7 Way to Make An Extra Special Valentine's Day When Dad is Away

I’ve always been in love with love. A hopeless romantic that sees the potential for love and romance wherever I look. When my husband and I were first married I made sure our marriage was steeped in romance. I planned romantic outings like adventures into the mountains for wine picnics. Morning brunches in bed, staycations at local resorts or cocktails on the golf course. Now that I think about it there was a lot of wine involved, which eventually lead us to the death of our romance…our kids.

I love my kids with all of my being, but let’s be honest, kids suck the romance right out of a relationship. Most days I’m just searching for my sanity amidst tantrums, homework, diapers, sports, cleaning, running my business, playdates and prepping, cooking and cleaning up after the 20 meals a day my children seem to need. The majority of the time I’m doing these things by myself, because my husband is military.

As an Air Force veteran myself, I know the demands of military life. I understand the requirements, the TDY’s, the training, the drills and the deployments. A week here a week there, two months here, 12-months there. Although it’s difficult for me, his absences and constant in and out wreak havoc on our kids. Before and throughout his absences they are on an emotional roller coaster. From sad and missing him, to finding themselves angry that he’s not there to see their latest ballet move or swim meet win. Living with the constant trips, especially the last minutes ones, makes it hard to plan anything let alone come to depend on him. This is especially true for the countless holidays that occur while he’s gone.

Celebrating holidays with my kids is one of my biggest joys as a mom. Whether it’s Christmas or Earth day, holidays are an opportunity to step back from our day-to-day and celebrate life. Holidays can bring so much joy and magic, I try to make them an important part of my kids’ upbringing. Having their dad gone during these holidays, however, dampens a lot of that joy and elicits a multitude of emotions I don’t understand. All I know how to do is show them an extra amount of love and validate their emotions. Over the years I have focused on making holidays when their dad is gone extra special, and focused on them.

Like Valentine’s Day this year. Just after the New Year, my husband was off for another 2-month trip. The major holiday he would be missing on this trip was Valentine’s Day. The hopeless romantic in me knew I needed to make it extra special for my kids. So I focused my creativity on coming up with ways to show them I love them, not just on Valentine’s Day, but throughout the month of February. I came up with a list of ideas that I want to share, because the romantic in me thinks love in any form should be celebrated.

  1. Love Notes. I ordered a package of Valentine paper heart doilies from Amazon and write little love messages to my kids. My daughter is three so she can’t read them, but loves getting the hearts. Today’s note to my son said, “You are loved more than you know.” I tape them to the bathroom mirror. Hide them in drawers. Put them in my son’s lunch bag or on my daughter’s favorite backpack…it’s almost like Elf on the Shelf for Valentine’s.

  2. Speaking of Elf on the Shelf, our elves are coming to visit this month. I know some of you are thinking, "didn't I just get rid of mine for the year?" Believe me, ours will only make an appearance once or twice, but I know my kids will love it. To keep it simple , I hit up Pinterest for Valentine printables. I found Valentine games, elf hats that I can add hearts to in Photoshop, Valentine cards, easy Valentine kids’ crafts, a Valentine scavenger hunt…and that was only spending three minutes looking. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest that are simple and quick, but fun.

  3. A Special Outing. On New Year’s eve my husband and I took our kids to a miniature golf course and they had a blast, even my 3-year old. This place always has deals on Groupon so I purchased one in advance and am going to surprise my kiddos with a mini-golf outing on Valentine’s Day. The place is not the nicest, but at night the golf course is lined with colorful lighting making it a lot more magical. Before golf I’m going to take them to one of their favorite restaurants for mac n’ cheese. I think these types of small surprises are very important, along with spending time together outside of the house.

  4. Crafts. Like I mentioned above, while searching for Valentine’s Elf on the Shelf ideas on Pinterest I came across a ton of Valentine’s crafts. I love crafting so I always have felt, construction paper, glue, glitter and popsicle sticks on hand. Pinterest has tons of ideas, but I pick really simple projects generally using what I have on hand. My only goal is finding something the kids will enjoy and that lets their creativity flow. Something that we all enjoy doing while spending time together.

  5. Treats. We don’t do a lot of sugary treats in our house, but I love making other kinds of food treats with my kids for Valentine's Day. I will sometimes make some pizza dough and shape it into hearts for my kids to make their own heart pizzas. I’ll cut hearts out of tortillas so they can make their own quesadillas. I let them choose different fruits and vegetables to cut hearts out of or make them heart-shaped pancakes. Like my crafts, I keep food prep with my kids very simple. Their attention span is short, like my patience, so simple is key for us and keeping the peace. Although I am all about going big and dramatic with things, I have learned that with my kids, simplicity is key.

  6. Small gifts. I love giving my kids gifts, but I am careful how I gift for fear of creating entitled monsters. During small holidays, like Valentine’s Day, I head to the little section near the entry of Targets where they have inexpensive toys and crafts. I love the small toys, because let’s face it, kids are fickle. One minute a new toy car is the best thing since sliced bread and the next they’re throwing it out a car window screaming, “this toy sucks.” Yes that actually happened. I can pick up a few small toys and gift them throughout a holiday season, or the rest of the year if I accidentally forget where I have hidden them. Small gifts are also perfect for awards during the games and scavenger hunts I mentioned above.

  7. Valentine’s Day. For Valentine’s Day itself, I'm all about the little surprises throughout their day. Morning will begin with little Valentine's gifts. I purchased a couple of small metal mailboxes at Target for $1 that will be their gift boxes. In the mailboxes I will put some of their favorite chocolate, a couple useful gifts like a pencil and eraser for my son and a lip gloss for my daughter, a healthy food treat, and something fun like a Hot Wheel or Beanie Baby. For my son, I also include coupons. The coupons are good for a movie with mom or dinner with dad. A trip for ice cream or two hours of free time to do anything he wants with one of us. I also include coupons for a new book or cool school supply, a free pass on one of his chores, a home movie night where he selects the movie, etc. He loves them. Valentine's Day evening is for dinner and miniature-golf, and this year I have gotten them some special macarons for dessert.

Valentine’s Day can be a fun and memorable day. I hope some of these ideas can bring some joy to your family, especially for the families who may be missing someone close.

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