It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are here! It’s time for all those awesome family traditions that we used to cringe at when we were teenagers, but now we can’t wait for our kids to experience. Nothing is more heart warming than gathering around the table at Thanksgiving and looking at our family with a gratitude we often forget about throughtout the year, as we stuff our faces with Turkey and Taters. Then comes Christmas and the sound of little foot steps down the stairs followed by gasps when they see what Santa brought. It is probably one of the best times of the year to be a parent.
I’m gonna be real with you today though and tell you, just as probably most divorced parents all over the world will tell you, that the holidays are the toughest part of any divorce. One Year it’s your holiday and the next it’s theirs. It’s a bummer for sure. I remember the first year I didn’t experience Christmas morning with my kids. It was a hurt I can’t explain. My heart ached as I woke up alone. No kids jumping in my bed at 4 in the morning, no little foot steps down the stairs, and no happy gasps. Just quiet. I guess it should have felt like any other day when the kids weren’t with me, but I think we can all agree it’s just different on the holidays. So yes I had a “woe is me” moment. I mean, you can have the best co-parenting set up in the world (which I feel pretty much sums up my life) yet nothing will change the fact that you personally can’t make memories with your kids on EVERY holiday.
The worst thing though about divorce is that the kids don’t have both parents on those days either. I’m sure psychologists all over can argue that the kid is fine, that there is no real psychological damage to not having BOTH mom and dad during the holidays, but ask kids that come from split homes how holidays were and still are perhaps and you may get a glimpse of that damage. Most will tell you about the nightmare of being forced to eat two Thanksgiving dinners as to not offend someone or spending Christmas Eve at one home and the nextmorning at the other, then as they get older trying to please both sides and work around siblings, in laws and then their bitterly divorced parents who can’t be in the same room on top of it all! Which brings me to my point…how can we as divorced adults co-parenting make the holidays truly the best time of the year for our kids?
Let’s be honest it’s gonna take a lot of swallowing your pride, sacrifice, and compromise. I know I’m so annoyingly optimistic that we can all do this! Here’s some tips and tricks I’ve learned though that can help to ease the sting of split holidays.
I am literally the queen of procrastination. I always wait to the last minute to make plans or follow through with said plans. My husband will tell you, I clean best, ten minutes before anyone comes over! So with the holidays it’s good to have a plan in place either through your divorce decree or a very clear verbal agreement if you’re at that point in your co-parenting journey.
I hear all the time from those at the beginning stages of divorce…”oh we don’t need all that lawyer stuff cuz we are on good terms” hahahahahaha. That’s cute. Listen at some point even if y’all are best friends, you’re gonna have either a scheduling conflict, or you both will have an important family thing happening on a specific holiday, or the most likely is that one or both parents gets remarried and Holidays become more hectic and crazy with blended families so you both at some point are going to disagree. The best way to handle these situations is to refer to that handy dandy, judge approved, document that clearly states who’s Holiday is who’s. Which brings me to my next suggestion…
Let me tell you how my holidays are going this year..It is technically, by court order, Brandon and I’s year for Thanksgiving and the other parents year for Christmas. However, we were kindly and many months in advance asked if we would allow the kids to go out of state on Thanksgiving to visit family that the kids haven’t had a chance to meet. The kicker was, they still wanted Christmas because other family had already made plans to fly to Jersey. So you’re probably thinking, well that’s not fair. Stay with me…In exchange we would get Halloween and Easter (not our court appointed Holidays) so that my family could fly in then.
We live clear across the country from our families, both sets of parents. So since Brandon and I did not have any family coming or big plans, it was a no brainer. Of course the kids could spend both Holidays with them, and with extended family. Family is the MOST important thing in our kids lives, even if it’s family that isn’t Brandon and I’s. Grandparents, cousins, brothers, sisters, who don’t get to see our kids will always take priority. Now I’m not telling you this for an “atta girl”. I’m telling you this to show you that is how adults co-parent successfully. Kids first.
Don’t confine yourself to celebrating Holidays on the actual day. Kids will never care if your Thanksgiving happens the Saturday after or if Christmas morning is Dec 20th. They just want to feel loved and know that everyone is happy. Besides these kids are getting two Thanksgiving dinners and two Christmas mornings! LUCKY!
DON’T TRY TO ONE UP
The hardest thing during the Holidays, no matter how good or bad your relationship with the other parent is, is hearing about all the things they did and stuff they got at the “other house”.
I think it’s just a natural reaction to feel envious of something the other parents did or bought that seems so much better than what you did and try to “one up” them. At least I hope it is…oh gosh maybe I’m sharing too much! Here’s the thing, the kids don’t see it like that and won’t UNLESS you make a big deal of it! If you make comments like “of course your dad got you something I can’t afford.” , or the one I hear the most from people is “Disneyland parents”, then they may look at it as a negative gift that is hurting their parents feelings, or in the future use it against you as well to make you feel bad or try to get bigger, better gifts because that’s what you’ve shown is important through your words.
I literally have to look in the mirror when I say this, but it doesn’t matter who gets what for the kids as long as they are loved and happy! Toys eventually get thrown out or forgotten, but memories don’t. The kids won’t look back and say “oh Remember that Christmas, Dad/Mom got me ‘insert spectacular gift’ and you only got me ‘insert less spectacular gift’.” No! Kids will remember how you made them feel, the activities you did, the vacations and time together. And hey, if the other parent can get something the kid wants and you may not be able to afford it, then why is that a bad thing…it’s a win-win really!
IT’S OK TO ENJOY YOURSELF
The first Holiday away from the kids I sulked around. I didn’t want to go or do anything because I didn’t have my kids so surely I couldn’t enjoy whatever it was I would do. I mean like I said earlier I had a woe is me moment!
Over the past few years and especially since being with Brandon, I’ve learned it is OK to enjoy yourself without the kids! If you’re struggling with how to do this, just take baby steps…wether it’s pajamas and Netflix while eating all the junk food you can buy, or Black Friday shopping (cuz that doesn’t happen every other year since the divorce), but do something you wouldn’t get to do with the kids! This year I slept in, took my sweet time getting ready, and scrolled on social media uninterrupted for a solid hour…it was truly magical.
This year Brandon and I are also trying to accentuate the positive of being without our amazing Little’s by being around the truly great people we’ve come to know and befriend in Jersey. Our church families were so great about making sure we were taken care of this year. I can not thank everyone enough for all the invites to Thanksgiving dinner! However, we decided this year to have dinner at our home, and we invited four hungry young LDS missionaries to join us!
We had so much fun, and we are just beyond grateful they agreed to let me cook our first ever Turkey for them! Ok I didn’t cook of course, but Brandon did and it was AMAZE BALLS! Sure glad he knows our designated “roles” in the home (the dishes are calling my name).
So yes the Holidays without the kids can be hard, but they are only as terrible as you decide to make em! I have way too much to be grateful for this year than to end the year sad about the kids not spending the Holidays at our house. I know they are having so much fun where they are, that they are being loved unconditionally, and they are making memories that will last forever, so who am I too make that a bad thing?!
I hope that divored families all over the world this season can remember what and who is truly important. I know I have…and they call me mom.