I couldn’t wait. It was likely going to be our own version of a Hallmark Christmas movie. But this one would be about a mother and her teenage daughters having the most magical Christmas time ever. No plot twists were allowed that would involve a hardship to overcome. My daughters and I were off to Chicago for two days to sight-see, shop, and spend time at a German Christmas market.
To ante up the expectation, for calendar reasons, this was to be my only weekend with the girls until after Christmas. This needed to be good.
The first night we went for our first ever deep-dish pizza experience. We loved it. Next I thought we could go ice skating. No. They were tired. And cold. And just wanted to go back to the hotel. Sigh. Ok. “Be flexible” I willed to myself.
Within 15 minutes of reaching the room, the girls were propped up on their beds, phones in hand, zoned out of the present moment. I sent a picture to my friend that read: “I think my expectations were too high.” He rallied me – providing names of places to eat the next day.
Within a few minutes, the girls had put their phones down and they were engaging me in conversation. I smiled suspiciously, but didn’t say a word. I soaked in the moment – regardless of the way I surely knew it had started.
The rest of the weekend, my daughters were present, attentive and loving. They were off their phones and we genuinely enjoyed our time together.
When we returned home from our trip, I thanked my friend. I said I knew he had said something to my girls. You see, he has a relationship with each and they adore and respect him. It would not have been out of the ordinary for him to send them a text. He asked if they had told me. I replied in the negative but I knew he had to have.
He then shared with me the message he had sent.
The message read:
DON’T YOU DARE REPEAT THIS. Your mom put a lot of effort into making this trip special for the three of you. Please show her how much you appreciate her. Not many parents do special things for their kids like this. Enjoy it. Your friends and phones will be there on Sunday. Spend time with her. Actual time. More than anything that’s what she wants.
I was crying by the time I read the last line.
He had my parenting back, so to speak. I forgot how good this felt. I miss having a guide for the girls encouraging them in their relationship toward their mom. Their dad relinquished that role with the divorce. But here my dear friend had willingly stepped into that role. He instantly shattered the thought I might have in a moment of woe that I need a spouse to support me with my daughters. I was reminded anew of how beautiful support can be and that in an unexpected form it restores the magic of Christmas.