Holidays are supposed to be a time for joy, fun, and celebration. But when you are divorced with kids, it is a minefield of anxiety. How do you get it right? How do you build traditions when you constantly have to consider the forces outside your home? How do you balance what your child wants with what you want to experience as a parent? I can only speak for myself. But I didn’t work on getting pregnant for 2 years only to miss all the significant memories in my son’s life. My dreams of building that vast photo album of costumes and pictures with Santa didn’t end with my divorce. I know there are people who let these things go. But honestly, I just don’t relate to this type of parenting existence. I couldn’t let Bob’s prophecy of “You’re going to miss half of his life” come to fruition.
So not unlike the tangled web we had to maneuver to pull off family vacations, we once again had to exhibit selflessness, flexibility, and compassion to provide the best holiday experiences to our boy while still getting to enjoy being his parents.
Don’t be Haunted by Halloween Missteps
The first key to a Happy Halloween whether you are divorced or still married is to let your child pick their own costume. It’s one of the few things they can control. So let them have it. Pick one costume that they will want to wear to both parent’s house. That way there is one experience – not only for them but for the two parents and everyone else around them as well! Remember, your parents are building a photo album as well.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “Well of course you let the kid pick their costume. What crazy control freak would deny a child such a rite of passage?” But I can tell you first hand with another couple that I know that this is not the case. In the ongoing obsession to control every aspect of every experience her children have, one parent I know always picks what the kids will wear. The outcome of course is that IF the kids are allowed out of her sight for a millisecond, they strip down the costume to the point that you can’t even tell what they are dressed as. Take that you control freak mother! Happy now?
Beyond the costume, I’d say the more tricky part (pardon the pun) for us was how to deal with the logistics of trick or treat. And in our case, we lived very close making it a little easier. Still, will they go to both neighborhoods? Will they just do one? Is there time for both? Will they have anyone to go with in both neighborhoods at different times? What do they want to do? What if I don’t get to see my child in his costume this year? Oh hell! This part sucks. Looking back, I guess we did “ok” with this one but I think we could have done better.
Ian did pick his costumes OF COURSE and also which neighborhood to start in. But the other parent always wanted to be part of it and so Ian would have to stop halfway through the first neighborhood to switch houses. Of course, he didn’t get to go with the other kids in the second neighborhood because they had started way earlier and were either done or on an entirely different part of the neighborhood. I think in some years he picked one or the other neighborhood but still had to make time to share his costume with each parent. As parents and the “adults”, we should have made all this inconvenience more our affair and let him just enjoy the experience in one location or the other. Of course, being the true Libra sun sign that he is, Ian probably felt obligated to give each parent and friend-group equal time anyway. So I’m not sure that he would have chosen any differently. But looking back, I feel we should have done more to relieve him of this burden.
So as you finalize your plans for this year’s trick-or-treating, do everything you can to remember this is a memory for your child first and you second. Be flexible and considerate. And expect to do more than your friends who are married have to just to create the same level of kid-parent experience.