It’s no secret that the holidays demand a lot of our time, even when we are singles without a spouse’s family to visit. The holidays have changed drastically for me in the last few years:
When we first started dating, the very first time we had spent any outside-of-church-time together was on Christmas Day. When I was single, I opened my home to anyone without a place to go. Or people who’s parties were over early. Or someone who wanted to help me be un-lonely. I didn’t cook (see Cranberry Relish in it’s Worst Form), I just offered board games and a friendly, well-heated space. Charming came. So did my gem of a friend and her husband (who have now become our closest friends, the parents to our God-daughter).
When Prince Charming and I were courting, the kids had already wiggled their way into my heart and I found myself wanting to spend the holidays with them. Knowing it wasn’t my place, knowing I had no leverage. But I desperately wanted to be around them. Lo-and-behold, Prince Charming to save the day with an invitation to the Charming Family Christmas! And I got to buy them things. I got to wrap their gifts and see their faces light up and have some excitement.
Our first Christmas as a married couple presented a lot of challenges: who’s traditions win? Who’s decorations go up? When do we even decorate? and the best one: WHO gets to put the topper on the tree?
This year, my challenge is: keeping my sanity while their mom tries to take Christmas eve from us. I put in my specially requested date MONTHS ago, and it was granted to us. Now, as life goes, the threat of having it taken away is real. She is on her high horse right now and is not backing down. It’s a struggle to have uncertainty in planning. It’s a struggle to think that my kids won’t be with me for our family party (not even on Christmas day). My heart hurts thinking about it.
You get it. You as a regular, biological parent understand the pain that comes with dropping off your kids to someone else each week, even if it’s their other biological parent. What you don’t get, that us steps do, is that we invest the exact same amount of effort. We exude the same amount of energy (if not more) into these kids. We pour out our entire beings into these kids, as if they were our own. And then we send them off and we’re discarded.
What you don’t get is spending hundreds of dollars on presents for your kids. Things that they have DREAMED over. Things that they will roll around on the floor in excitement for. Things that they actually want. What you don’t understand is how deeply the “thanks, DAD” hurts. (dad did not go shopping at 4am and wait outside in long lines for this special NERF gun. dad did not fight off other shoppers. dad did not wade through people in aisles, almost drowning, to pick out the right slippers for your kiddos.) What you don’t get is the crushing feeling of dropping them back off at their mom’s house, giant-long hugs and glowing faces for dad.. and barely a wave goodbye to thestepmomma.
I haven’t figured out how to survive the holidays yet. But I’m trying. We’re trying.
***disclaimer. no, hundreds of dollars won’t make the kids leap into my arms, i get that. i know material things are not the way to a kids heart. i know. but YOU know how much Christmas means and YOU know how much you hope that little gift will brighten your kids day, please don’t try to pin the materialistic label on me.***
So. I imagine that there are other steps like me who have these struggles. Who fear the holidays. Who are developing anxiety in places it never existed before and might, almost, potentially may be crippled by it before Christmas even appears. How do you do it? How do you make it? How do you wave goodbye and send them off and hope that they remember that your name was signed on the gift tag, too? Or that you were helpful in painting their bedroom that was just redone for them or that you painstakingly wrapped each present, with each kid in mind?