Splitsville: Should Separated Parents Try To Fake Traditional Holidays?
Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand thatdidn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.
I have to admit, the thought of joined holidays has never even crossed my mind when planning our holiday schedule for my daughter. After all, I don’t expect my husband’s extended family and mine to all come together for a joyous holiday occassion. For one thing, we would have to rent out a convention center. For another, each side of the family has their own special traditions and activities that make them special. Not mention, with six siblings between the two of us, that’s a whole lot of additional in-laws. In theory, everyone getting together for a single holiday sounds wonderful. Being with all your friends and family at once normally sounds awesome. It’s the realistic logistics of the whole matter that make it a little insane. And since I would never consider trying to combine both sides of grandparents for a single holiday, I was kind of shocked when a commenter chastised me for not joining with my ex for a single holiday.
On a recent post about sharing holiday schedules and how separated parents can make it work, I received a comment that said “I know a handful of divorced parents who have successfully realized they are parents first and divorced spouses second – at least as long as their children are still living at home. These families have one Christmas, one Thanksgiving, one birthday party. Both parents attend the holidays together, and the children get to have at least a few days a year when celebrating as a family takes precedence any lingering relationship issues.” It’s not that I’m offended that someone disagrees with me. It’s that I honestly had never considered this an option, especially not for family holidays.
I’ve heard of separated parents coming together for birthday parties. I’ve always thought it sounded like a nice practice for everyone involved. After all, a birthday is an occasion celebrating a single child and their special day. It makes sense to have everyone important to that child together at once. In my own experience, it hasn’t worked out that way, but I wouldn’t be against the idea. My daughter actually shares her birthday with her father, so it’s their special day to spend together. Normally on a weekend surrounding that day, my extended family and close friends get together for our own birthday party. It just seemed natural to have our own separate celebrations.
Once again, the reality of trying to have four extended families together for a single event is almost mind-blowing. With a rough head count, that would include at least 75 people. It’s simply not a realistic option for any holiday. It’s not that I think our families would argue or fight. I assume that grown adults can get over their past history with one another for their sake of a child stuck in the middle. I expect my ex and I to do this on a monthly basis. It’s really just the different needs of each family and the sheer number of people that makes it unrealistic.
The idea that having separate holidays means that my ex and I are more concerned with our own feud that our daughter is just a little bit of a stretch. I don’t think that choosing to have our holidays makes us selfish and I definitely don’t think it hurts our daughter. It’s possible that parents can come together to support their child without having to turn close family celebrations into huge productions, like a couple of actors pretending to be in a relationship for image boost. I don’t think that my ex and I need to fake a perfect, cookie-cutter family celebration to give our child a great holiday.
What’s wrong with creating our own traditions and having multiple get togethers? What’s wrong with splitting the time? Do you think it’s more important to create a traditional holiday or find a structure that works for your individual family?