Surviving the holidays as a blended family isn’t always easy.
I never imagined I would be a step-mother. Well, I never imagined that I would be a mom, but that’s a blog for a different day. When I married my wife in the spring of 2006, her son was a year old. Before we could take a deep breath and settle into our new life, it was time to start considering the holidays. We all wanted to see the joy and awe of the holidays through his eyes, but how would that work? We lived in two separate houses and didn’t always see eye-to-eye along and everything was awkward. It was daunting.
We decided that first year that we would spend the holidays together us and her ex-wife. The four of us. And if our respective families wanted to spend time with us, they would have to come to our houses. More importantly, they had to accept that we were choosing to create a unique family. No one was allowed to make mean-spirited or disparaging remarks. It was hard, imagine having a first date on a holiday with your whole family. It was that kind of hard.
That first year we created some new traditions.
We celebrate Christmas so we developed a system where our son would sleep at one house Christmas Eve and then Santa would come to the other house Christmas morning. The person whose house he slept at, brought him to the other house bright and early Christmas Day. We would open all of our presents together. The next year we would switch which house he slept at. For a few years, we saw a movie on Christmas Day. Recently we’ve started seeing a play and hanging out in our PJs.
The routines and new traditions helped us know what to expect. We planned out our whole holiday in advance, so we could have our disagreements and feelings BEFORE the “big day.” In time, we started coordinating gifts so that there was consistency. More than a decade later and we still follow many of these traditions.
It isn’t always easy or clear. We now have two additional kids who have been incorporated into our holiday traditions. They know to expect their auntie and her wife for all holidays. Over time, we’ve become less rigid in our plans. Our little kids have chosen to spend the night at their auntie’s house on Christmas Eve.
The flexibility comes with time and practice.
A decade ago, none of us imagined this family structure. But now, I can’t imagine anything different. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we fight. It can be tense or uncomfortable at times. But at the end of the day, we’ve all had the joy of spending the holidays together. When we tell the stories of his childhood, the gift is we all get to be present. Our family doesn’t fit into any molds. That’s okay. It works for us, and most importantly, for our kids.