Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Family

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We are deep in the heart of holiday season: Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas is just around the corner.  Katherine and I have decked the halls, and she spent one lovely night sleeping next to the Christmas tree, snuggled under a snowman blanket.  We have seen a Christmas concert, and we've done our holiday tradition of the carousel downtown and a horse drawn carriage ride at night around the city.

Though Bryan only moved out in July, this is our second "separated" Christmas.  Last year, he lived downstairs, and I lived upstairs, with an awful lot of overlap.  I won't lie, that was an incredibly difficult Christmas for me.  I didn't send out holiday cards because I didn't know what to say on them, or even who to sign them from: we lived in the same house, but surely we couldn't send out a "family" card?  Christmas last year, Bryan left in the middle of dinner and locked himself in his bedroom while our house was full of guests.  Nothing provoked this; while I'm sure he found it all as surreal as I did, there was nothing that went wrong or no awkward moment that sent him storming downstairs.  When I knocked on his door and asked whether he was going to join us for dessert (we were all waiting), he yelled at me to go away.  To say that it was unpleasant wouldn't even touch on it.

In addition to our uneasy living situation, last year I wasn't working, I didn't have a solid plan, and our finances were a mess.

So, this year, by comparison, feels like a piece of cake.  Chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and a drizzle of raspberry, actually.  Decadent and beautiful.

This year, with Bryan in his own apartment, decorating the tree had no awkward moments.  He did not complain about the size (too big!) or the location (why do you have to put it there?) or the ornaments (why do you have so many?) or the needles (why even bother if it's just going to die?).  He did not complain about our listening to Christmas carols (don't they get on your nerves?) and he did not complain about how long it took.  Katherine and I had a grand time doing it, and it was absolutely stress free.  I was a bit worried about how I'd do it without another adult to help (we like trees that touch the ceiling!), but somehow, we managed.  She climbed on my shoulders to place the angel on top, and it was magical.  (It involved a lot of giggling.  We both felt like we were going to topple, and somehow that was hysterical.  The angel is a little crooked, but I love her all the more for it.)

This year, I can buy my own gifts for people with my own money.  I don't need to negotiate with him, and I don't need to see him buying himself things he doesn't need and telling me that there is no money for our nieces and nephews.

This year, there is a beautiful picture of Katherine and I, taken by a friend, that goes on our holiday card.  It is beautiful, the best photo we've ever had together, and it makes me happy just to see it.  We will sign them together, and it feels natural and wonderful.

To say I'm relieved by my divorce isn't putting it lightly - my life is a thousand times better this year than it was last year.

But I haven't forgotten that it's not all about me, and that Katherine's feelings matter more than ever, and that she likely still longs for her intact nuclear family, not the two-residences version.  And I haven't forgotten my vow to make her life as great as I can.

So, when Katherine said, "Mama, can Daddy spend the night on Christmas Eve?" I only verifed that she meant in the guest room, and then when she said "yes" I smiled and said "Of course!  Let's invite him."  I reached out to Bryan, explained that it was important to our daughter to have both of her parents there for breakfast and presents, and he accepted the invitation.

I was pleased as can be.  THIS is the divorce I hoped for, where we set aside our differences and come together for our beautiful child.

I was pleased for a few hours before I thought "OH NO!  HE'S GOING TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN MY HOUSE!"  For a moment, I thought "I can't do this!  No, no, no!"  But I can, and I will.  One night out of 365 is not such a big deal, and if it brings joy to our daughter, then so be it.

I will have to serve him breakfast.  And clean it up.  He will not offer to help, and if I offer sausage he'll say, "What?  No bacon?" and he may criticize my variety of coffee (strong and dark).  He will either inform me that I bought way too many presents for Katherine, or not enough.  He will belch and not say "excuse me."  He will not acknowledge my hospitality, and he will not thank me for including him.

It is what it is.  He has not changed because we are getting divorced; sometimes he's even worse.

But it doesn't matter.  I can set it aside for Christmas, and I can ignore his bad behavior.  What my daughter will witness is her mom making every effort to give her a great holiday.  Katherine will see me being pleasant and kind and compassionate.  I will not rise to his bait, and I will not snap at him.  (What I think is another matter, but as long as it doesn't come out, no problem!)

Katherine gets both of her parents at the holiday table, and I get the peace of knowing that I'm doing a good thing.

I also get the peace of knowing it's only one night a year, and that counts for a lot!

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