Kidless During The Holidays
Tom Henderson, single dad, trying to figure it out
I'm not normally one to latch on to Scrooge-style philosophizing, but this time of year, I'm easily mistaken for his grumpy twin when those sickeningly sweet TV commercials emerge, showing happy families gathering around the fireplace.
As a card-carrying members of the divorced-with-shared-custody club, we are perfectly nice people who have to do things like my friend Mike just did. He spent part of last week dividing up the Christmas ornaments with his estranged spouse.
"It was congenial, but not tender," he says.
He misses the old days when Christmas morning was a magical thing reflected in the eyes of his children. So do I. We lived those TV commercials. Now, holiday depression is an angry little dog constantly nipping at my heels this time of year. Most of the time, I can out run it. Other times, it overtakes me and gnaws out my innards.
I have spent the last two Christmas mornings without my kids. The first one was the worst. I tried to make myself useful outdoors, but the only other person on the street was a knife-wielding lunatic threatening to gut me. True story.
It was really sad when the police came and got him. I was all alone again.
Christmas these past few years has not been something to celebrate, rather something to endure. But you know what? That's OK. Too many people try to force themselves to be jolly. Depression, especially during the holidays, is viewed as some of sin in our society. We feel we must medicate, meditate or talk our way out of it. Fact is, when life sucks, depression is just good thinking. Life isn't always going to happy and sparkly. And when it's not, it's OK to admit that you can't get around it. Only through it.
"It's difficult for parents to be without children at the holidays -- flat-out difficult and painful," says family therapist Susan Stiffelman, AdviceMama for ParentDish. "When it's the 'other' parents' time turn to have the children, there can be the added sadness at the sense of loss of the family that used to be intact."
Figure out a way to be with other people, Stiffelman says. "Don't hesitate to ask for an invitation from family or friends for gatherings," she says. "People may not know you're free, so don't wait to be asked."
Good advice. I dealt with holidays when I was single in my 20s by playing Santa Claus every year. It got me involved in something beyond myself. The important thing is not to stay cooped up in your private version of the North Pole, watching those horrid commercials.
That's how Scrooges are made. Takes one to know one. And you don't want to be one.
Are you with me, single parents? Are those of you with kids elsewhere getting out of the house on Christmas Day?
Related: Why I Only Date Single Moms
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.