While it’s common for divorced families to spend the holidays apart, I’m lucky to say that hasn’t always been the case for my family. My parents got divorced when I was in elementary school, and naturally I was devastated when I heard the news. I knew that our home being divided in two ultimately meant our dynamic would permanently change — so the holidays would change, too. I feared having separate celebrations: two homes with two different Christmas tress and disconnected traditions.
When you’re a kid of divorce, you get used to running back and forth between each of your parents’ respective homes. Already a stressful season by nature, trying to squeeze multiple celebrations into a single day could feel daunting — or impossible. In the first years after my parents’ divorce, we did what most families would do; we had two separate holidays at each home. I had many friends whose divorced parents wouldn’t dare speak to each other, let alone see one another, unless they absolutely had to.
I worried that this would be my family’s new reality. Thankfully, it never was.
After a few holiday seasons, my family dynamic actually changed for the better. My parents eventually transitioned from ex-spouses to great friends. Having one holiday, all together, became a realistic and possible option.
When my parents initially filed for divorce, maintaining a normal environment for my brother and me was a top priority. They put in effort to keep our family life as unaffected as possible and to not make us feel that we had to choose one parent over the other. Their efforts paid off, since we found ourselves able to celebrate with both parents in one setting again. This became the norm for birthdays, graduations, and any other major life milestone that came up each year.
My family grew once my mom got re-married. I gained a stepdad, as well as step-siblings who have gotten to know my own dad over the years as we’ve spent most — if not all — holidays together. I’m thankful that my blended family has these traditions during the holiday season, and I’m grateful to have parents who proved that it is possible for love, respect, and friendship to flourish after a divorce.
My family holiday dynamic may not be what one would expect. Our blended gatherings are far from traditional, but I’m so happy to have these holiday rituals my life. For years, I deeply missed having one holiday with my family, and I’m so relieved that this way of celebrating will forever be our new normal.