I used to protect myself from Christmas. Sure, like many children, Christmas was a pretty big deal to me, especially when I believed that Santa Claus was real and brought me presents each year for being a good girl. I grew older, though, and after family had dispersed, traumas had been experienced, and my Christian faith dissapated, Christmas eventually became meaningless to me.
"Another Lonely Christmas" by Prince would make its way into heavy rotation mid-December, and my credit card would be swiped at more bars than a few. I found solace in music and booze, a quick date here and there, and I entertained myself by pushing wistful thoughts of receiving a special Christmas gift from someone who didn’t simply stop calling three weeks prior to any major holiday so as to avoid being obligated to do something special. I made sport of rejecting the aches, the longing, and the desire to be someone’s “Baby”. I refused to burden my friends of whom I was envious, with their family traditions and loving joy. I couldn’t deal with estranged family members pretending I meant something to them or forcing me to pretend that I thought about them regularly. I kept to myself, mostly.
Image: Eric Castro via Flickr
Then, I met him (and his two-year-old daughter)... we got married and we had a baby boy and Christmas became a “thing” again. I finally had someone in my life who not only stuck around through the holidays, but also gave thoughtful gifts that elicited gleeful responses and uttered affirmations of adoration and promises of forever. I woke up to a gift on my pillow and gifts under the tree. I woke up to the sounds of children squealing and excitedly playing with the toys they believed came from Santa Claus. I woke up the smell of breakfast being cooked and holiday music in the speakers. For three Christmas days in a row, I woke up to Love.
Love... must have meant something different to each of us because before it all ended, we knew what we shared was not Love. Well, at least I can admit that now and brush off his assertions to the contrary. His version of Love included everyone else, which wouldn’t have been so bad had he included me in decision to spread his love and cheer to anyone with a phone number and MySpace page. That might have helped...a bit.
The first Christmas after he moved out, we agreed to spend together for our son’s sake. He was, we felt, too young to understand what was going on with us, as we had only split five months prior. We decided this would be the best thing for him and maybe even us. He received a guitar. Just what he wanted.
That was the last Christmas we would share as a family. We agreed that, going forward, we would split holidays so that on the years he was with me for Thanksgiving, he would be with his father for Christmas, and vice versa. The first year, he spent it with his father. The next year, he was with me but, because of an incident in school that involved him being mean to another student, I cancelled Christmas. I wanted to teach a firm lesson that bad behavior is not rewarded and, as hard as it was to do, I stuck with my guns and held out. No Christmas celebration for him. I was disappointed and hurt that I would not be able to enjoy the holiday with my baby boy or be able to show him that Christmas with Mommy could be as fun as with Daddy.
I cried again, locked in my room, for yet another lonely Christmas.
Last year, he was with his father and this year he is with me. Last year, I did not feel the depression I normally feel and I owe that to the healing I have undergone in the years that we have been apart. I have grown into a woman I have never been more proud of and I was perfectly content to spend time with friends, go to work, and be alone. I had been dating a bit, but at that time, I was not in a committed relationship and I was fine with that. I was more than fine, actually-- I had reconciled that my happiness relied not on the presence of a romantic partner in my life but on my overall health and wellbeing. For the first time in my life, I felt healthy AND happy.
While my son has had some ups and downs, he’s been an amazing student and an all-around great kid. I admit that I’ve gone all out this year, spending more money in one year than I think I’ve spent on gifts for anyone in the past 10 years combined. We also celebrate Kwanzaa, so I look forward to sharing that time with him too. This is the year I revealed that Santa Claus isn't real and while he argued his case for Santa's existence like a defense attorney, he eventually accepted that he, like millions of children around the world, had been duped. When I picked him up the other day, I even spoke with my ex-husband, asking about what my step-daughter (now 11) wanted for Christmas, and we discussed plans to get her some beauty-related items. She is at that age where she is both more interested in her appearance than ever before and more interested in what boys think about her appearance. Yikes. I am not ready for this.
We make it work. There is no hurt there, between us at least. We are committed to co-parenting and if we have an obstacles, we do our best to overcome them. This is not to say it is has been entirely smooth sailing; my ex-husband can be a jerk sometimes and I can be a hothead on occasion. We know, though, that being divorced does not mean being broken and we are still a family, though we may not be the picture-perfect image other might have of what families should look like. We respect boundaries and new relationships. He has since remarried and I am in a loving relationship with a wonderful man (who will be spending the holiday with my son and I). I am at a place of peace that affords me freedom from feeling like Christmas is to be avoided at every cost. I am at a place of reconciliation that allows me to remain open to receive the gifts that are coming my way, this Christmas and every day after.