December 24th, 2012
names have been omitted in this post
Thanksgiving is around the corner and Christmas will soon be upon us. And in that busy "I've got one more thing to buy and do" season and when our social lives are often heightened it's easy to be surrounded with people and yet ironically feel completely alone. Especially if you're a single parent.
I remember the first Christmas in the two month aftermath of my filing for divorce... I had to drop my children off at my soon to be ex mother in law's home Christmas Eve around eight that night. Our schedule stated I had Christmas Eve and my soon to be ex had Christmas Day. One would think that would mean I'd have the children the entire night and we'd exchange the children early Christmas morning… but apparently that is not how the court system works here. As baffling and frustrating their interruptive schedule was, I was also angry. Angry that for the first time I wasn't allowed to tuck my children in bed Christmas Eve night, kiss their foreheads and tip toe out of their rooms as they sleepily asked when Santa would be there. I was angry that they didn't have the idyllic vision we had always had… that instead visions of sugar plums were going to be on his watch instead of mine. I may have appeared to have it together on the outside but inside my heart was breaking into a million pieces each shard sharply named "disappointment" and "hurt".
It was after numerous hugs and whispered "I love you's" I sent them forth on their grandmother's driveway toward my ex… it was a cold December Texas night and he stood there in his cream sweater and jeans staring at me. I watched as the kids bundled in their jackets, slowly made their way to her front door graced with a Christmas wreath and tears sprang to my eyes in the dark night. They looked back warily at us like they weren't sure if we should be left alone to our own devices or else we might kill each other. His gaze stayed on me and he spoke…
"Hey, are you okay?" He asked "Would you like to come in for awhile? Or join us tomorrow morning?"
AM I OKAY????? NO I'M NOT OKAY!!!! HOW DARE YOU ASK ME THAT!!!!
I instantly thought to myself…
"No" I replied stiffly to him and walked away to my SUV. My mother sat in the front seat waiting for me, watching this dismal scene play out.
My babies had gone in.
In that awful house. With him.
And with her.
She had known he'd wanted out. She had known and hid it. She had hugged me like a friend while stabbing me in the back. I had found emails between them to prove it. She was a co-hort to his secret life.
They were victims in this disaster stamped with his name on it in lustful blazing red.
No one tells you how hard it will be…
it's like this alternate universe you are thrust into…
that no one knows about unless they've lived it.
I got in the SUV, slammed the door shut, roared the engine and took off. I drove and drove. It was all I knew to do. We saw every Christmas light in town that night… while Bing Crosby sang every song I drowned in tears that wet my jacket… I drowned in Crosby's words and sweet melodies of bittersweetness… we saw every twinkling light, every inflatable fat Santa and every Christmas tree in every lit window where intact families read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, put out cookies and scampered to bed with warm kisses on their cold noses. But not me. And maybe this year not you.
And what I'm writing to tell you is that you are not alone.
It may feel like every family is intact as you go through this darkness of tears and disappointment.
But that is not truth.
There are many variations of family. I know… we want ideal, we want what we want, we want "perfect" we want what were "supposed" to have, we want what we were "supposed" to get.
But it's been through someone's actions… maybe his, maybe hers, maybe yours… it's been re-written and changed.
And I want to tell you again you aren't alone.
In this post are a few tips to help ease you through the holiday as a single parent.
1. Don't Compare
It is hard, I know. But it will literally drive you mad comparing your changing world to someone's who appears intact. It will drive you to the brink. It will make you feel all the more isolated. If you need to call friends and force yourself to make plans, do it. If you need to take a temporary hiatus off Facebook because quite frankly "Mr. or Mrs. Perfectly Poised Facebook Family's" posts are going to send you into a psychological meltdown then just take the break you need.
2. Change It Up
This may be the time to shake things up… do something you don't normally do… so you don't wallow in an empty house or apartment focusing on what is no longer. Maybe volunteer with a local organization that feeds hungry folks on Christmas. Ask your local church if they know of anyone elderly who is alone and housebound and would like some company. Maybe you have a friend who is also single and you can go do some Christmas activities together. If finances allow take a trip somewhere, or check into a hotel and have some pampering done. There are many alternatives to what you've always known… we just have to think outside the box.
3. Get Back To What Is Important
It's easy, especially when things are sailing smoothly to just focus on what we need to do... the groceries that need to be bought, the presents that need to be wrapped, when the biggest issue at hand is "What am I going to buy Aunt Meredith?" but now life has taken quite a turn and those items to be done are minuscule in the grand scheme of things. So it's about getting back to what is important. Peace. Family. Jesus. Gratitude. At the end of the day we know gifts are great but not fulfilling… they are like flotsam… here today then gone tomorrow, not providing infinite joy. But our relationship with Christ is stable… He is always there for you. Maybe you've put Him on the back burner… or maybe not. But He sees your pain, He walks beside you, He wipes your tears.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime
— until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.
He is your refuge during this time of distraught upheaval. He is who will lead you throughout… He is who will hold your hand while you kiss your kids goodbye and tears escape your tear ducts.
He is your Savior, who listens to every yearn-full plea of your heart for this to all just stop being so painful and offers peace and healing to you in the form of unlimited resources and love.
He is your pillar of strength empowering you as you drive away not alone but with the most loving companion there is, speaking words of life into your ear and heart.
Lord, I don't understand why life has taken this road but I know You walk it with me… I know your ways are better than mine and I will lean on You… I praise You! I know this storm is not forever and I trust in You to lead me through. I know you will restore, strengthen and establish me with your great unyielding love. Amen.
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