6 Quick Tips When It’s Not “Your” Christmas

As a divorced parent, there are some realities that will always be hard to accept. The time you spend with your child is divided; the home your child grows up in becomes one of two houses {these sometimes get labeled as Mommy’s House and Daddy’s House, of which I am not a fan}; and the consistency of discipline becomes a point of contingency. The longer you are divorced, the easier some of these realities become. A routine is set, life moves on, and you find yourself accustomed to the constant shifting between homes. At least you do … until the holiday season rolls around. It is then that the reality of divorce smacks you across the face, and you realize that, this year is not “your” year, and it is not “your” Christmas.

Christmas is a time of magic and hope. It’s a moment when the love of the season is found in the wonder of your child’s face as presents are opened on Christmas morning. Family gathers, drinking cocoa and singing carols, but for you, every other year, the magic leaves home. It packs itself up, gives you a kiss, and waves goodbye. You’re deprived of the joy found on your child’s face when he or she realizes that Santa has come. 

There are no tiny voices shouting for you to wake up on Christmas morning. There’s only silence.

So, what do you do? How to you act?  

Tip #1 :: Don’t Let Your Child See Your Pain

When it’s not your Christmas, it’s important to remember that it’s still your child’s Christmas. What you want is not what they need. You want to mope. You want to cry. You want to lay around in pajamas all day, drinking spiked egg nog under the covers. However, try not to steal joy from the tiny people that you created. Their excitement can not be tampered by your sadness over the situation.

Santa isn’t coming for you; he’s coming for them. The magic of the season may not be occurring based on your desires, but it’s about the child, not about the parent. {I tell myself this every other year, and I hate having to argue with myself.} They are enthusiastic about the idea of possibilities {… toys}, and that possibility still occurs at the other parent’s house. 

Not to mention, your child gets what most children don’t – TWO Christmases. Santa is still allowed to come to your home, even if the tiny tots aren’t there.

Tip #2 :: Keep the Spirit of Christmas Alive

Do everything you normally do on Christmas. Decorate the tree together. Bake cookies together. Make gingerbread houses, visit Santa {the best Santa I’ve found is at Bass Pro Shop off 288}, visit the areas that create snow zones, and drive around looking at Christmas lights. There are countless light shows occurring around the city, including Festival of Lights, Dickinson Festival of Lights, The Christmas Train, Magical Winter Lights, and the Zoo Lights to enjoy together too.

You may not get Christmas morning, but you get everything else that surrounds the Season. Take heart in that, and fill your time with special moments.

Tip #3 :: Do Something Special For Yourself

The court documents, if you follow them, state that the other parent’s Christmas begins the moment school lets out for the holiday, until noon on December 28th. Not every divorced family follows that plan, but if you do, that means you’ll have ten days completely to yourself. 

There are plenty of things to do around Houston during this time. Both the Houston Ballet and the Bay Area Houston Ballet are performing The Nutcracker. If you’ve always wanted to attend {like me}, but you haven’t wanted to pawn your child off on a babysitter, then this time provides you with the ability to put on a sparkly dress, style your hair, slap on makeup, wriggle into uncomfortable shoes, and watch a holiday performance. If you like plays, A Christmas Carol is playing at Alley Theatre, as well as It’s a Wonderful Life at the Houston Grand Opera. If you’re more into musicals, The First Noel is being performed at The Ensemble Theatre.

Sometimes, however, staying in sounds more appealing than going out. Wrapping up in festive jammies, heating up some Hot Toddies or cups of cocoa, and watching Christmas movies is also a nice way of treating yourself during this time. A quiet house is also a great time for picking up a new craft. You can decorate wreaths, bake a million Christmas cookies to ship to twenty of your closest friends {I do this every year!}, or finally try to crochet, knit, needlepoint, or quilt.

Tip #4 :: Surround Yourself with Family and Friends

It’s hard to wake up on Christmas morning to an empty house. It’s hard to stare at a tree that holds your tiny humans’ presents, knowing that a day or more will pass before they come home. This is a time to surround yourself with friends and family. Find a way to get out of your house and into someone else’s home whether that might be your brother’s, your sister’s, your parents’, or your crazy Aunt Beatrice’s. But if your only plan is to sit around the house and cry, then allow people to take you in during the holidays.

Especially if you’re a single mom.

Tip #5 :: Make Santa Come on Christmas Day

Every movie, every book, and every children’s story involves Santa hopping onto a present-laden sleigh on December 25th, ready to travel the world in one, magical journey. He comes once, sweeping through the globe like a present-dropping crazy man. If your Christmas has always involved special traditions, such as Santa coming the night before Christmas, Santa coming after a weekend ski trip in the Alps, or Santa sneaking in special PJs {now made easier by Elf on the Shelf}, keep it that way. Your children need consistency, even in family traditions.

Keep your family traditions the same after divorce. Have the kids write Santa notes if they’ve always written notes. If he writes back, have him write about how the family dog tried to eat him, or about how Rudolph ransacked the kitchen looking for carrots. Have Santa nibble on a cookie; have him drink some milk. Let Santa come on December 25th, so that when your kiddos come back home, they’ll get the surprise of walking in the door to presents.

No, it’s not as special as that morning of joy. Because of divorce, every other Christmas morning is stolen. If you’re going to make Santa come on another day, if you need for that to happen, clear it with the other parent first. Kids pick up on things, like the fact that Santa is bringing presents to them in two, separate houses, and coming at different times every year.

Tip #6 :: Plan Big Next Year

Next year. Next year is your year. Make next year awesome. Build train tracks next year. Have your family help you hide a new play set in the back yard next year. Surprise the children with a new Wii or PlayStation next year. Do all the big, over the top, grandiose gifts then, and let your ex have this year. If they aren’t going big, who cares. It’s their Christmas morning. Give them that.

Divorce is never easy, and even though a rhythm gets established in the shuttle between homes, holidays are always the worst. They never get easier. If it’s not your Christmas this year, if the magic won’t be there, running out in padded feet on Christmas morning, then there’s only so much you can do. There are things you have to do, just to survive the holidays without your child. You have to keep the season alive, keep consistency to the season, keep your own spirits up, and keep planning for the time that will be yours.

Because, next year, your ex will feel the same way.

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