Surviving the Holidays Between Households

family christmas photo

family Christmas photo 2007

Many years ago, M and I dreaded the holiday season. It was globally acknowledged (in our little world) that each parent was able to spend every other year with T for holidays and special occasions. So you had him for Christmas last year, this year he is with me. Simple right? Except it wasn’t.
I keep track of everything. I am known for my crazy color-coded calendars and my lists. Because of this, my husband never doubted whose turn it was on certain holidays. He shouldn’t have to because I was keeping track, right?
Yet every major holiday and special occasion was a battle. Ugh, just thinking about it is turning my stomach into knots. It would go something like this… A few months before the occasion I would start asking (nagging) M to confirm with the ex that we would indeed have T for Christmas this year (or whatever the case was). M in turn would put it off knowing there would be a battle of some sort. A few days before the holiday he would talk to her and she would have some reason why it wasn’t actually our year to have T but hers. In her mind, it was all very logical why she was right. But for me and M – I had the calendars to prove we were right!
M and the ex would be yelling for hours on the phone. My stomach would be so upset and my vision blurred from the rage I felt at the inconvenience of it all. In the end, there would be some sort of compromise although it felt like she always got her way. We would have to change plans and be flexible. I was not good at that. At all. (I’m getting better though – by the grace of God!)
thanksgiving performance

thanksgiving performance 2008

The past few years have been mostly better. There are a few things that “go wrong” now and again but nothing like before. What did it take? Two (or was it three) visits to family court for hearings and a lot of growing up.
Today, we have a schedule for every major holiday and special occasion based on even or odd years. We are aware that sometimes flexibility is necessary. The less that is changed though seems to be better for everyone.
If you struggle with this holiday battle, I encourage you to take a deep breathe and pray. It will get better.
Three tips to help create a smooth holiday season.
1. It is not about you. It is about the child(ren). Is it more important which adult has the child(ren) on which holiday or that the child gets to spend time with each parent AND that things between the two parents are relaxed and easy? Obviously, the less tension for the child(ren), the better. I do think it is important for the child(ren) to experience holidays with each parent. There are different traditions and family histories to be shared.  But that also has to be the reason each parent wants the child(ren) for the holidays. It can’t be about getting back at the other parent. It can never be about that.
2. Write it down. Plan it out. Decide your holiday schedule in advance. Way in advance if possible. That way there are no misunderstandings, no confusion, no surprises.
3. Be flexible. What if your ex’s Great-Aunt Mary who babysat you child(ren) so many years ago is flying out for what could be her last thanksgiving. But it is your year to have the child(ren). Too bad ex! Too bad Great-Aunt Mary! No! Be flexible., Make arrangements for the child(ren) to spend some time with her.
I hope this helps make the holidays a little brighter for those of you who may have been missing some holiday cheer.
I would love to hear any tips and lessons learned that you have for surviving the holidays between households.

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