would have done on Father’s Day, making the most of the time they do have together when it is actually available is one thing we can do to make up for missing the actual holiday. I count ourselves lucky as I know recreating the day is not an option for anyone permanently missing their father or husband on Father’s Day.

4. Creating kid-friendly distractions
As much as I would like to shield my kids from reminders that their dad is gone while many others are out celebrating with their dads and spouses, that just isn’t realistic. We avoid popular places where families will be out celebrating together, but a day of well-planned distractions on Father’s Day—like a well-timed Target trip for goodies, a day at the park, or ending the day with ice cream on the way home—may be enough to let us pretend the day is just like any other day.

While it’s easy to focus on celebrating our own fathers and partners on Father’s Day, we shouldn’t forget those who, for one reason or another, are coping with a father’s absence on this day. Regardless of the reason, it can be hard to find motivation to celebrate a day that is also a painful reminder that someone is missing. Although it may not seem like a big deal, if you are able to celebrate Father’s Day with your husband or father this year, please don’t take that for granted.

Ashley Kwiecinski

Ashley Kwiecinski is a stay-at-home mother of two and a military wife. She graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and from Drexel University with a master’s in library and information sciences. She writes about special needs advocacy and navigating autism spectrum disorder as well as humor parenting pieces. Her work has appeared in Scary Mommy, The Mighty, and Hahas for HooHas. You can follow her on Facebook or at her blog misfitsandmisadventures.wordpress.com.