The thing about Christmas and the other winter holidays is that they change depending on where you are in life.
When you are a kid it’s ALL magic. Even when it’s really not.
When you are a young parent it’s a lot of hard work tempered by the joy of seeing the magic through your children’s eyes.
When they are teens it’s less work and less magic.
And then they grow up even more and move on to have lives of their own (if you are very, very lucky).
They pair up with significant others, the SO’s family, co-workers and extended family.
Sometimes juggling schedules and expectations can drain a parent of all but a tiny drop of the magic of the holidays.
The trick is to learn to share your children and manage expectations. But it’s not easy.
I’ll admit, I have a leg-up on many parents when it comes to sharing my kids. We’ve been a blended family with other family’s to consider for 14.5 years. now.
Will the kids be here or at their other parents? What days? What time can we pick them up (or as Warren used to jokingly ask, “What time is the prisoner exchange?”) How will we plan meals, gift exchanges or other activities?
We’ve wiggled and planned and re-vamped plans because of illness or bad weather on a number of occasions. It just happens and no matter how many temper tantrums you throw the changes of plans will continue to happen.
Not that I throw temper tantrums.
It went both ways too. I remember 10 years there was a terrible flu epidemic and I was more sick than I think I’ve ever been in my whole life. The kids were at their other parents houses for Thanksgiving Day and we were going to have our meal and celebrate on Friday. We ended up asking if the kids could stay where they were while I recovered and the alternate parents got them for the whole long weekend.
(My father ended up getting that same flu and dying a month later, that’s how I remember that it was 10 years ago.)
Anyway, now that they are almost all gone we are seeing the need to spread the holiday events out a little.
I was thinking of adding a Christmas Eve dinner to our traditions, with maybe a handmande ornament exchange, so that those who need to be with other family members on Christmas Day can do that. But then I found out that two of the boys will be with their step-mother (though she’s technically not a step-parent any more as she and the boys’ father have divorced she’s still close to them and a good friend to Warren and I) and her family on Christmas Eve. And that’s OK.
Perhaps we’ll do it anyway. Give it a try and see how it works. Maybe some of the people who can’t be here Christmas Day will be able to come Christmas Eve and those who can’t be here Christmas Eve will be here Christmas Day. I don’t care as long as I get to see them a while.
I know, I have to share them.
And they were all here on Thanksgiving day and it was a wonderful day.
The point is to be flexible, start new traditions that fit your expanding and changing (if you are very lucky) family. Try not to expect more from folks than they can give and understand that you aren’t the only significant person in your childs’ life.
Most importantly – be sure to find some magic in the season again. Go caroling, give to a shelter or family in need, send cards to our troops overseas or make some art that reflects your feelings. Make plans with friends, make new friends, add new traditions to your celebrations. Do something that reminds you how magical the holidays can be, how thankful you are to have all that you have and to be loved by all of those who love you.
And know that even if they can’t be with you they still love you with all their hearts.
How has your family changed as the kids got older? What new traditions have you started? How do you find magic in the holiday season?