The Best Christmas Present Came from My Divorced Parents

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As an adult, I love celebrating Christmas at home with my family. I actually spend the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s Day at home with my kids, and it’s my favorite week of the whole year. I didn’t realize until recently that how I celebrated Christmas growing up is probably the main reason I prefer not leaving my home over the Christmas holidays now.

You see, as a child of divorced parents, Christmas used to be extremely stressful for me. Having two sets of parents meant that I had to spend most of my Christmases traveling from one parent’s house to another. Sometimes this was a simple hour drive, but sometimes this translated into my brother and I flying alone on a plane to another state so we could spend the holiday with both our mom and our dad.

"You might just discover that holidays together are a magical gift you and your ex can give your child together."

My parents divorced when I was a young child and they decided that splitting the holiday each year was best, so that’s what we did for years. I loved being able to see both of them, but I didn’t love having to travel on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I hated feeling like I never had enough time at one parent’s house. I hated not being able to enjoy Christmas Day because I was watching the clock. I hated the feeling of leaving one parent for another on my favorite day of the year. This became even more difficult when a stepmom and younger siblings were thrown into the mix — I wasn’t just leaving a parent but leaving an entire family.

I thought this was how I would spend the holidays for the rest of my childhood until one year, as a teenager, I got to experience the joy of a joint holiday celebration, and it was probably one of the best days of my life. Spending Christmas with all of my family and not having to travel from one home to another was the most amazing gift my parents ever gave me. Having experienced this joy, I want to share my story in hopes that it might spark a conversation in another family that might currently not celebrate holidays together.

I want to preface this by saying that I know this is not possible for all families, and in no way am I suggesting this in situations where there was abuse. I also have never been divorced before and can’t pretend to know how difficult that is, but I wanted to share this viewpoint as a child of divorce, having experienced both holidays apart and holidays together.

An Illness That Brought Us Together

Some background: I grew up mostly living with my dad and stepmom, who raised me for 20 years, along with three siblings. When I was in high school, my stepmom got sick from what they believed was West Nile virus from a mosquito that bit her during a camping trip. She was hospitalized for over three months with viral encephalitis and was in a coma. She eventually partially recovered, but she had brain damage and was never fully the same.

This was one of the scariest times of my life and was hard to have to go through, but it did bring one blessing: Through some miracle, my stepmom developed a better relationship with my birth mom. Before my stepmom got sick, my moms did not get along, and spending a holiday together was something my stepmom would never have even considered. But her getting sick changed the whole dynamic of my family and created one of the best memories of my childhood — the holiday I spent with both my mom and my dad instead of traveling from one parent's house to the other.

Though the event that led my family to celebrate a joint Christmas was an extremely rare fluke, it did give me the chance to discover the joy of what a holiday like that could be like. After experiencing how holidays can be with divorced parents coming together to celebrate as one family, I want that for everyone. Again, it might not work for all families, but if some civility exists between you and your ex, I encourage you to give it a try this holiday season and see what might happen. You might just discover that holidays together are a magical gift you and your ex can give your child together. If I’ve discovered anything so far this year, it’s that we should expect unexpected surprises in 2020.

Tags: Motherhood, Blended Families, Co-Parenting, Divorce

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Written By

Alicia Peiffer

Alicia lives in the Chicago suburbs where she is raising two preteens and a toddler with her husband. She works from home... See Full Bio

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