Divorced parents during the holidays

By Robert Riches
December 4, 2012

The holiday season is upon us once again, and for many of us, it means spending a significant amount of time with the family. Family takes on a universal meaning during the season whether or not it’s the whole mom, dad, children family unit or the divorced parent/children unit. If you’re like me and find yourself in the “son of divorced parents” category, it adds an interesting twist to the season.

My parents’ divorce became official last year, so the one-parent holiday season is still somewhat of a new concept to get used to. My mother is even a product of divorced parents herself, so she tried her best to prepare my siblings and me for a difficult challenge. However, I do not find it to be as difficult as anticipated. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it’s not always as hard as one could expect.

The hardest part about it that I have noticed is making the decision of what to do on a holiday. Do I spend Thanksgiving with my dad, and run the risk of leaving behind an upset mother? Do I spend it with Mom, but risk never hearing the end of it from dad for an unknown period of time? It’s just another “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation and there are enough of those already this time of year.

However, through compromise and understanding, making that kind of a decision is easy enough. Why not spend the holiday with both? Go to Dad’s for several hours, and then return to Mom’s for dinner. If you’ve sampled my mother’s cooking, you would probably want to eat dinner there too.

That solution worked out better than I expected it to. My two siblings and I went to watch Thanksgiving football at my dad’s house. It was only fitting; my dad is the one who turned me into a football fan (and one of God’s most despised creatures, a Philadelphia Eagles fan, at that). Afterwards we made the 20-minute trek back to Mom’s for dinner. Surely it was not Norman Rockwell-esque by any means, but it was still easier than it could have been.

Sure, Mom and Dad may not be 100 percent satisfied with the solution, but it is the best possible solution to come up with. But at the end of the day, you’ll never please all of the people all of the time. As the Rolling Stones once eloquently put, “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes/you just might find/you get what you need.”

Christmas is just around the corner, so my siblings and I may try the same thing again. It may work as well as the last time, but that remains to be seen. Divorce during the holidays takes getting used to and approaching it one holiday at a time is the only true way to get used to it. Not all divorces are created equal- some may even be easier to approach during the holidays and some may be ridiculously difficult.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how old you are, going through a parental divorce is always tough. If it was easy, everybody would go through it and it is not something that I’d wish upon anybody else. The holiday season doesn’t make a divorce any easier, but one can still get through it as hard as it may seem. Even if it’s just spending a holiday with one parent at a time, the family dynamic is still there, whether you can realize it or not. Isn’t that what this time of year is all about?

Robert Riches

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