As most of you know, I am a single parent to my son, Owen. Owen’s dad (we’ll call him S) and I live in the same town, and he sees Owen regularly. Although we have our differences, I think we co-parent very well. I’m also fortunate in that S has a fantastic family. They adore Owen, and continue to treat me like family, too. So to that end, I’m always happy for Owen to go visit and spend time with his dad or any member of the S clan. However, there is one exception: I will not give up my son on a major holiday, and especially not Christmas.
My own parents got divorced when I was four. I spent my entire life splitting my time on holidays between my mother’s house and my father’s. Because my father’s holiday gatherings were always a little more festive, it was established early on that I would spend Christmas Eve dinner with my dad’s family, then he would bring me home to sleep at my mom’s. I would wake up on Christmas morning and open presents with my mom, then my dad would pick me back up and I’d spend the rest of the day at his house. As an adult, the pattern didn’t change much—Christmas Eve with my dad, go to my own apartment to sleep, then back to my dad’s in the morning, then over to my mother’s. Does it sound exhausting? Because it kind of is. And now that I have Owen, it has only gotten more complicated.
Luckily, S’s family–which is even bigger than mine–usually has their big family Christmas gathering a few days after the 25th. I have both attended and sat out this gathering; I’m not sure what I’ll do this year, although I tend to be a little more relaxed about it because it’s after Christmas day. But still, it’s a chance to see my child bask in the joy of the holiday; open gifts, play with his cousins. And a big part of me feels like, it’s not fair that I have to miss seeing any of that, just because things didn’t work out between S and I. If we were still together, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
You may think this is selfish of me, and you may be right. But I think of my mother having to give up spending time with me for most of the 24 best hours of Christmas; as an adult, she’s told me that it made her sad, and as a mother, it makes me sad for her. She did it because she thought it was what was best for everyone, but I don’t know that I agree that it was. I never felt the pain of my parent’s separation more than I did during the holidays. I don’t want Owen to have the same experience.
Holidays are about being with the people you love, and Owen is, of course, at the top of that list for me. And to be fair, I know he’s at the top of that list for S, too. I don’t want to miss out on being with my child on Christmas, but I don’t think his dad should, either. So our little dysfunctional family has started a new tradition: On Christmas morning, S comes over at the crack of dawn, while sugarplums are still (hopefully) dancing in Owen’s little head. We put aside our differences, and we watch our son open his Christmas presents together. And that will be my son’s Christmas memory–not of separation, but of togetherness. At least for that one magical day.