Mother's Day Features
The Holiday, the Kids, Your Ex?
So you have an ex. And some kids with that ex. And, of course, you have the holiday season, too. In most cases, these three things add up to “trouble ahead.”
Sadly, the holidays are the time of year when the fight over who gets the kids and when becomes the most heated, even vicious. And once you get that settled (hooray, you got the kids this year!), you have to deal with the tug-of-war that begins with the extended family. First, there’s your family. Then you have your new husband’s family (if you’ve since remarried). Add to that your ex’s family (they want to see the grandkids too, you know) and you suddenly find yourself wishing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” could be more than a song.
At some point, someone (was it you?) came up with the “brilliant” idea that you and your kids could manage to go everywhere on that most “joyous” of days in the year. Now you spend Christmas driving from house to house, feeding your face in a frenzy at each stop and apologizing for being unable to stay longer. So much running around just to keep other people happy, and now you find that you and yours, those nearest and dearest to your heart, aren’t enjoying the day at all. So much for quality time. This business of trying to see everyone is really a full-time job.
I still remember these days from my childhood. It started with the arguments, then the divorce, then some more arguments, and then the running around to the homes of our various relations, pretending all the while that we were having a great time. Trying to keep the peace and trying to keep everyone in our past and present happy – all at the same time – became such a chore that the joy of the holidays disappeared. From the age of six until I began college, Christmas was a miserable rat race.
Now I have a family of my own, and the holidays are a time of good cheer and delight. But the memory of Christmas Past is all too vivid. I see it replayed year after year in the lives of my young nieces, whose parents went through an unfortunate divorce.
The motivations that create this annual misery vary from family to family and person to person. Some just want to be nice, while others act out of pure selfishness or the need to keep everyone happy so they don’t lose approval. In all the demands, they forget the one thing they most need to remember: the ones who eventually pay the greatest price are the children. Having been carted here, there and everywhere myself, I know just how great that price can be.
The fact is, over half of us are the product of divorced families, and many of us were shuffled around year after year, making the holidays a time we dreaded, a chore instead of a pleasure. We remember what it felt like to be torn emotionally: Who should I love? How should I love them? Am I giving one person too much affection and another not enough? And we remember withdrawing or turning into little tyrants because we didn’t know how to tell our parents that we just wanted the madness to stop.
So what’s the solution? Unfortunately, the matter is a complicated one. I understand that each child is different, each family is different, and each divorce agreement is different. Keeping all that in mind, I think it’s fairly safe to say that the less running around in a single day (or day after day, in some cases), the better. Children need stability, and the hustle and bustle, the tug-of-war, and the difficult emotional and relational demands of the holiday offer kids anything but the thing they need so badly.
If stability is the goal, I suggest the rotation solution. Essentially, you need to talk with your ex and all extended family members involved in the holiday shuffle. Though it may be tough, work out a schedule that will allow you and the kids to rotate holidays between families. One family may get Christmas, while the other gets Thanksgiving. The rotation should change a bit from year to year in an effort to be fair to everyone. Getting all those involved to agree might be nearly impossible for some, but be willing to give a little (if it doesn’t negatively impact the kids) and don’t be afraid to take a firm stand if you need to.
Keep in mind that putting the kids first may cost you something. Yes, you. Perhaps you’ll find yourself spending an important holiday without them, but remember that the less tugging, pulling, demanding and fighting that goes on, the better for the children. Even if it hurts, don’t fight for more than your fair share. And be sure to assure your kids that you do want to be with them, but you don’t want them to feel torn between their father and you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them how they really feel and what they really want. If possible, accommodate them. And be careful not to make them feel guilty or present the case in such a way that you make them feel they have to give you an answer that will please you, even if it may not be perfectly honest.
These suggestions may not work in every situation, but my hope is that, at the very least, I’ve been able to bring the children back into focus. Prayerfully approach the holiday tug-of-war, asking God to help you come up with an answer that will glorify Him, bless your kids and make the holidays a time of joy for the whole family. Happy Holidays!
Lorri Owens is a wife, homemaker and mother of two. She serves as a women’s ministries leader at her home church and teams up with her husband to mentor young adults, helping them develop Godly relationships and marriages. Her passion is to see every marriage grow and prosper.
All articles used with permission from Beautiful One Magazine, LLC, 2007.
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