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…

Single Parenting at the Holidays

Me with the Kids

The next couple weeks pose a challenge for any family, but a particular challenge for those of us who are divorced parents, and particularly for our kids.  One immediately thinks of the Hallmark movie moments of passing the kids from one house to another, the two Christmas dinners, etc.

But a more difficult thing to negotiate is which side of the family gets the pre-divorce traditions.  Some are sorted out in the settlement — you get Christmas Eve, I get Christmas Day.  But others aren’t, like who gets to take the kids to the Hollidazzle Parade downtown, or to the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum to see the Christmas train.  Who gets to watch A Christmas Story with the kids?  Those little details are neither negotiated in the divorce, nor are they particularly easy to negotiate on the fly.  In fact, the nostalgia, emotion, and sentiment around the holidays make these even more difficult to negotiate than the usual mundane details of the rest of the year.

So I’ve taken to developing some new traditions.  We’re reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I’m reading from my parents’ first edition copy and remembering what a truly wonderful story it is.  We baked about a ton of cookies with my mom last weekend.  And we’re gonna do some new things that I hope to make annual occurrences over the holiday break from school.

While I can rationalize the change in our family dynamic, it is a particular challenge for the children at the holidays, which is all the more reason to develop some patterns and rhythms that will provide them some comfort.

Have you got any tips or hints for me?

On Fatherhood

Me with the Kids

One of the things that I haven’t blogged about before, but has been a part of my life for a while now, is that I am a single parent.  This development was not expected, as I’m sure it isn’t for any single parent, nor has it been particularly easy.  And while I will not be blogging about the circumstances that led to this situation, I do want to start writing about the joys and struggles of being a single dad.

Entering into the holiday season is just such a time that brings both joys and struggles to me and the kids.  In the midst of the stress of the usual weekly transitions, the time off of school (they have this entire week off) does bring the kids some relief.  Their stress level seems to be down, and they’re excited about the times with families of origin on both sides.

But it’s also confusing, especially being that my kids are young.  They haven’t really internalized the holiday schedule, and their sense of time is nothing like an adult’s.  So there are constants questions about where they will be when, and with whom.  And transitions on the holidays themselves are never easy.

I’m hoping that there are some other single parents out there who will chime in on these posts, give some suggestions, and share their stories.