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Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Evolving Idea of Holidays After Divorce

We have all held those visions of holidays that rival Norman Rockwell and Hallmark.  Once, I thought I could create that perfect experience and I thought it all had to culminate on the exact calendar day.  I over-extended myself (financially, emotionally, physically) to craft Pinterest-Perfect birthday parties, Thanksgiving feasts, Easter mornings.  Naturally, Christmas should be THE culmination of all my efforts.  But, even early-on, I realized that wasn't reality.  The real magic of Christmas is in the reality of it all.

When you divorce and then co-parent, there are divided holidays.  The horror of it is real and for me it is one of the more enduring pains of separation.  At first, if the children were not with me for a holiday, I kind of just tried to ignore it.  I think it was a form of denial and a way of pretending that I wasn't sad to be without them on a special day.  That first Christmas as a single mother was a minor disaster, although the children do not remember it that way at all.

The first Thanksgiving that they spent without me, we shared some "Thankfulness-es," but I did't do much to celebrate.  I feasted with my parents, but the children and I didn't have a feast together that year.  I didn't ask much about what they did with their dad.

Now I am much more ready to acknowledge that holidays - especially Christmas! - are much more than one day events.


This year, when one child asked if we could have a "Thanksgiving Dinner at Home,"  I happily obliged.  So on Black Friday, I was grocery shopping and then spent all Saturday in the kitchen preparing a Thanksgiving feast for our blended family that Saturday evening.  Our college-girl was home, the children came back from their father's house, all of our people were together.  It was worth the extra effort and the coordination of multiple schedules.  We were able to keep traditions, we made memories together, we laughed and shared and cleaned up before launching into Christmas decorating mode.  We were a real family - imperfect, scattered and breathless from the bustle, but family.

One of the traditions that I began during my single mom days was to open an Advent Calendar window each day as we read thoughtful verses about Christ.  It has become the defining tradition of our family Christmas and we do it regardless of all other schedule conflicts and challenges.  I used to get so upset about the days we missed when the children went to their father's house, but now we just pick right up and keep moving forward.

More and more I see that it is the 'spirit' of a holiday that makes it special - why did I ever think the calendar date mattered?  Gathering with family, partaking of traditions, celebrating life lived together - these are the things that count and will be remembered.  We try to open our eyes to the real magic of Christmas.

How do you handle holiday events?  Has the Thanksgiving table ever been empty?  Will you be alone this Christmas?