I was texting with another friend who went through a divorce recently. We were talking about holidays and how much it sucks sorting through the details of pick-ups and drop-offs and all of that yuck. And she texted, “I don’t feel the ‘broken family’ thing usually, but I do at the holidays.”
I know what she means. While I’m sure it’s different for the kids, there is a certain amount of routine that we settle into. These days the kids stay with us, these days with their other parents. It’s by no means ideal, but there is a rhythm to it that we have all settled into, and there is a greater sense of intentionality with the kids when time with them is split up.
But the holidays are harder, not just on the kids, but I think on everyone. It’s hard to wake up on Christmas morning and not celebrate it with the people who are most excited about it being Christmas morning. It feels wrong to go to text your kids “Happy Thanksgiving” when you should be encouraging them to eat just a little more so they can have dessert. It feels much more like they’re MY kids or HIS kids when the holidays roll around.
And it doesn’t hurt that holidays have a very distinct family feel to them. Advertisers depict perfect families, with well-groomed parents and children gathered around a Christmas tree, smiling at one another in their perfect red and green pajamas while the kids open gifts containing this year’s must-have toys. Songs that talk about mom and dad, that can leave mom or dad feeling guilty when they know that they deprived their children of that.
Last year during the holidays, I felt consumed with guilt. I knew that my decisions made things more difficult for my kids and for Rich’s kids. I was a bad person; I was a bad parent. I broke not one, but two families.
This year I feel less guilt, but as we make plans for the holidays, it still creeps up. I’m depriving children time with one of their parents. I’m depriving two people time with their children on important days.
But I also recognize that in spite of the brokenness, there are new family traditions emerging. My kids (“the kids”) and Rich’s kids (“the boys”) all enjoy spending time together. In spite of some significant losses for my children, they have gained a step father and two step brothers with whom they love hanging out. They have spent months making plans for Thanksgiving, which we will all be spending together. My eldest helped me incorporate Yum Yum sauce into an icing for her step brother’s birthday cake, because the two of them have posited that it makes all foods better. There are fierce Mario Kart competitions, horrible movie marathons, walks to Arby’s for milkshakes, injury inducing card games.
My divorce revealed and created brokenness, there is no question. But we are taking some of those broken pieces and creating wholeness from them. And while the holidays can make that brokenness feel more acute, it can also strengthen the spirit of our whole family.