Dear school administrator,

I think it’s time we drop Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom.

Allow me to explain why so many of us feel this way.

I’m writing this letter to you on behalf of every single SOLO parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or godparent in this world. Some innocent traditions cut and cause undue stress, anxiety, and emptiness. Loss happens, we realize you can’t change the family dynamics for every child in your care, but with a few simple word changes, you may be able to minimize the additional heartache for an innocent young heart.

Isn’t that what we should be doing? Shouldn’t we be raising children to feel seen, loved, understood, and maybe even included when at all possible?

Listen, we understand the sentiment, really we do, and it’s lovely on its face value.

The concept that a mom or dad is invited to their children’s school or preschool is beautiful in theory, but for those children who have lost a parent (or both) to death, this simple traditional can be beyond cruel, and sadly kids of loss are not the only demographic take into consideration here. What about the children who had a parent walk out on their little lives and never returned? Let’s think of the child who is being raised by someone other than their biological person, the gay couple, and even the kid who’s parent can’t take the day off because work won’t allow it, or they don’t have the paid time off. For all those children it just sucks too. The thought that as a kid you can’t bring in your parent is like shining a big old spotlight on what isn’t ordinary, average, or customary in their already potentially traumatic young life. If I’m honest, it’s pretty sucky for the adults too. As a young widow, I never really felt like enough already, I could never replace their father in any situation but having it called out as a big old hole for a few hours at school felt like piling on.

I remember right after my late husbands plane crash my daughters preschool had the annual “Donuts with Dad” day. The fathers came into school, sat with their kid, shared a donut over a fun craft, and the children would beam with pride having Dad with them to see how their day goes. When that day came for us, we had numerous male friends who offered to step up and take Addy for the event, but that didn’t feel right in my heart. For a short moment, I considered leaving her home, but I knew we couldn’t run away from our reality forever, so we packed up a photo of her Dad, and I took her to the event myself.

She was so little, standing in the classroom with a photo of her Dad who had just passed away a few weeks before. She was bravely holding her mom’s hand. She quickly dragged me to a table to show off her cool crafts and awesome drawings. My heart was heavy with the weight of loss and the realization that I was going to have to face this without him for the rest of our days. There would never be another “Donuts with Dad” that included her father. He would never see her graduate kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, see her walk down the aisle, start a career and maybe even become a mother herself.

I scanned the room as the event started and I noticed that I was the only woman in the room (besides her teacher), and while most had heard of our story, there were a few fathers who didn’t know and that made for awkward conversations full of side tilted heads and lot’s of “oh, I’m so sorry.” My heart ached at the entire situation; it felt like I had been placed in the deepest and darkest hole with my two small babies and was unable to see any ray of hope.

Sadly, this is the reality for tens-of-thousands of families this school year. Wouldn’t it be kinder, gentler, more welcoming to do something more inclusive? Something that says anyone who loves this child is welcome? Maybe it would help eliminate children feeling sad, lonely, hopeless, unwanted, or different. I’m the first to admit that we all have challenges in the life and we have to learn to overcome adversity. The practice of ‘Donuts with Dad’ or ‘Muffins with Mom’ is typically for younger children, maybe instead of drilling home a lesson at such a tender age we just to let them feel loved by their village, regardless of how their village is composed.

I’m all for “Fruit with Friends and Family” or maybe “Pastries with Your Peeps.” :-)

The truth is my children have had “their people” from early on, and that village has saved us time and time again. Without our people, we’d never have survived the unthinkable with so much love surrounding us. Maybe it’s time children are taught that family comes in many forms and sometimes those who we don’t even share our DNA can become the most valuable defenders for our hearts.

The families that make up this world are often filled with unique circumstances, history, and stories. Less and less do our family units look what society classifies as “normal.” Let’s keep moving forward with a more all-inclusive approach to what is meant to be a fun idea.

The babies who don’t fit the mold thank you, and so do I.