Christmas is a difficult time for the newly separated for one reason and one reason only. Trust me.
That reason, without a doubt, is tradition.
One of the exciting but challenging parts about being in a new relationship is what happens at Christmas. For me, tradition dictated that we would wake up and open presents in an orderly, youngest to eldest method. We would eat breakfast then play with new toys or gadgets whilst waiting for family members to arrive. Christmas dinner was at five.
For my husband it was different. A Christmas present free-for-all, followed by visiting grandparents. Dinner was 1pm and then to his aunt’s for a buffet and boardgames.
Our first few years together meant battling traditions at Christmas (after deciding when it was appropriate to spend it together). For a few years we had two Christmas dinners and went to Aunt’s buffet too. Then, when we had our own home, it was working out which set of in-laws to invite. When the children came, my reserved watching- in- present-anticipation was deemed unfair so we tried his free-for-all approach. I still don’t like it. Dinner moved from five til four as a very slight compromise but we always ensured that we spent the morning at his parents. For the past few years, we have built our own traditions – yes, built a little on compromise, but ours nonetheless.
Last week I had to expel the elephant in the room and discuss Christmas. My advice? Haggle. Consider what you really want and what you are willing to compromise on. Then consider what your children want and replan.
Bitter me does not want him to enjoy watching the children open all the presents that I have planned, searched for, bought and paid for and wrapped. But then, in his shoes I would feel exactly the same:watching them on a Christmas morning, manic free-for-all or not, is the best part of the day. I want the children with me for dinner for obvious reasons but also because I would be alone otherwise. They won’t manage two dinners so that is out of the question. Coming to terms with the fact that you know for part of your Christmas you will not have your children is not easy.
We have compromised I think. He gets to watch them; they have dinner with me. The rest of Christmas? Still in planning stage. Christmas without tradition is a scary thing but it has to change because our family has changed. Although I have given in on the present opening, I know that it is something that can not be sustained. I also know that one day I could be sat at home, alone, wondering what my children are doing and willing the hours to fly until it is my turn. Can a broken family ever have traditions at Christmas? Will the debating over ‘who has them at what time’ ever end?
All I know is, I am trying to be fair. It is not easy but it is for the best. They their dad there in the morning so that is what will happen. And at the end of the day, their happiness at the moment is what really matters.