On Halloween night I sat on my sofa with a ho and a hum. This was the first year I did not spend part of the trick or treat festivities with my daughters. My eldest goes with friends now and needs no help with costume assembly. I didn’t even see her this day. My youngest still came to my house so I could curl her hair, but then off she went at 4:30 to her dad’s house to put on her costume and laugh into the night gathering candy.
Seven years of co-parenting and I still hate holidays without my children. I feel the empty-nesters who may be reading this sighing and nodding their heads with me. It is inevitable that some of the holiday magic disappears when not accompanied with the enthusiasm of children. Halloween is one of the few nights of the year that you cannot celebrate it on another night like you can with birthdays or Thanksgiving. And unlike the empty nesters who have resigned themselves to their grown-up children, mine still produce the magic. They just produce it every other year with me.
I thought I might perk myself up by looking at the next two following months that would surely be filled with holiday cheer and family fun. I gleefully printed some calendars and set to work with the list the girls and I had prepared of the things we wanted to do this holiday season. Oh. Our list of favorite holiday activities is long. Geez, we only have four weekends together before Christmas is over. Four weekends. Eight days to cram in all of our family festivities for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The grumpy I had just gotten over returned with a renewed fierceness. My mood crumpled just like the paper calendar I had wadded into my fist. It’s not fair. I hate this.
I knew what I had to do. I smoothed out the calendar. I looked back at the list of our favorite things to do. I started prioritizing the list. I looked at how we could combine activities. I looked at what I was willing to let go. When we picked up their cousins for Polar Express night, we could pick the very best neighborhood for a 20 minute detour and enjoy the sparkling Christmas light. This year we could make our decorated sugar cookies for our annual Luminary party.
I looked closely at those things that mattered most. I looked beyond my list. What matters most are the minutes spent together. It isn’t making sure we perfectly check off all of our traditions in the right order. It is making sure we make the most of our time together. Navigating our holidays may be more nuanced now, but I see that we are more intentional and clear about what is most important – being present to the love we share.