Divorce is always difficult, but never more so than at Christmas time. Kids are often caught in the middle of family needs and demands, contrary to the general mood of the season. The only other event that compares is a wedding.
When I was younger, and divorced, I worked in a profession (nursing) that requires staff to work 24/7, weekends and holidays. I worked Christmas and let my kids have their holiday with their Dad, paternal grandparents and the extended family. That had been the norm before the divorce, why should it change after?
I held the belief that Christmas was more than that one day. It is called the holiday season for a reason. The kids and I spent the entire month celebrating. We had a party to decorate the tree; we had breakfast with Santa at the mall, and partied at the library. Even shopping trips were fun, looking at the stores all lit up and sparkling, Santa’s village and of course, the music.
And yet one person’s actions can spoil things, and it’s a shame. As I liked to make everything a party, the wrapping of gifts was no exception. I had taken the kids shopping for gifts for their Dad and his new wife. I remember sitting at the dining room table doing a marathon of wrapping, everyone taking part. Who would have thought that a gift tag in my hand writing would cause such trouble? The kids had picked out the gift, wrapped it, and I did the tag, not thinking it would be upsetting to wife #2. It didn’t seem to bother her that I paid for said present...but now who’s being small minded? Consider my hand slapped.
I just think we need to be careful what we do and what we say, as everyone’s feelings are close to the surface, for Christmas is a demanding and emotional holiday. Last year my kids made a very adult decision, and I think they were very smart. They decided that our family would celebrate early, not on the actual day or eve day. That left them free to make plans of their own, without feeling guilty or being pulled in quite as many directions.
So we met for our celebration on Saturday and had a great time. Good food, lots of gifts, and we even made our selves a batch of homemade Irish Cream.
I began a new family tradition. I am going to give one member of the family a joke gift every year. No one will know who it’s going to be. I picked my son for this debut year. When I am gone, or unable to complete this tradition, I hope they will keep it going.
Traditions are important, but they aren’t written in stone. When the dynamics of the family change because of circumstances beyond our control, we need to be flexible and learn to adapt.
Isn’t that what this Christmas spirit is all about?