It was so much harder than I expected. I had successfully navigated the Christmas holidays all seven years prior as a divorced parent with my two young daughters. Now, in my 8th year as a divorced parent, the Christmas season was upon us. Their dad made a request to take the girls away for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I cannot explain my response in any other way than I thought it was the right thing to do. I said yes.
Their stepmother’s father had passed earlier in the year. As the first holiday season approached after his passing, my daughter’s stepmom’s family prepared for what would surely be a difficult holiday and wanted to go out of the state. They knew, my daughters knew and I knew this was not an easy ask. I resisted and tried to seek different compromise options to no avail.
There they went. They left on December 21st and did not return until late in the evening on December 26th. Long gone were the days of belief in Santa – so luckily my mother’s heart was not distressed by missing those magic moments, but it found a new depth of distress no less.
Despite my confidence in being a seasoned divorce parent and knowing many tools to get me through some lonely minutes or hours – this was new territory. I checked through my usual tricks: schedule a massage √, plan time to watch some favorite holiday movies √, plan to wrap presents and be present to a favorite task √, and plan time with my family who was here √.
As masterful as I thought I was in being a divorced mom, the melancholy set down over me like the thick blanket I would hide under on my couch. I could not shake the sadness. It was compounded with messages from my daughters struggling with being away and missing out on our special Christmas Eve traditions. Upon the arrival of Christmas Eve I was sad, angry, and resentful. There was nothing to do but be with it.
Holidays as a divorced parent may be hard. Really hard. Try as we might to adapt, shift, strengthen our resilience, and resolve to not be phased – sometimes it is just hard and we have to surrender to the sadness. And boy did I. I wept. I looked at photographs of Christmas’ past. I arranged and rearranged their gifts under the tree. I bemoaned my plight to my cats. I wept some more. I just had to get through these hard days.
I happen to know now there is a happy ending to this story. And no, it did not happen during the holidays last year I just described. It has happened this holiday season. My girls and I have been resolute in the fact that we are making up for last year. We have already had more holiday joy in the first ten days of the month than we had all of last year. We have decided we owe it to each other. My girls even gave themselves pep talks about being helpful and not complaining AND even cleaning without being asked as we decorated for Christmas.
We have all collectively harnessed the lack we felt last year and are putting it full force into what we want this year. I could not have known last year that this would be the result and that I just needed to be patient with life. That I needed to know that absence does make the heart fonder – even with teenage girls. I am so looking forward to picking up where we left off and celebrating our Christmas traditions with a much deeper appreciation for it what it means to be together during these precious days.