Last year was a first for my ex and me: We went through the holidays as a divorced, co-parenting couple and decided to celebrate the holidays together, under one roof so our kids wouldn’t have to go back and forth or worry about the parent they weren’t with.
Mostly we did this for the kids of course; we wanted them waking up in their own beds and to be greeted with Christmas morning the way they’d always known – with both of their parents present and waiting to dive into all the normal traditions. They’d been through enough that year and there was so much angst saved in knowing they didn’t have to split their time up between their two parents.
But I also know we made this decision because there was a tiny sliver, in both my ex and me, that wanted to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas morning together because it was easy and familiar.
After all it’s what we’ve done for the last two decades, and there was comfort in knowing we had one less thing we had to think about, one less thing we had to try to get right, one less thing we knew we weren’t totally screwing up, by sticking to our normal.
How we are celebrating the holiday as newly-divorced parents
But this year we’ve decided we need to pull away from each other a bit more; we are ready and so are our kids. Our three teenagers understand it’s time and don’t want us celebrating the holidays together when our heart isn’t in it, just for them.
So, we will head into the holidays this year performing another first. Our kids will spend half of Thanksgiving and Christmas with me, and the other half with their father.
My kids are ready to split the holidays between two homes and literally seem unfazed every time we talk about it. Honestly, I think they are excited about having two celebrations; they are looking forward to spending time with their mother and their father and watch them be their best selves on such special days.
But I am struggling; I don’t want to be wave good-bye to my kids on Christmas. I don’t want to wake up Thanksgiving morning knowing they aren’t sound asleep in their beds when I wake up to start all their favorite dishes.
I don’t want any of it, and yet I know I can sit and wallow in self-pity or I can carry on and not let the angst of only seeing them for half of the day on a holiday get in the way of all the other joy it brings. This time of year is filled with so many potential memories and they don’t need to be wasted because I am feeling sad.
Whether I am with my kids or not, they need a happy, fulfilled mother. They need to know when they are with their father that I have a life I enjoy outside of them. That is what makes my kids happy–this is what makes all kids happy– they’ve told me and shown me that truth over and over these past few years and that has been what has kept me going.
I will allow myself to be sad, I will allow myself to miss them, I will allow myself to be open to this change and accept it for what it is. I will show my kids that change can bring amazing things and unforgettable traditions. And no matter where they spend the holidays, we are still a family, they are loved unconditionally and we are all going to be okay.
I will try my hardest not to let my sadness and nostalgia of our changing family eclipse the season this year. But I’m pretty sure it will still happen and I’ve already accepted it.
It doesn’t matter what life situation we are handed or we choose, doing our best is the only thing we can do—and this situation is no different.
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