Easter morning I awoke to the deafening sound of silence and the sad realization that that wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Birthdays are definitely much worse, but this was the first major holiday my four kids didn’t wake up at my house.
One hundred percent I should not complain. I have primary custody of my kids and stay home with them to boot. But a broken family in general, and on holidays especially, hurts nonetheless.
My ex husband and I flippantly threw the word divorce around from the very start. It took us 6 years to get it. One of the many things that always deterred me was the inability to imagine waking up on holidays apart.
Holidays as a young child (prior to my parents’ divorce) were split between my maternal and paternal grandparents where most of either my mum’s or dad’s siblings were there with their kids and maybe some further extended family.
Immediately following my parents’ divorce, there was a lot of traveling between families, but still large gatherings on either side. Slowly over the years between everyone moving, divorces, fall outs, and also deaths, the holidays weren’t what they once were. It’s overwhelmingly sad.
So it became a mission of mine to keep my immediate family together even after my ex and I divorced. Because of our individual upbringings it was important to each of us to do everything in the kids’ best interest giving them a sense of togetherness, stability, and tradition.
We did a great job of it, I believe, up until this Easter. For whatever reason, in the week leading up to it there was a breakdown in communication. A phone call after I dropped the kids off for the weekend to see what the plans were didn’t end well. It was agreed that he would return them at six on Sunday just as any other weekend of his.
I knew he wasn’t prepared to have the traditional Easter morning baskets awaiting them nor an Easter egg hunt. While they no longer believe in the Easter Bunny, they are still very young and I want them to have happy memories always and especially on holidays. But it was out of my hands and a battle that I chose not to fight.
As much as I disliked the situation, I got to spend a beautiful day with my partner, traveling to my hometown to visit my best friend and my grandma where Easter egg hunts and amazing dinners were had with tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins for so many years.
Grandma’s hugs make everything better and her words are invaluable. I expressed my sadness over not spending the day with the kids. A very simple, “…you make the best of what you have and be grateful for it,” gave some much needed and appreciated perspective.
When we returned home, I prepared for the kids to arrive. Baskets on the table and eggs hidden in the backyard. Of course, after days of preparation and anticipation, the kids had every egg picked up with 2 minutes. They took their baskets inside and began to wolf down chocolate eggs and jelly beans.
My ex and I were laughing at them and taking pictures. We all played with the new bop it! I got them and had a blast. I took it in and realized how lucky we really are.
A tiny blip that just felt off was not such a big deal. We didn’t wake up and spend the day together, visiting extended family and having a huge dinner, but we were together.
This co-parenting thing is not easy. My ex and I have one of the best relationships I’ve seen amongst divorcees, but it’s not without it’s struggles. The feeling of loss of control is a very real thing for me.
The things they do when with him drive me nuts. The lack of discipline, the poor diet, the ridiculous amount of tech time, the lack of hygiene, the lack of engagement.
I have constant anxiety. Is he holding the 5 year old’s hand when they cross the street? If they are at the park, is he watching them or is he on his phone? Is my daughter being exposed to egg to which she is deathly allergic?
These are all things that I have to let go of when they are with him and perhaps share in another post (or 100). But letting go is a necessary means to an end.
This holiday aside, we coexist as if we were still married on the major holidays. If I were to pick at him for every single thing that drives me nuts about him as a parent, as an ex, or as a human being in general (and the same for him with me), we would never be able to keep our family together like this for holidays, birthdays, school events, etc.
There are those of you out there fighting major battles over custody, visitation, and child support, rolling your eyes at me, dealing with things you probably think I couldn’t even imagine. Actually, those people likely stopped reading this a while back, BUT, if you’re still reading, I see you. I am not you, but I was where your child is. I hate unsolicited advice, but I will say this:
Your child/children can see, hear, and feel EVERYTHING that you are going through. They don’t have the mental capacity to process it. Depending on their age, they may not have the words to express their feelings or a friend or family member with whom they can speak. It gets internalized and it is there FOREVER. Keep that in mind.
Co-parenting is tricky. Divorce changes so many things. We all have different situations and circumstances. Remember what my almost 92 year old grandma said, “make the best of what you have and be grateful for it.” Your situation may not be ideal, but chances are, it could be much worse.