The holiday draft has begun, where everyone in our family is pulling out their best moves trying to get first pick and score the most amount of time spent with us. And I’m not talking just two, typical nuclear families between myself and my husband; I’m talking four sets of parents and two sets of grandparents. We’ve decided the family that assures us that our favorite foods will be on the table and hints to gifting us the most luxurious gifts will get higher priority for the days we’ll visit between Thanksgiving and Christmas… (I’m kidding.)
Jokes aside, this time of year sure feels like we’re playing fantasy football and all of our good players are benched. Don’t get me wrong; I love the holidays and getting to spend time with our families. There’s this picture in my head of spending quiet time in a big cozy blanket with a crackling fire nearby, reading books while the kiddo naps, having zero self-control when it comes to all the delicious holiday treats, and it’s one of the few times during the year that I’m not worrying about my laundry list of to-dos. However, ever since my parents divorced in 1992, the holidays have been anything but picturesque.
Growing up, the schedule wasn’t too hectic: Thanksgiving with Mom, Christmas with Dad, and flip flop each year. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, these days, between just my four siblings, we have three states and two marriages to add into the mix. By the time we attempt to strategize to see each other for the holidays, the plan looks as good as my 16-month-old’s artwork. As much as we attempt to keep things “fair,” we have yet to master splitting time between my three families and my husband’s.
As I write this in mid-October, I’m realizing I’ve been trying to finagle Thanksgiving and Christmas plans since July, and yes, it starts that early each year. Inevitably, one parent will ask, “So, where do you think you’ll be spending the holidays?” and the ball will start to roll. We want to see as many people as possible, without spending the majority of our time in a car. It definitely doesn’t help that our nearest family is still a looong four-and-a-half-hour drive away (for some reason our son refuses to sit quietly in his car seat for that long). We try to coordinate all the siblings being with our mom at the same time, all while having to account for our dads too. My poor stepdad, with whom I spent all of my formative years, hasn’t spent an actual holiday with my brother or me since he divorced my mom 10 years ago. And four siblings on the same schedule? You might expect flying pigs before that will ever happen. Nevertheless, each year we put ourselves through the grinder and try time and time again to make the mismatched puzzle pieces fit together.
Sometimes I wish I were the kind of person who says, “To heck with it all!” and sit my happy bum on my own couch and forgo all merriment and holiday cheer. But saying no to family time has yet to be something I’ve found myself capable doing. So I keep trying, year after year, to attempt the impossible algorithm where all families feel equally loved and get equal amounts of time with our little trio. I’m still holding out hope that one year it will all click and we’ll find the perfect solution.
I know that our family’s holiday road map may sound normal to some and a nightmare to others. There’s no good way to balance your time and make sure that every family member feels equally loved—at least not one that I’ve found yet. The holiday struggle is real, and if you’re feeling similarly overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone.
So, I raise a glass to all other children of split families, and to all families out there trying to sanely navigate the holidays and keep your holiday cheer. Happy, merry Han-a-kwanz-mas!