Last Christmas, I awoke without a clatter. No tiny footsteps rushing to my bed exclaiming, "Santa came!" I didn't see a twinkle in my little one's eyes. Last year I had just gotten a divorce two months prior, and my ex-husband exercised his right to our daughter's first Christmas post-breakup. I was devastated. I was one week away from being diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease, and all I wanted for Christmas was my 4-year-old.
This Christmas is MINE! While it would be all too easy to dish a little payback, what good would that serve? My daughter is now 5 1/2 years old and in Kindergarten. Her innocents and beliefs are all too brief. I was around her age when a little boy at school told me the hard, cold fact of Santa. She may have one, or if we're blessed, two more years of the "magic of Christmas." Why waste that precious time sticking it to my ex? This year, I've invited him over Christmas morning to watch OUR daughter open presents from Santa. Instead of selfishly keeping this special time for myself, I want this once a year event to be shared.
With a divorce rate in America hovering around 50%, chances are you, your sister, brother, or friend is either going through or made it through one. Because of that Christmas I'd like to forget, I want to help those of you dysfunctioning families function around the holidays.
1) It's not about you. This is THE most important tip. This holiday is not about you, your ex or the myriad of reasons for your separation. If you have a child, Christmas should be about preserving your child(ren)'s innocence for as long as possible. You must remember this and repeat it often. Your child did not ask for your divorce. So, why should your child suffer.
2) Grow up Similar to the first rule, you must swallow your pride and grin and bear it for one day. Put aside your differences for a couple of hours. My ex is going to come over Christmas morning at 8 am. I'll wake her up once he's there. We'll sit, watching her open presents, and within 2 hours, he'll leave. Easy peasy!
3) Give your ex a gift from your child. This year I will be giving my ex both. Since I used to buy all his clothes when we were married, I know his taste. Our daughter always helps to pick out his gift. Another easy gift that is always appreciated, is something your kids made. Each year, my daughter has always made a craft for each of the grandparents. This year, I made something, on behalf of our daughter and will give that to my ex and his of his family members. You can make heartfelt gifts rather inexpensive from sites like Pinterest.
4) Utilize modern technology. If you just can't muster the strength to be in the same room as your ex or it's just way too soon, Skype or FaceTime! While I missed out on the opportunity to see my daughter on Christmas last year, I was able to watch her open presents via FaceTime. I was able to hear the squeals and watch her hug her gifts. With modern technology there is no excuse for at least extending the olive branch halfway.
5) You owe yourself forgiveness for Christmas. It was right at a year after my separation that I fully forgave my ex. I realized how happy I was, no longer married to him. I freed myself of all the anger. Rather than hopelessly trying to control his behavior, I know I no longer have that responsibility. WOW! What a load off my back that is! Our daughter is watching both of our actions. All I can do is hope and pray that my actions are the best possible building blocks for her and her life. My desire is that by working with my ex, my daughter will grow up with admiration for her parents, knowing we put our feelings aside for her. And remember, by forgiving your ex, it's not helping them... it's healing you!
By becoming a functioning dysfunctional family, your biggest present to your child will be both of your presence. Not only will your child grow up in a healthy, loving environment, you will grow healthier and happier, too. As the song says, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on your troubles will be out of sight!"