I didn’t want to think about it. Let alone talk about it. Worse even to write about it. All of those actions would make it more real. Several weeks ago, I reluctantly agreed that my former spouse could take our daughters on a trip over the holiday. The rub is that they will be gone from December 22 through the morning of December 26th. I will miss all of Christmas with them. A first.
I have preached more times than I can count that holidays are “just days” and can be re-created on a different day. I have advised repeatedly that parents should give a little and be flexible. I have tried to be an example even when my own heart was resistant.
This one hurts. My daughters are distressed and feel placed in the middle. Their dad gave them a choice to go on the trip or stay home. It is an impossible one. They want to spend time with both their parents over Christmas Eve and Christmas. They want to adhere to their traditions and see their extended families. My daughters and I have all felt the pang in the days leading up to their departure.
In the face of this difficult decision, I immediately rallied my family. It is what I am best at. I sprung into action to refocus us from what we won’t have to what we could have. Christmas would be December 26th. Santa will be trapped in a snowstorm and be delayed by a day. Then I planned a New Year’s getaway with my entire family, with the girls bringing friends, to give us a focus for our special time together. What else says family like a road trip to Missouri?
I learned last week that the girls would not be returning until close to 8 p.m. on December 26th. I started crying. My sister had taken the day off work for the 26th and my whole family had put their plans on hold and now another delay. I was angry, sad, and embarrassed.
I called my family to explain – yet again. For all of the focus I put on parents co-parenting, I forget the sacrifices our families make for the sake of our divorce. It is one thing to counsel parents in how best to take the long view and co-parent their children effectively. These parents signed up for the changes. The extended families did not.
I am ashamed when I feel like I have to take advantage of them and ask them to change plans and put their traditions on hold. I feel like a walking apology. I see my parents and my siblings biting their tongues.
With a fresh wave of tears it hits me. In these hard post-divorce moments that require flexibility that extends far beyond me, I see my family pitching in. Doing their part. Why? The singular explanation is that they so fiercely love my daughters and me.
This holiday season, with this reminder, I will appreciate, love, and cherish my family even more. I will be present to them revealing this love wrapped in a sacrifice. Here is a heartfelt thank you to all of the families who are supporting children and parents of divorce.