Husband and I don’t talk about his childhood on a regular basis. I know enough details to get through it, but basically, it was the complete opposite of mine. He moved about four times, his mom got married a few times, he lived with his grandma in a different state from his mom for about three months, and he rarely saw his dad.
Saturday, we were driving to his mom’s for Christmas at her house, and we were discussing how crazy it is that some years we get Stepson for like a week and a half at Christmas, and this year we got four days for the entire month of December. (Not an exaggeration. 31 days in December, we only have Stepson the 21st through the 24th.)
So I asked him, ‘How was it spending Christmas with your dad? Did your mom mind much?’
And I asked this mostly because his mom called him and threatened to write him out of the will (honest truth) if she didn’t see Stepson enough during the holidays to her satisfaction. She was not joking.
To which he replied, ‘I didn’t.’
And friends, he did not. He spent every holiday of every year with his mom. Which was why it was so fuckin’ crazy for everyone when we actually went to his dad’s on Thanksgiving.
He only had a couple weekends a month with his dad up until he was ten, when the visits tapered and eventually ended.
Husband’s biggest personal goal is to be a really great dad to Stepson, and to be more proactive and present than his dad ever was with him.
So for us, holidays are about showing Stepson that you don’t hoard it all out at one person’s house the entire time. That you spread out your time and see everyone.
Which is why we fight for our weekends and fight for equal time.
Which is why we say ‘yes’ as much as we can to extra days with him.
Which is why we said ‘yes’ when his dad invited us for Thanksgiving.
Which is why we take four days and split it between two families.
I am always thinking ahead. I think ahead to seven years from now, when Stepson gets to choose whether or not he wants to see us. I want him to have a good time with us and want to keep coming back.
I think ahead to ten years from now, when he’s an adult and possibly married. I want him to make time and see us during the holiday season.
I write a letter to my future self: be patient, take what you can get, be grateful. Whether he comes on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or some weekend surrounding, I will accommodate. Whether he comes for the day or just a meal, I will be grateful for his presence. Whether he comes bearing gifts or with empty pockets, I will welcome him with open arms.
Divorce kids carry a large, adult given burden. Everyone wants a piece of you, everyone wants to be your favorite, everyone wants you to hate someone else, everyone wants your secrets, everyone wants you to be on their side. In the past, present, future.
I read about it in my research about divorced kids and families. I saw it first hand when we went to Stepson’s Christmas pagent and while four sets of grandparents descended down on him, he just buried his face in Husband’s shoulder and wanted to go back to his friends.
That’s a lot of love, my mom says.
That’s a lot of pressure, I bite back.
Husband and I discuss it a lot. We want to make sure we’re doing it right, that we’re giving him the space he needs and lifting some of that pressure off. Lately, I’ve taken to making lots of eye contact when Stepson talks and encouraging him to keep talking, even when someone else starts talking over him. We keep our questions general and try to keep my MIL from asking so many ‘What does mom do?’ questions. I don’t want him babied, or unnecessarily praised, but we are trying to keep calm and steady when he gets in trouble. I can tell already that he is the type of kid (much like I was) who will cover up and hide things out of fear. I want him to know he can come to us.
It’s exhausting. We are raising a child.