When You Can't Be With Your Kids On Holidays

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This past Thanksgiving morning I woke up alone. My kids were with their father. There was no turkey in the oven. No place cards to make. It was cold and silent and not even a speck of my former self ever imagined a holiday like this — one spent without my kids.

I mean, they are the heart of holidays and celebrations. They are the reason we go all out and spend too much money and throw our backs out trying to put up more twinkle lights. Our kids aren’t just an extension of holiday magic; they are the holiday magic.

And when they aren’t with you during the days when everyone else is celebrating and snuggled in with their kids, or traveling over the river and through the woods to visit loved ones while trying to remember to pack all the snacks and lovies and make sure the iPads are charged, it’s enough to make you want to take the year off from celebrating.

Even when you are with friends and extended family or neighbors, it doesn’t compare to being with your children.

And yet, you carry on. You do it for you, and for them.

If you aren’t with your kids on a holiday, or other important days like your birthday or Mother’s Day, your kids need to know you are having fun.

They need to know you aren’t lost without them.

They need to know you are smiling some of the time and not curled under a blanket crying into your cup of chamomile tea because you aren’t sharing every ounce of holiday cheer with them. (Even if that’s what you want to do.)

After divorcing my kids’ father, I realized spending holidays or one of their birthdays alone was the thing that scared me the most.

But you know what? As hard as it is to learn this new way of living and being without my kids some days, or during times when it feels the most natural to be with them, it’s not unbearable.

Any day can be shared and celebrated with your kids whenever you want. You get to give yourself a break and stay in your pajamas, and if you want to ignore the fact it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving or New Year’s, or celebrate a birthday a week later when you are with your babes, you can.

And if you want to get trashed with neighbors, or eat Chinese food, or get dressed up for a date, or spend the day baking with family members, or volunteering at a soup kitchen, you can do that too.

It might take some time to find what feels right to you. You might have years where nothing feels comfortable or natural — but it will come.

This year I’ll be spending Christmas Eve alone instead of taking my kids to a Christmas pageant and then out to dinner after a day of watching Christmas movies.

I don’t love this; it makes me sad and uncomfortable, and I will miss my kids terribly.

But all will be okay, and right now, that’s enough for all of us.

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