It took eight hours of divorce mediation before we were asked to sort out Christmas. Having already suffered through the custody part of the agreement earlier in the day, I was too tired to think about holidays by the time it finally came up.
"What do people do?" I asked. "How do others sort it out?"
I learned, that day that there are two ways that Christmas can be worked out.
The first option is to split Christmas day into two parts.
The children wake up before the sun (in the home of one of their parents) to a dressed tree full of presents. That parent spends the morning with the kids, until lunch time when the other parent picks up the kiddies and heads back to their home for round number two.
The second option is to split the holiday into weeks.
From the day the children are released for Christmas break until the morning after Christmas, they reside in one home.
Then, from the day after Christmas to New Year's Day, the children reside with the other parent (who most certainly missed them so).
Decisions made as to which year children spend with which parent is based on numbers. Odd years for dad; even years for mom (or however the divorcing spouses decide).
As hard as it was to imagine a Christmas without my kids, option number two seemed a better deal for them. How might it feel having to pack up all of your presents at the very time you'd normally be hidden under heaps of paper and ribbon, just starting to play with your gifts? Not fun, I think.
Since Brian and I are still in the same house (my article regarding rules for separation co-habitation currently waiting to be approved for publication elsewhere), this isn't yet an issue.
But there are plenty of good reasons for us to separate Christmas this year (one being practice making perfect, and all).
On Sunday night (the 23rd) the girls and I are heading to my mother's house for what they think is a slumber party. They've been told that I've written an email to the elves at the North Pole asking if Santa could add their grandmother's house on the list of possible visits, the night before Christmas Eve.
Santa sometimes visits two houses, you know. There are lots of kids whose parents are divorced and so Santa does a special trip for them, just in case they aren't with one of their parents on the actual day that Baby Jesus was born.
This arrangement has been a good thing for Santa, too. He doesn't mind delivering presents two or three nights in a row, because it cuts his workload, making him not so tired and grumpy once all of his presents have finally been delivered.
Mrs. Claus loves this arrangement.
So, on Sunday night my girls will be putting out cookies and carrots, hanging up stockings with care, and sleeping with sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads.
On Monday, when the rest of the world is awaiting Santa's arrival, we'll have celebrated being on his early delivery schedule, joyfully singing Christmas carols under an assortment of dresses and puzzles and toys.
With bellies full of turkey and snickerdoodles, we'll roll home for Christmas Eve with their dad, and on Christmas morning there will be a smaller selection of presents under their tree, but another stocking stuffed full.
Divorce stinks in so many ways. It's true. But perspective in all things is key.
Merry Christmas to all, no matter what night Santa crawls down your chimney.
Which holiday schedule would you choose, if you had to choose one or the other? Are you on Santa's alternate schedule?