New Traditions After Divorce

It is a great Christmas to be me.  I’m really giving myself to the holidays as a single mom on my terms. When we hashed out custody, I was intentional with wanting Christmas Eve with my boys.  My family always celebrates Christmas Eve and I was able to start my celebrations with a first date at Catalina Coffee Company yesterday morning (beautiful blue eyes, amazing conversation, couldn’t look away from his dimples, didn’t feel an ounce of chemistry, great venue). I then enjoyed most of yesterday with one sister over several hours of making tamales yesterday. This morning  was alone with my boys at breakfast.  We had our private gift opening at home and then I enjoyed a day with my kids and ginormous family.  Right now I get to have a really appreciated quiet night alone.  (Although that hot buttered rum is calling me.) Tomorrow my adventures will continue with more family and friends.

I started my day with my boys at a Denny’s Christmas breakfast.  I hated making breakfast first thing in the morning.  I was never hungry and the kids were always picky.  I got to eat later in the morning, and I wasn’t the short order cook.  I don’t remember last year, but this year has been great. I explained to my boys the thoughts my last post inspired for me.  I explained that in asking what they want for Christmas and focusing only on that, I was teaching them to be takers without bothering to show them the joys of giving.  It was a stretch for me but I asked them if they wanted to go get a present for their Dad for Christmas.  The little one immediately said no.  The oldest said he was planning to draw him a picture, and my middle son hesitated the longest before saying no.  Maybe it was strange to imagine me footing the bill for him.  I then asked if they wanted to pick out a gift for their Grandparents and they were excited about that.

We walked around the CVS after expressing gratitude that we weren’t at Target when we drove by the Target parking lot on Christmas Eve. (We’re working on finding gratitude in everything.) The boys picked out house shoes for their Grandpa, and a blanket for their Grandma.  They wanted something to keep them warm and comfortable.  We wrapped it and when we arrived at Grandma’s house, for the first time they gave their grandparents a gift they picked out themselves.  It wasn’t something I picked.  It was something they chose and they got to experience the gratitude of their grandparents.  The look on my children’s face was all I needed in that moment.

I see where my children are growing and where I need to continue to guide them in so many ways and today was a humbling and encouraging lesson for me.  But it was a day of shifting traditions and seeing how it’s about learning and growing as a family.

Not only have I been teaching my boys to be takers, I was teaching them to live in scarcity, and keeping them from dreaming big.  My older two had modest wish lists.  My little one wanted a trampoline, but that was the most out of the box gift they came up with. Later in the day, Kid3 expressed wanting a Nintendo 3DS.  In the past that meant waiting for the next holiday or birthday.  I explained that I always want to give my kids what they want and we don’t have to wait for a holiday or for him to deserve it.  We just had to wait for when I could do it, but it would go on the whiteboard at home as a goal.  What I didn’t expect was that in my daily examples, I was teaching my oldest to be a martyr.

After breakfast and picking up their grandparent’s gifts, they came in the house and I told them they could open their presents.  In the past, it was always structured.  One present at a time, with all of us watching.  It always bothered me because it was a show of “look what I got you and show me you like it.” It shifted.  It wasn’t about the individual gifts but the overall feeling of getting them what they wanted and letting them know I listened to what they wanted and noticed the things they didn’t say. Today I told them to have at it.  They had the freedom to open their presents with their names on them and I stood back and enjoyed their excitement.  They were happy.  I exceeded their expectations.  Then they asked if I could get a duplicate for their Dad’s house.  I said we could wait until they’re back with me and see if they still need what they want.

At one point, Kid2 was fully hit with FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanted a game his brother asked for.  He raged.  He searched for a different game he lost a while back and he was in complete break down.  I had him come to me and I held him as he cried.  He sobbed.  He screamed.  Kid1 had started looking for the game on behalf of his brother and he decided to do all he could to support his brother . . . Including giving his brother the game I had just given him for Christmas in exchange for $10.  He later threw in his gummy bears as well (his absolute favorite candy). He sacrificed his joy for his brother.

Wow. I mean, this kid!  He’s mine.  He gets my good and my bad, and surprises me with things I didn’t know were possible.  I gave him a Christmas hug in parting and had him look me in the eye. I told him he doesn’t have to sacrifice himself because he matters.  I told him he can’t be a world changer if there’s nothing of him left to change the world.  Now I get to live that to give him that example.

Toward the end of the night, I got feedback that makes me want to address a couple of things.  I should clarify that the dates that look too good to be true are catfish, but there are really great men that are real.  Good morning, good night, and surprise sexy texts are a reality.  It’s super rare that I want to meet in person.  He has to be really special to get my time. If you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to follow or read it.  It’s a choice.  Stand by it or find a hobby.

The part that bothered me was it was suggested I was doing Christmas wrong because I was stepping away from a tradition I adopted but never called my own.  It made me doubt our celebrations long enough to ask my kids if they were happy.  They let me know they had a great day.  They had fun with our family.  The younger two even suggested wanting to go home with me and I melted at the hugs from Kid1. My sisters were a bit surprised at how much my Kid1 has grown.  Our day showed me my next goal and tonight I am having the evening I used to enjoy.  There might be a bit of booze. There will be some yarn work and maybe some reading.  I won’t be up all night setting the tree to look a certain way.  I didn’t have to bake cookies for Santa.  I love the life I get to live!

I didn’t have a traditional Christmas before I got married. We always gathered for Christmas and I think Christmas Eve became our tradition shifting in favor of our growing family.  We gather Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we get to have our children and in-laws.  This year we had tri-tip, tamales, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, and desserts.  Thai noodle soup was the highlight of my night.  It is a throwing together of our huge family and our smaller families.  At some point my brother started throwing dollar bills out for the kids in a “make it rain” dance they love.  It’s chaos, but it’s family. It’s my family.  Our traditions shift and grow, as do we, and I get to make this celebration my own in all of the best ways.

There was a terrific balance of my wants and my kids wants.  There is a give and take where we do what we like, and no one is forced into more than we want.  We went to Grandma’s house for me, and my introvert got to decide when we were done and leaving. My inner ambivert was happy with his timing. There was time with my family and time alone.  There will be space for friends and I’m shooting for solo explorations as well.  I don’t have to cook foods I won’t eat or feel like I have to do things I really don’t want to. This new life feels like freedom and it tastes like I want more.

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