As I've written before, I have a fairly good relationship with my ex. In some ways, we were lucky. We decided to divorce before we both actively hated each other. We agreed, after seeing the damage our formerly not-so-amicable break up was having on both of us and our kids, to bury the hatchet and try to remember that we're still a family. A strange, oddly shaped family, but a family.
The first year of holiday celebrations was spent with us stumbling over old expectations and finding new realities. I cried as I decorated the Christmas tree, seeing imagined gaps where our wedding and first Christmas ornaments once hung. I went to his family's house in a daze for Christmas Eve dinner, all of us uncertain how to act. My sisters were civil, but only just, when he joined my family for Christmas dinner. It was exhausting and emotional. We were both glad to put it behind us and move on with the new year.
We rocked our second year. The new was becoming normal. I didn't even notice the missing ornaments, I laughed with his family, and I gently teased him about his dating life – or lack thereof – at dinner. My sisters stopped rolling their eyes at him and asked for his help moving tables. My sister's husband turned on the game. We had found a tentative balance that allowed us to enjoy our Christmas with a minimum of awkwardness.
Which means that come this third Christmas, we were due for a shake up.
This Christmas I have a boyfriend who has a family who extended a heartfelt invitation to the kids and I to join them for Christmas dinner. This Christmas I have a boyfriend who is excited to see the kids open his gifts and Santa's on Christmas morning. To say it's getting complicated would be an understatement. I don't even want to think about how much more complicated it will get when my ex starts dating someone more seriously.
Our Christmas schedule is tightly booked with Christmas Eve dinners, Christmas breakfast, Christmas Lunch, and a Christmas Dinner. The kids will have a great time as we shift between cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and new friends. I, of course, am balancing between maintaining newly formed celebrations and meeting a new family while discovering their traditions. I have friends telling me to give up, to just do separate holidays. But I'm stubborn and determined. I don't want my children shuffling from their father's house to my house, divided on Christmas.
So far, I've got a tentative plan to get through the season and it does not rely upon wine. (Though wine does play a small part.) The adults have agreed to my plan, for the most part. There will be awkwardness, but I'm hoping we'll find that balance again.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do you have any tips or ways to help me juggle three families on Christmas?