Sunday, November 30, 2003

Big Present For Single Parents

If you're married, or never been married, think long and hard about how the holiday season feels for divorced or widowed parents -- it's tough sledding sometimes. Here are some things you can do to help them.

Don't ask them how they're feeling. Ask them what they need help with.

They'll tell you not only what they need help with, but also how they're feeling will probably come out in the mix.

Single parents with opposite sex kids often need help with shopping for toys or clothes because it's not so easy for a mom to know how to put together stuff for a boy, like bikes or Legos or videogames sometimes and not so simple for dads to buy cute purses, barrettes or make-up for their girls. Moms can use help dragging big things home in small cars, or better still, in your big car. All volunteers welcome.

Also, there's an ongoing tension for a single parent (or double parent, as a friend aptly calls himself) to try to be BOTH mom and dad during the holidays, but also desperately needing, but never getting time to themselves. All aunts and uncles, real and honorary, can really give the parent a break by taking the kids to a kiddy movie, which btw, if you don't know, kids have no problem seeing about 15 times anyway. One free afternoon with your kids well entertained can make the difference between sanity and an insane asylum visit.

Be sensitive about inviting single parents to an event. I'm often invited to events requiring kids when I don't have my kid with me. It makes it awkward. There's no easy way to negotiate all these social situations, nor should the party-giver have to keep track of all those details, but at least, make it clear if a party is a grown-ups only party or a grown-ups plus kids party or a grown-ups plus kids, but I'm welcome without my kids anyway party.

Also be sensitive about inviting single parents to dinner parties with 3 married couples and one single person. If your intention is matchmaking, make it clear in advance. A lot of single parents are not ready for dating and will not appreciate your good intentions. A lot of single parents are not interested (or are already dating without you knowing about it). A lot of single parents are gay, without you knowing about it.

And of course, there's the invitations for kid parties sent to the wrong house problem. Invitations come to my house (or horrors, are found at the bottom of my kid's backpack) for an event taking place when my son's with his dad. If you know the parents are separated or divorced, try calling and leaving a phone message reminder with ALL the details for the party. I get a lot of "just doing our final RSVP's" calls for parties that I have no invitation for and ZERO information about and I have to call back like an idiot asking for a clue.