Holidays And Blended Families - How Do I Make It Work?

by : James Burns

No I'm not remarried. Based upon my past history I may never get married again. That is not a knock on my Judy who is the most wonderful, beautiful, understanding and compassionate women I have ever been with. Both of us have children who we love like there is no tomorrow. She has two boys and a girl, I have two girls. Judy's daughter Randi is married and is pregnant and working on a family of her own. Her other two boys are 22 and 19. Danny still lives at home, and Ben is a freshman at Dartmouth. Yeah, Ivy league. I have two daughters, Sarah and Grace who both live with their mother. Sarah is almost 17 and Grace is 11. Christmas has become a wonderful time for me. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. I love spending Christmas day with my kids, exchanging gifts and enjoying a wonderful Christmas meal that Judy always prepares. By the way Judy is Jewish so before she met me Christmas day meant a trip to the movies and a Chinese restaurant. Because she loves me and my children she makes Christmas at my house festive, joyful and a lot of fun for everybody.

That's how it is on my end on Christmas day. The problems comes in when I have to wrangle with my ex wife during the holiday season. I usually have the kids on Christmas, but because she really wants them she can have a tendency to make life less festive. She does have the kids on Christmas Eve, when they have dinner at their aunts' house. My kids love coming to my house on Christmas because they are the center of attention and receive their presents. It is an absolute blast for me to give them their gifts and see their eyes light up. The tension though of dealing with my ex wife can dampen their spirit and sometime mine, if I let it.

Now, some dads may be remarried, have kids from a previous marriage, have kids from their present marriage and have something called a blended family. Managing that crowd of people during the holidays may be something that you have to start preparing for right after the New Year. But, maybe not if you just make a few adjustments in your thinking as you deal with this complicated mess.

The thing I want most during the holiday season is peace. I don't want arguments during the year and I sure don't want them now. I can't control my ex wife's thought process, my God that would require a slide rule, but I can develop with my own perspective on the situation. During the Thanksgiving holiday I had my Thanksgiving dinner on the Friday after Thanksgiving. My kids were with their mother on Thanksgiving and it made it easier to manage everyone's schedule by having dinner the day after Thanksgiving. If Christmas is going to become the same type of problem for you, try to understand that you may have to break from tradition and celebrate Christmas the day before or the day after. Believe me you will have a better time and there will be far less tension, and running around.

The world is not a perfect place. The Christmas season can make us more aware of that then any other time. Small things can become big things if we let them. Let negative comments go and focus on the kids and what you can do for them. Try to avoid financial arguments that seem to always come up during the holidays. Do your best to discuss things in a calm manner and let go of the small stuff. Money always seems to be a problem for my ex wife, not because of my lack of giving, but because of her lack of work. Gift giving has always been my self imposed responsibility. Having different expectations of her during the holidays will only make me angry and destroy the joy that I have in giving to my kids.

Lastly, no matter how small your holiday celebration might be don't make it a downer for your kids. Kids by their nature love the holidays, whether it be Christmas or Chanukah. Try to keep you spirits up because you love them, and want them to enjoy the season. When your kids are with you the biggest gift that you can give them is a loving dad who has tried to do whatever was necessary to make their holiday a peaceful one.