It’s the time of year where you will see multiple Facebook statuses about being back in the hometown for the holidays, funny tweets about mom and dad cuddling on the couch after rekindling a flame once you moved out, articles about dealing with all the relatives at Thanksgiving dinner, Instagram photos of Christmas morning with mom, dad, and the siblings all in the traditional Christmas pajamas, and many other basic things straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
What about everyone else? What about those of us that have lost a loved one, those of us on the other side of the country or maybe even a different country, or the large portion of us with divorced parents? The divorced parents create a broken family and quite the conundrum for figuring out where you need to be and when. Maybe your divorced parents somehow still live in the same town, but for so many others you are looking at different cities or even different states.
My parents split up when I was a month away from finishing kindergarten. It really sucked at the time, but as life went on I was able to adjust to my “normal” life. They lived over 90 minutes away from each other and sent my sister and me to some small private school in between. Holidays were a pain, but nothing too bad. Thanksgiving used to switch every year; usually I was with my stepmom’s family, but sometimes I was just with my mom and her parents. One year my mom would have me Christmas Eve and my dad Christmas Day, and the next my dad would have me Christmas Eve and my mom Christmas Day. I got used to it.
Once I was in college, I was an adult making the majority of my own decisions. Sure I still acted like a child, staying up until 2 in the morning, eating Cookout, oversleeping past my 8 a.m. and lying on the couch and watching First Take instead. I got to the point where I wanted to do the holidays the way I wanted them done. With my dad now hosting Thanksgiving at his farmhouse each year, I was able to eat there early and enjoy my extended family in town, then head to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving with her that evening. I would spend every Christmas Eve with my stepmom’s family, Christmas morning with my dad, Christmas Day with my mom. I got in the swing of things again.
As I lived on my own, life continued to adjust without me. My dad moved to a different state, while my mom still lived in the same town as me. The holidays got more difficult, and the pressure placed on me got heavier.What was I supposed to do? How is it fair for divorced parents to put anyone in this situation? We didn’t choose this life. We didn’t say, “Hey mom and dad, can y’all get divorced? Sweet.” As a kid it was easier, because your parents had control. But as an adult with divorced parents, what are you to do? If you go to spend time with one part of your family, you hurt the other part’s feelings. If you reverse it, feelings are still being hurt. What ends up happening is your own heart tearing, as you realize your feelings will be hurt no matter where you go. Nothing makes you feel like a shitty child than totally skipping out on a holiday with one of your parents. It’s tough to remember that it’s not your fault, and definitely not something you control.
What I have found most helpful is being open and transparent with both parents and letting them know the situation that you are stuck in. While they may not be able to understand, hopefully they love you enough to not be upset with whatever decision you make. If you’re like me, with a narcissistic dad who can’t stand when anyone does anything against his wishes, then you just spend all your time with your mom.
I apologize to you, adult with divorced parents, because I know that the holidays are not an easy time. Just remember to always put yourself first and not let anyone berate you for anything. And to be honest, if a parent is giving you grief and not supporting your decision, then maybe that’s not the parent deserving of spending time with you anyway.