It’s that time of year again – the holidays are here! From November 1st through New Years, everything feels just a little more special. Family, decorations, cozy sweaters, and watching the kids’ excitement grow as we count down the days to Christmas. There is nothing better. Only in our blended family, we don’t exactly get to count down each day, and our kids may not even be with us to celebrate.
In the ideal situations, parents share close to equal time with their children. This makes it so that the kids don’t have to go more than 3 or 4 days without being with either parent. Holidays are also normally split down the middle. For example, one parent may get Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day one year, and the next year they would have Christmas Day and New Years Eve. This balances out the number of “extra special days” that the kids get to spend with each parent each year.
In very ideal situations, parents work together around the events that each family is planning, to ensure the kids get to be at the holiday events where they will see the most possible family members. Or maybe so that they can see family visiting from out of town that they haven’t seen in a while. Some holidays are even spent together so that no one has to miss out. My kids are lucky enough to have a balance between ideal and very ideal, but even in the ideal situations, things can be tricky.
I re-married recently and now we have three families in the mix. My family, my ex’s family, and my husband’s family. Of course everyone wants to see W and L for the holidays, but splitting them three ways is impossible. I also know how important it is for W and L to spend time with their dad’s family. He has an amazing family, and I want to make sure my kids never miss out on that.
Then there’s the Christmas Eve/Santa situation. For the past few years, despite the “parenting plan” we signed off on, my kids have spent Christmas Eve with their dad. Early Christmas morning I would drive over and we would do the whole Santa thing together. It was really sweet. Since I have Eli, I wasn’t alone on Christmas Eve, and getting to watch the kids walk out from their bedrooms to see their gifts from Santa was all I needed. It worked out perfectly…
But Eli and I are married now, we own a home and we have a “set” schedule with his kids, so I’m not sure the whole – every Christmas Eve at Dad’s house – is going to work. I’m torn, because it was working for the time being, but with the changes in our circumstances I think it’d be best for the kids to be with me when Eli’s kids are with us. That way they can grow up having Christmas Eve together every other year. All four kids can wake each other up at the crack of dawn and run to the fireplace to see what Santa brought them.
On the other hand, thinking about the father of my children going to sleep in an empty house on Christmas Eve, and not seeing their excitement on Christmas morning when they see their gifts from Santa, is heartbreaking. I don’t want him to be alone or miss out on those special times. But is this about him, or should it be about the kids? I honestly don’t know. The guilt from the divorce comes back when I think through these types of situations. When my Ex and I had kids, neither of us expected that we would have to decide who would get to be with the kids on Christmas. But it’s our reality now, so unfortunately there will be times when one of us is missing out.
You are probably thinking, why don’t I just invite him over Christmas morning on the years that the kids are with me? Well, I did… but I don’t know if he is there quite yet, and that’s ok. The hard part about being flexible with the parenting plan is that when you stop being flexible, or in other words, have to reference “the contract,” you look like the bad guy. So now I’m stuck. Do I lean on the parenting plan and ask that the kids spend Christmas Eve/morning with me in alternating years, or do I miss out on the time, and take that sibling experience away from W, L P and Z in order to keep the peace with my Ex? The peace that we have worked so hard to create and maintain is invaluable to our kids. As you can see, even in the chilliest of chill co-parenting situations, things can be hard, especially around the holidays.
The good news is, is that even if W, L, P and Z aren’t together on Christmas Eve/morning, those memories will still be amazing for all four of them. It took Eli’s realistic viewpoint to help me understand this. The kids are now 8, 6, 5, and 4. Although they are close in age, between our oldest and our youngest, there is a big difference on how Christmas and “Santa” are interpreted and experienced. Having only one set of kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning will allow us to tailor these moments and make them really special. They will each get that individual attention that they deserve.
And then there’s Eli’s situation. You may have noticed the quotes I added when I referred to Eli having a “set” schedule with his kids. Even though it’s court ordered, signed, dated, filed, and stamped by the Judge herself, does not mean that we can count on P and Z being with us. So although we expect to have P and Z for half of the holidays each year, we really don’t know until they are here, buckled up, and smiling in the back seat of our car.
Even when everything goes as planned, or in his case, court ordered, there is still the fact that the holidays don’t quite feel like the holidays when half of our squad is 400 miles away. When we are all together though, it’s magic. The kids love each other and so naturally pick up where they left off. And this year, we will get to be together for 10 days over Christmas break! Although W and L will spend a few days with their Dad in the middle of that 10 days, we will get a lot of family time in… which is all that matters.
Happy holidays from our family to yours!