Divorce is everywhere. It’s extremely common these days, and it’s present in almost every family, including mine. No judgement here, I’m all for people doing what they need to do to keep their sanity and happiness in check.
It still sucks. All the time. And at Christmas, forget about it. I am not divorced. But I am a child of divorce … well, now a grown up of divorce with her own husband and kid. And let me tell you, nothing sucks the joy out of the holidays quite like disappointing your parent.
Your parents are the foundation of your existence. They are your rocks and until you have your own family, they are probably the most important people in your life. But when Christmas and Christmas Eve is only two days long, and you have in laws to see too, you have to make choices. Choices that suck. Every year, it feels like your brain points at you and shouts, “QUICK! PICK YOUR FAVORITE PARENT!”
We all know you’re not really choosing a favorite. That would be impossible. But you do have to choose which one’s feelings you’re willing to hurt, which one will have to move their Christmas celebration to a different day or make other arrangements. It’s not fair. To you or your parents, who just want time with you and their grandkids.
All the while, all you want to do is be with your kid. At Christmas, that is all that matters, more than schedules and presents, and hurt feelings. The magic isn’t really magic if you’re too stressed out about keeping everyone else happy to enjoy it.
But let’s think about it from a divorced parent’s perspective. Like I said, I
‘m not one. But I’ve been around quite a few and have picked up on some things, mainly the stress and sadness that the holidays can bring.
I cannot even fathom spending Christmas Day without my Avery. I would probably spend all day in my PJ’s, sobbing in my bed. It wouldn’t be Christmas. It would be lonely and full of hurt and regret.
And yet, these amazing co-parent people seem to survive it one piece, without becoming blubbering messes. Is it a Christmas miracle?! No, not really. The truth is that they’ve learned to be tough. They’ve developed ways to cope and to get through the times without the kids. They keep their eyes on the prize, the moment they do get to be with their kids, even if it’s a few days late.
And the questions. Have you ever watched these people field the questions like the champs they are? It is amazing. Where are the kids? Oh he gets them this year? She won’t let you have them until 4:00? Did you tell her that doesn’t work with our dinner? You’re skipping church to open presents? What do you mean the kids aren’t hungry? You mean they just ate with him? When do you get them? When can we have them? Can’t you two just work together on this?
It is tough to watch. Because I’m guaranteeing you, no one wants those kids to be there more than that parent. No one. As inconvenient as it may be for Grandma’s dinner plans and your Uncle’s tradition of going to church, it is nothing short of heartbreaking to be celebrating without your kids. I can only imagine that it feels like pieces of your heart are missing from your body.
And yet, these great people still show up. They answer all of your stupid questions. They keep their heads when you throw a fit about what time you need them to be somewhere. They politely say no, and quietly make sure that they have their own time with the kids.
So to all split parents out there. I see you. I hear you. You’re doing great. I don’t envy you, but I am proud of you. And to my own parents, you are so important to me. I’m doing my best. Thanks for always being so incredibly understanding and for always putting your feelings aside and putting me (and the grandkids) first. I love you.
And the next time you feel like drilling that kidless parent with a million questions about how their situation is going to affect you this year, don’t. No one cares. They may be falling apart on the inside. They may be struggling financially. They may feel outshined by their ex. Santa may have had to come to their house a night late or a night early this year. They have too much REAL stuff going on to worry about the kids not being at your dinner. Hug them. Hand them the kids’ gifts. And then leave them alone.
Splitting Christmas … the holidays aren’t always candy canes and Christmas cookies.