I wrapped my arms wrapped around each of my daughters as they cozied up to me on the couch the other night while we admired our decorated Christmas tree. Our tree holds our history both pre and post divorce with the ornaments gathered from each of the years of my girls’ lives. We laugh as we look back at their Santa’s lap pictures from throughout the years, a couple of which include their parents together from their younger years. Their dad and I continue to visit Santa together with them every year. And now our visits include their added family of stepmom and older stepbrother.
My daughters were young when we divorced: 5 and 7 to be exact. They don’t remember very much about the time we all lived together, but the holidays seem to bring out their memories more than most other times. They tend to ask me more questions about “the time you and daddy lived together.” I am mindful of how hungry they are for their history, how much they enjoy hearing me talk about when they were little.
In these moments, I have a choice. I can chose to tell them that I don’t remember Christmas mornings with their dad and brush off the conversation or I can share what I do remember. I can reminisce with them about Anna learning to crawl backwards under the Christmas tree while visiting their paternal grandparents. I can share how I found Sophia behind a chair when she was three eating Christmas cookies she had stolen from the kitchen and recall how their dad and I could not stop laughing about it. When Sophia no longer believes in Santa Claus, I will fondly repeat the story of their dad spending several hours, well after midnight, putting together their first dollhouse. It makes me smile right now recalling him working through what seemed like 103 steps as we laughed from exhaustion (see said ginormous dollhouse at top left of picture).
Sometimes I get the worry that if I share the happy memories I have of when our family lived together under one roof, that I will incite the hard questions about why we are divorced or I will give them some hope that their parents will be together again someday. I get tempted to stay away from talking about our pre-divorce history. But it never ends up that way. They love hearing our family stories.
In looking at my Christmas tree I see that I do not have to feel guilty for missing those moments or being happy that we had them. Our history, despite the divorce, is to be preserved, shared and passed on. We might get caught in the thought that our history was severed with our relationship and should not be discussed. That it has to be black and white, pre and post. What I understand, through the help of my children, is that in embracing all of our story we have a deeper appreciation of where we are today. And as my daughters sighed contentedly as I shared stories and they told me how happy they were, it reaffirmed for me my past, present and future.