Single Parenting at the Holidays: Hellos and Goodbyes

Me with the Kids

Today I say goodbye to the kids for a week, after a wonderful Christmas with them.  I come from a family that vaunts the holidays, particularly those that have occurred recently.  So, as a single dad, I have to battle inner voices that say, “This holiday is more important than that holiday.”  Of course, every day with the kids is a gift, thus my struggle with thoughts that one day on the calendar is more important than another.

Do I get them enough on Thanksgiving weekend?  When should we eat on Christmas Day, based on when I pick them up?  How important is New Year’s Eve, really? These are some of the inner conversations that I have — and have to battle — during this time of year.

It’s funny, because I know some families that don’t really care if they celebrate Christmas on December 25.  They’re happy to have their kids and celebrate on the day that’s most convenient — whether that be when they’ve got the the kids, or when other relatives can make it into town, or when their work schedule permits.  But for me, that date on the calendar still plays a big role in my emotions of when I’m with the kids this time of year.

So I was happy to have them for a few days before Christmas, and I took them to a waterpark in Brainerd.  And it was a joy to pick them up on Christmas Day and spend the past few days building Lego sets and Matchbox Car tracks.

But today is a farewell, and I won’t see them for a week.  And, as a single dad, I’m once again confronted with the bittersweet emotions: Joyous for the time I’ve had with them, and sad for the New Year’s Eve I’ll miss.

On the other hand, I’ve got some great adult New Year’s Eve plans — going to my cousin’s wedding — and I’ll be happy to say goodbye to 2009 and ring in 2010 with people I love (one in particular).

And I suppose I’ll celebrate the New Year with my kids, on January 5.  Hey, that’s the 12th Day of Christmas!  Maybe it’s time for a new holiday tradition…

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  • Wes

    Thanks for sharing. I completely understand how you feel. I am going through a divorce and have postponed moving out until after the holidays in order to make things easier for the kids. Though this year was the last Christmas that we were all in the same house, it was rough thinking that this was the last “normal” year for holidays. But, there is always the bright side to focus on.

    Your children are adorable, by the way!

  • Korey

    I read the Sacred Way a few years back and have read your blogging on and off ever since. I really enjoyed the New Christians and just wanted to mention my heart sunk a bit when I read this post. Not knowing you at all other than through your books and blogging I was sorry to hear about your family situation. My parents had a tumultuous relationship and eventually divorced. I remember many nights crying about that as a boy. The song Nobody’s Crying by Patty Griffin really struck me when I first heard it as an adult in terms of my parent’s relationship and when reflecting on some friends and family whose marriages also didn’t make it. I do hope this comment isn’t too annoying or depressing. Just wanted to cobble together some words to say I was sorry to hear this news and pray comfort for you and your family.

    • Korey, your comment isn’t too annoying or depressing. In fact, getting supportive comments by people like you and Lars really helps. It’s not particularly easy to be honest about divorce in the Christian community, so any support helps.

  • Hey Tony- Thanks for being honest about all of this. When you said Brainerd I thought about my friends form college from there. It seemed like for quite a while the whole leadership of the student body at Seattle Pacific University was from there. Hope and pray that you make it through new years in a positive way.


  • Brian

    Hi Tony,

    I tend to believe that critics are more likely to speak out and write than supporters are. Your comment to Korey seems to agree with my idea. So, just a note to say that I too was and am sorry to hear about your divorce. I’m guessing there are many more who are quietly supportive as well. My prayers are with you and your family. May you find good, healthy ways forward.

  • Tony, I love the chance to encourage and support you because, as you know, you have managed to find a place in my heart. My husband, David, and I love you and continue to pray for you and your family. You are a good man with a gentle heart, even if you are a bit cheeky 😉 You deserve to have the best and I am sorry that you are going through the pains of separation from your kids on days that somehow do have greater emotional and spiritual significance than other days do. I rejoice with you over the time you do have with them, and mourn with you gently over the time you do not.

    Jesus, may your peace pervade this situation with Tony and his kids, and may your light shine in the dark places in their hearts where separation and divorce and pain have wreaked their havoc. I do not want to be the one to bring up the ex-wife, but I must as I beseech you to bring your peace, love and healing to her afresh in this very moment even. We know and love Tony alone, most of us, but must not neglect praying for this entire family, separated though they may be. We know that you have never left nor forsaken any of us, yet sometimes it is so very hard for us to truly take hold of that fact. So I pray that each member of this family would grab hold of your love and faithfulness and not let go. May they find comfort when they need it, and may they be a comfort to others when the need arises. May they find peace and joy to be constant companions as this holiday season wraps up and leads them into a new year. And may Tony find ways to celebrate the special times with his children in the future that still carry the feel of tradition that he desires, even when the days don’t quite correspond the way they should. We love you and trust you to work mightily.