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For years I hated Valentine’s Day. As a single dad, I misunderstood the holiday and often took walks of shame at my son’s annual classroom exchange parties.

I thought the parental chore for a Valentine’s Day school party was to ensure that every student in my son’s class got a card. Silly me – the Hallmark affirmations were a bonus. The real reason for the celebration was to hold a crafts competition and let moms transform desks into mini-Broadway stage sets.

For my son’s first Valentine’s Day class exchange, I bought him a 28-piece Dollar General card set. When I arrived to help with the party, it felt like the teacher and moms had a long chat with my ex – I never anticipated taking a walk of shame in a kindergarten classroom.

I assumed my transgression was going cheap. For future classroom exchanges, I consulted Alexa. I bought more expensive card collections with add-ons like candy, erasers, and temporary tattoos. Regardless of how much I spent, the annual stroll of infamy continued.

As a typical male, it took repeated beatdowns before I grasped the expectation. A genuinely loving parent takes the time to craft a personalized Valentine’s Day card box.

As my son’s final Valentine’s Day classroom party approached, I knew I had to make something. Yet, I’m color-blind and artistically challenged. How could I compete with the Joanna Gaines wannabes who could create a three-foot-tall robot mailbox out of tin foil and shoeboxes? As I reflected on the dilemma, two words floated around my psyche. “Depot.” “Home.”

I went to my people’s village. Like every Home Depot venture, entering the store triggered a release of testosterone that jumpstarted my D.I.Y. brainstorming. “I need a container.” “How about a Husky Latch and Stack tote?” “Too big.” “Something smaller and for cards.” “Like a mailbox!”

I immediately went to Aisle 37 and selected a Gibraltar Elite black galvanized steel model. Although the mailbox was “the perfect blend of design, durability, and functionality,” I knew it needed personal touch. Yet, I didn’t want a lifetime store ban because I asked an employee how to draw hearts on a mailbox.

The mailbox needed something, and I remembered that Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Protective Enamel Spray Paint provides excellent coverage on metal. I concluded I could demonstrate an act of fatherly love by spray painting the mailbox red.

Before you question my genius, here are the answers.

1) Yes, the mailbox and can of spray paint were more expensive than any homemade card box.

2) Yes, I had to drive the kid and mailbox to school. And pick them up.

3) Yes, my son was embarrassed hauling a full-sized mailbox through the hallway. More like humiliated.

But, when he placed the red mailbox on his desk, it was a huge hit. His classmates loved the box, especially using the flag to indicate a delivery. More important, went I entered the classroom, there was eye-rolling but no dad shaming.

My son learned a valuable man lesson on that Valentine’s Day. When a father wants to avoid walks of shame, the answers will not be on Instagram, Pinterest, and Esty. Or at stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Dads find inspiration to life problems at retailers with employees wearing tool belts.



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