There was a point a week or so ago that I was actually excited about having Christmas eve and Christmas morning with our kids at my ex-wife’s home. There was a certain comfort to it. Our core family reunited to celebrate something positive. As the week progressed however, I found myself having panic attacks about it all. I came down with a horrible cold, my first in almost a year, and the stress of ensuring that presents were where they needed to be, stockings, a few extra gifts at my place, and that everyone had what they needed etc., and just the idea of spending the night in her house was all starting to take it’s toll.
But when the kids and I got there on Saturday everything started to fall into place. My ex had done a great job of planning ahead and for the first time in years most if not all of the wrapping was done before the kids went to bed. It was also obvious the kids were relishing in all of it and our joint efforts appeared to be paying off. The holiday, us all together, presents under the tree, tracking Santa on line … all of it was working pretty well. We even did the Santa visit Saturday afternoon together without a hitch.
Once all the last minute details were completed we had a simple dinner and followed family tradition by watching “White Christmas” together before getting the kids to bed. In no time the living room was prepped for the next morning and every ounce of sweat and tears that had gone into putting it altogether appeared to have paid off.
By the time Christmas morning had arrived, I hadn’t slept at all. Between the cold and squeezing in with my son in his squeaky bed, it was nearly impossible to sleep. But at 6 a.m. … he was up and ready to roll and a cold and lack of sleep wasn’t going to stop this train. So we headed downstairs and before you knew it wrapping paper was flying and kids were squealing with joy and an energy that was higher than any Christmas past. We did our best to hold some sort of structure to the process but just rolled with it as the kids were all anxious to pass out their gifts to each other and get to Santa’s prizes.
After the last gift was opened and the kids had a chance to chill with their new bounty, we finished with some donuts and milk and then the kids and I headed to my place to make a Christmas day feast. We invited their mom over and the five of us entered into our first major holiday as separate families under one roof together sharing sparkling cider and a festive meal. Any issues we had with each other were set aside and it was clear the kids were enjoying every moment. For me that was the greatest gift of all and made all of our efforts to put aside our differences worth it. Despite all of the hardship and stress put upon them, the kids had a tremendous holiday with the two people most important to them breaking bread together.
And there really is no ‘but’ here. Somehow, even as certain events happened that normally would cause friction between my ex and me happened, we managed to work through it all. Perhaps it was the Christmas spirit or just the amount of focus on the kids and knowing that in 36 hours we’d all move on with our lives. But regardless we somehow managed through it all including the discomforts of being in each others’ homes. Whether or not we’ll do it again next year, the fact that we were able to put all the negatives aside and create such a wonderful experience for our kids made all of the stress, all of the worry, all of the discomfort worth it.
I can’t speak for my ex-wife, but I myself walked away from it all feeling pretty good about myself. It felt like I’d grown on some level by not letting the petty stuff get in the way of us having a great time. I’m sure there were things I did that irked her as well, but you’d never known it. On some level I’d like to think it helped my ex-wife and I take another step toward acknowledging that we’re moving in different directions, but that it’s o.k. and that we’re still capable of coming together when it’s important. And when it comes to the kids’ well being … I’d say that’s about as important as it gets.