It’s kid swap off time with my ex-husband. He asks the kids to wait in his truck. I’m smiling and kissing them goodbye, but inside my stomach is flipping knowing the conversation that’s about to take place. We talk about holiday plans for this year after our divorce. We are civil; we make a plan together because we are two adults who’ve grown a lot from the days of letting conversations escalate in front of our kids and needing someone to mediate drop off time. At the heart of things, we truly want to respectfully preserve memories while also making new ones for our three kids.
He leaves and I instantly tear up.
The thoughts of “It’s not fair…it’s not supposed to be this way…traditions will have to change…divorce is the end” swirl through my mind as I wash dishes from a dinner we just all had together (my boyfriend included). My ex walks back in to ask a question and I choke back tears not even knowing my response, but wanting him to go so I can have this moment alone to get back to reality. “Don’t cry, Danielle. My kids are loved. They are safe. I am a good mom. He is a good dad.”
“I’m here to talk with you if you want, but also can let you be,” my boyfriend says. I take two steps to him and let the tears flow into his chest as I release. Years of stuffing emotions didn’t get me anywhere but hurt, physically ill, and stuck in a place of constantly trying to put on a front for the sake of the kids. For dramatic effect, he turns on Adele’s newly divorced woman anthem, “Go Easy on Me.”
And the highest hopes
But I know right now
That probably doesn’t even show…”
I have the moment to release my emotions. Traditions and time together have changed, but what hasn’t changed is that holidays mean togetherness, family, giving, and ending a year in peace. Is that possible when a family has been divided? I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still fumbling through, but I’m going to say “Yes, it’s still possible.”
Being together is possible and even sweeter when time is split.
Family is what you make it. Growing up, my Papaw instilled in his grandchildren that family did not mean blood. Having a Mamaw who had a mixed family yet still had her seven children, grand and great grandchildren all under one roof for a big Christmas Eve gift exchange fuels me to know that. Even here, we can still be family. Giving when so much has been lost is easier when empathy is something I feel around the holidays. So far, this year has ended more peacefully than any other year I can remember with my children growing up.
I could (and might) write another post about how kids are not resilient and that’s the worst piece of fake comfort someone can offer adults going through a divorce. But in this moment, I want to share and even challenge you, to love on those families too. Be considerate with your Christmas parties being sure to include your friends even if they don’t have the kids that weekend. Ask a single parent if they need help with Christmas presents. Be grace-filled as they struggle to decorate a tree with memory ornaments that they just want to shatter on the floor.
I hate it when someone throws a book recommendation at me during a hard time, but I’m going to recommend you read something that hits on just that: No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece. In the book, she shares how grieving and loss can be handled honestly, leading to healing through the hardest times of grief.