The holidays. A time for cheer. A time for laughter. A time for family traditions. But what happens when those traditions are different now that you’re divorced? What happens when the kids are ambivalent at best about coming over because of how they have been poisoned against you?
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to get every other weekend with my kids. My ex-wife made pick-ups and drop-offs a constant source of conflict, and exchange times were always a moving target. This was exacerbated around the holidays, when parental alienation rose to a whole new level. I became aware that my kids were made to feel guilty about “losing” time with their mother even when I got one meagre overnight with them (during a two week-plus break), effectively confining our holidays to a pragmatic gift exchange.
I was at a loss on how to make the most of the holiday time with my kids and my new blended family when they often expressed open hostility and anger towards us.
So one year, their step-mother and I decided to take a different approach. Rather than feed into the stress and anxiety that my ex- constantly tried (and still tries) to breed in our home, we broke all traditions and made one of our own. We wanted an event that was a fun ‘escape’ from all previous memories my kids associated with Christmas, particularly Christmases that we had as an intact family with their mother. We wanted it to be so engrossing that they would not ruminate about the guilt they had for not being with their mother, and just fully enjoy the holiday with us, even though we only had about 18 hours with them over the holidays that year.
Welcome to A Whoville Christmas! I, of course, playing into my punk rocker nature, dressed up and played the Grinch, and my wife was Martha May Whovier. The kids all dressed up like Whoville citizens. We even got antlers for the dog!
And the feast? We had your Three Freezy Free Flea Cheese. We had Candied Yammy Tater-a-loo and Whohash. Of course there was Who Roast Beast. And Drum-tummied Snum Pie.
To make the levity of the situation even lighter, we invited our trusted neighbors and made it a real party. Plus, by having others attend the ‘party’, we had witnesses to the fun and joy our blended family was indeed capable of having together.
Sound silly? It was and that was the point. This was a family celebration that my kids could enjoy without feeling conflicted about what their mother may think.
The result? A tradition was born! For the past four years, the kids all look forward to our unique Christmas party. It is odd enough that teenagers want to be part of it. They even help out with the planning: every year, they come up with and name the the silly items on our Who-themed menu. They spend hours getting “Who’d” up for the party. They get silly and when you are being silly, who can be upset about the holidays?
Our Whoville Christmas transports everyone to a speck on a snowflake that is nowhere but there. It lets everyone enjoy the company of each other in a hippity hoppity, Whoville-sort of way. It got us to stop being a North Going Zak butting up with the South Going Zak. We all have a “Who” in us and we have been surprised with the Places We’ve Gone.
And there is a bonus: our Whoville Christmas can take place on any day, allowing us the flexibility that is, unfortunately, too often required in order to adjust to the whims of my ex wife.
The holidays are still not without their alienation-created drama, but the tradition we have developed has helped to take some of the edge off, and we hope that the children will, in the future, remember all that we did to make the most of our limited time together.
So whether you use the Whoville theme or some other idea, I hope that our experience can inspire you to find something fun to do with your kids, even if you have just a few hours with them this year.