“Sam, I’m gonna ask Santa for a dollhouse this year,” my stepdaughter Chloe told me as she ran in circles outside of the restaurant.
I looked up at David, her daddy and my new husband, and smiled. He winked back at me and I felt that little butterfly in my stomach, the one that flaps wildly when I realize that we get to create Christmas magic every year.
As a child, my Christmases were incredible and full of joy, but as a young adult, the magic wore off a bit. I will never forget bursting into tears while decorating the Christmas tree one year because everything was changing. I was now an adult, and Christmas, while still such a splendid time, was different. My mom came into the room, sat down with me and told me that she hated the Christmases when she was older. But when she had all of us, all of that magic came rushing back with more twinkle lights, more gingerbread and more joy.
When your significant other shares custody of their children, holidays are very different.
I, of course, completely agree with her. There is nothing like staying up late on Christmas Eve to wrap toys in the living room, freezing every time the paper crinkles too loudly. I love filling the kids’ stockings, arranging and rearranging presents under the tree. When Christmas morning came last year, David and I actually had to go and wake up Chloe and her younger brother, Trey, just to get the day started.
And then at 3:00? They were gone, back to their mom’s house to celebrate Christmas with her.
When your significant other shares custody of his children, holidays are very different. They are magical and full of awe, naturally, but they sometimes feel rushed and jumbled together. The entire time we were opening presents, we had one eye on the clock, wishing time would slow down so we could enjoy the day just a little bit more.
And then, when it comes time to go, the look on the kids’ faces when we tell them to leave their brand-new, just-dropped-off-by-Santa gifts here so they can go get more? Oh, it’s heartbreaking.
But, it’s what we have to do. Christmas is a big holiday, a wonderful occasion, and being fair is something we all want for each other. The kids need to see each parent, each family, on Christmas, even if it means cramming things into the week leading up to the day and even after the 25th.
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This year, David and I will pick up the kids at 3 p.m. on Christmas Day and keep them until they go back to school. Having them Christmas morning and the week leading up to it last year was wonderful and we cherished the time, but I have to say, I’m looking forward to the switch this year.
Ever since I was about 4 years old, I’ve felt an immense wave of depression and sadness on Christmas Day, right around 5 o'clock in the evening. When all the presents are unwrapped and all the dinner has been eaten, it’s kind of a letdown. I had anticipated it for so long (and still do), and now it’s all over in just a few hours?
But this year? This year everyone in our family will have to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (My family has always celebrated until January 6, while David’s family is known for taking their Christmas tree down on the 26th).
We will still watch Christmas movies, we’ll continue munching on gingerbread, and we will try to put in a call to Santa on the 23rd. Maybe he’ll be willing to make an extra trip to our house Christmas night, so that we can have that magical, glorious Christmas morning on the 26th.
Preferably without checking the clock.
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