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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Surviving the Holidays


For the record, I'm a little bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

Trust me, I love Jesus and presents just as much as the next girl, but the holidays have been a HUGE source of stress for me for almost ten years.

When I was 21, my parents separated for the final time, and my sisters and I were placed on the "pick which parent you love most" roller coaster which still hasn't stopped.

No matter how hard we try or how awesome our juggling skills have become-someone always loses.

It sucks.

As an adult child of divorce with two parents who are rarely ever able to find even an inch of common ground, I knew exactly how I did not want it to be for my daughter.

And for the most part, co-parenting with my daughter's dad is fairly easy compared to what I've seen/experienced on the other side of the tracks.

Are we perfect? Nope.

Do I want to kill him sometimes? More days than I don't.

But, for the most part, we are committed to setting aside our weapons differences for the sake of our daughter, especially when it comes to the holidays.

Are we always 100% amazing at doing this? Not at all.

Does someone still miss out? Most of the time. 

But, we have found a system that works well for us in our particular situation and I wanted to share a little bit about that.

So, first things first, I want to reiterate something I have said in other posts: Yes. I realize that everyone's co-parenting situation is unique.

I realize that sometimes there are circumstances that make co-parenting with your ex basically impossible. I also realize that some people who co-parent HAVE to go by what their parenting agreement says, because sometimes the best way for two people to survive co-parenting is to let a judge make the rules and to stick by those rules.

With that said, I am thankful that my ex-husband and I have chosen to do what's best for our daughter. We only use our parenting agreement as a basic guideline, and for the most part, we make our own schedule-esepcially during the holidays.

My ex-husband and I are both blessed with large families who live in the same town where we grew up and where we still live. Holidays have always been a big deal to both families.

Our daughter has been blessed with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that all love her SO much, and we are committed to nurturing those relationships for our daughter, especially during the holidays.

There is no reason that she should ever miss out on Thanksgivings and Christmases with both families, and we don't want her too.

Now, my holidays are a lot little more complicated than his since my parents are divorced, but for the most part he understands and works through this with me.

He knows that if I could just have ONE big Christmas, I would. But, unfortunately that is not the case.

So, I know you're probably asking, "How is this possible?"

Well, here are some tips that have worked well for us over the last three years.

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1. Plan Early. 

It's the week of Thanksgiving and we're already planning Christmas parties around these parts. That's what happens when you have so many Christmases to go too, and only a few weeks to do it. I actually sat down yesterday and came up with a sample co-parenting calendar for how our December could possibly go.

In addition to the Christmas parties, I will be traveling the week before Christmas and we are in the process of implementing a slightly different permanent parenting plan, so these things have to be factored into how the month is most likely going to go.

After I got it all down on paper, I sent it to him. He will look over it, suggest changes or dates he would like to talk about and we will go from there.

For us, it's easier for us to visualize how our holidays are going to go if we can see it on paper and plan our Christmases with our families accordingly. I recommend this method of planning, because it does help to alleviate some of the stress.

2. Decide What You Can and Can't Live Without.

For instance, we both value Christmas morning with our daughter. This is something we both want her to experience at both of our homes, and so we alternate years so she can do that. This year, I get to wake up with her on Christmas morning, and then she will go with her dad and his family after 2:00 that day and she will spend Christmas night with him. Next year, we will switch. It works well for us, and it's really the only day we have set in stone. Everything else can be planned around our "normal" schedule.

Another example is that we also have very similar Thanksgiving traditions in our families. If it works out for her to do both, because one family is doing a luncheon and the other family is doing a dinner, she gets to do both. For us, it's important that she gets to have those memories and traditions with us whenever she can.

She isn't always going to be able to go to everything, and for us, that's okay.

Of course she is missed when she isn't there, but we have chosen to only do what we think is important for her and we realize that in doing so, we have to let some things go.

3. It's All About Compromise.

This goes hand in hand with number two. Remember when I said earlier that someone always loses? Well, guess what, sometimes that person is me.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that this is a tough pill for me to swallow.

As a chronic sufferer of "oldest child syndrome", I like to be right and I like to get my way. But, nothing puts you in your place quite like getting a divorce.

So, that's why you have to dedicate yourself to learning the art of compromise.

Do we always find our way to that middle ground? Hell, no. 

But, we try.

Every single day.

Yep. Even on the days when it feels like I'm the only one trying to find it, and I'm sure he has days where he feels exactly the same way.

I have had to learn to be okay with being the loser sometimes, so that my daughter can be the winner all the time.

Which brings me to my final point...

4. Focus On What's Important

I think for all of us as parents-divorced or still married-the most important thing is our children.

And as parents we know that we need to put our child's happiness and well-being above our own, and that is never more true than during the holidays.

That's why on our bad co-parenting days, I have to pour myself a glass of wine and give myself a stern talking too. I have to remind myself that it's not about me-it's about our daughter and I must always, always do what best for her.

Even when it requires me to bite my tongue or miss out sometimes.

My daughter did not chose this life.

We chose it for her.

And she should never feel like we are punishing her by putting her in the middle or dragging her through our bitterness-especially during the holidays.

If you are struggling with your ex this holiday season, please accept my gentle encouragement to step away from the situation, pray, and re-focus on what's really important: your kid(s).

*****

I know I say this all the time, and I will continue to say it every time I write for this series: I AM NOT AN EXPERT!

I have really super awful co-parenting days just like everyone else. 

But, I refuse to let those days define me or what we are trying to accomplish as parents. 

Most days, I feel like we have come so far compared to where we used to be and for the most part I continue to see us moving forward, even on the days we take a few steps back. 

I think overall, any progress is progress.

And those moments when you and your ex can come to some sort of mutual understanding-especially in the area of co-parenting-needs to be celebrated. 

You may not have it all figured out, but as long as your trying daily to be the best parents you can be and putting the needs of your child first, then I'd say your doing pretty dang awesome in my book. 

And for the days you fall flat on your face, I give you the...

Bonus Tip!!

5. Keep Lots, and Lots of Wine On Hand

I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory.

If you're wondering, my favorite is Riverboat Red...the BIG bottle.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

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