I am approaching my 2nd Christmas post separation. Last year my family all gathered round, and kept me busy during the times my kids were with their dad. This year I am on my own, both during my time with them, and during the times they are with their dad and his GF. He’s taking them for 3 hours Christmas Eve and 4 hours Christmas day (3-7).
This year I was really looking forward to a Christmas break. For the past 25 years I’ve worked my ass off to make the day the best of the year. And it always was. My ex always put on a great show, pretending he loved me and appreciated me, so I felt compelled to make it the Best Day Ever. We opened gifts, made eggs Benedict, put together gifts, put the turkey in the oven, set the table, got electronics working, got a huge meal on the table, ate, cleaned, ate some more, fixed things that weren’t quite working right, cleaned some more, etc. By the end of the day I was so exhausted I would just want to cry.
Any mom’s reading this understands that feeling. The issue for us is that the activity of that day comes after we’ve spent the past month in preparation. We’ve made list after list after list, shopped for bargains, wrapped, shopped some more, wrapped some more, planned and shopped again. It’s an exhausting process. Then, on the actual day, it is up to us to make sure everything gets done. We have to make sure the toys get assembled and working, we clean up the boxes and wrapping paper, we organize piles of gifts so nothing gets lost, we get the meal going, set the table, make sure everyone has what they want and is happy. And I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, the role of my ex seemed to be to pretend he was helping while actually doing next to nothing. He did make the hollandaise sauce, and carved the turkey, and he was also good at doing the dishes, especially if I had asked that they sit till the next day. (Apparently he felt that was code for stay up until every dish is cleaned and put away.) It was a day of passive aggressive behavior, that the boys thought added to the day. They even mentioned how after each gift he opened he would look at me and mouth “thank you”. Always the showman when others were watching, which made my anxiety, and anger, soar.
As the season approached this year I realized I get to make new traditions. I can make our Christmas anything I want it to be. And with that in mind, I had a plan. Christmas would become more akin to our family dinners, which are extremely relaxed and tons of fun. We usually order out, we come to the table casually dressed, we have no agenda, and we can spend hours at the table talking, debating, laughing, sharing and seriously enjoying each others company. That was what I wanted my new Christmas to look like.
Last night the boys spoiled my plan. We had a family dinner, which included my eldest’s girlfriend, who is Jewish and really excited to celebrate Christmas with us. Naturally, she was asking questions about what we do and the boys were answering her. Each question also lead to a discussion about what happens at some of their friends homes on Christmas, which was fascinating to hear. All was going well as I awaited my opportunity to tell the boys I was dialing it down this year, when my eldest said this:
“We have the best Christmas of anyone I know. We always have so much fun, we are so excited to open our gifts and share what we got each other, we love the cooking and the whole day. Our mom does the best Christmas’s ever”.
Damn. My plan went up in smoke. I have no idea what they’ll do with their dad and his GF and her kids, but I do know that they need our Christmas to stay the same. And who is the one to keep it that way? Me. So, Christmas eve we’ll have our hot chocolate and cookies and read the Christmas Story. The boys will go to bed by 10 and I’ll put out all of the presents that I’ve hidden. While we won’t go downstairs until 8, at least one of the boys will be awake by 6 and will join me in my bed to watch the Christmas Story until the others are ready. I’ll sneak downstairs and light the fire, turn on the lights and start the music. Finally we’ll head down to the tree, where the boys will find 3 piles of gifts (4 this year, since my eldest’s girlfriend will be there), and we’ll take turns opening gifts. After the gifts are open the boys will help me make eggs benedict and cinnamon buns, and we’ll sit at the table and eat and have my favorite time – relaxed conversation. Then we’ll be back to open stockings. Then the boys will be off to the GF’s house to open more presents and, hopefully, eat a large meal. When they get back, after they show me what they got from dad, we’ll have more hot chocolate and cookies and we’ll watch a Christmas movie.
The time I am most looking forward to is those 4 hours while they are with their dad! I’ve had several people ask me to come to their homes, but I plan to take that 4 hours to rest, do some yoga and meditation and hopefully watch some trashy tv. Does that sad? Last year I would have said yes, that sounds sad and it’s not what I want. This year though, I’ve become so comfortable with my alone time that I’m looking forward to it! What a relief to feel that way. What a relief to know that my life will go on, without my ex, and that it will be easier, happier and more peaceful then the past 25 years have been.
A good friend of mine has been divorced 4 years, and she now lives with her new boyfriend. She has 2 children and he has 3, and the two of them are trying to merge their traditions, each holding steadfast to their favorite traditions, even if it disrupts the other’s favorite tradition. They have been in constant “negotiations” about what will happen when; essentially, who will get their way, who will “win” Christmas. As I listen to her talk about the issues arising I can’t help but thank God that I am alone. For the 1st time in 54 years, I’ll make the decisions and, while I’ll try to make the boys happy, this year I’ll also make myself Happy.
This year I’ll say “Merry Christmas” to me.