I've been a product of divorce since I was 16. I don't come from one of those TV families where both parents and their significant others still sit at the dinner table together, eagerly sharing stories of their lives apart and wittily bantering as if no emotional damage was done through the dissolution of their marriage.
It doesn't matter why or how, but my parents' divorce was messy. It didn't leave my family "broken," as some people refer to divorced homes, but it was hard, and sometimes it still is. I consider myself a part of two families now. Trying to navigate the waters, especially during the holidays, was difficult at first.
But now, after spending my eighth holiday season with divorced parents, I've finally figured it all out. Having divorced parents has its advantages during the holidays. Here they are:
1. You have two of everything.
I don't care what anyone says, more is better -- especially when it comes to Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and Christmas stocking stuffers. Divorced kiddos make out like even more of holiday bandits than any kid with boring ol' married parents. Chances are, those kids' parents only asked for one holiday wish list. But me, I put "digital camera" on two lists, and that means I got one from divorced parent #1 and divorced parent #2 (which is good, considering I'm clumsy and may have broken digital camera #1...).
2. Excuses, excuses…
When your parents are divorced, it means you have to coordinate schedules. It can be stressful, or it can be a godsend during the most family-packed weeks of the year. My parents don't keep in contact, so all they know is what I tell them. "Sorry, Dad. I have to be at Mom's by 1:00 for pie." Even if you don't have to be there until hours later, the excuses will get you out of what could be a never-ending story of how your grandpa lost his teeth…again.
3. New traditions arise.
When my parents were married, being the baby, I would wake up my parents and sisters at the ass-crack of dawn every Christmas morning and my dad would document us opening our gifts with a recorder that was undoubtedly from the Sears 1973 sale catalog, never upgrading despite our pleas.
After their divorce, at my Mom's, we open gifts in matching pajamas (each Christmas they are new and more embarrassing, and they must be worn from the time they are gifted on Christmas Eve, until moving along to Christmas at Dad's) that are sometimes flannel onesies with butt-flaps, or nightgowns.
Finding new ways of making the holidays unique to both parents is one of the best parts of starting over after divorce and one that won't soon be forgotten thanks to photographic evidence.
4. All the crazy is in plain sight.
I took a giant leap this year and brought my significant other to Thanksgiving. The holiday could've gone off without a hitch, but that is often not the case in divorced families like mine, and so when reality kicked in, he got to see the very real problems that come with being a kid of divorced parents. He saw all of the things I’d hoped would stay in check during the holidays, but they didn't…because they never do.
For lots of people, it takes years for that sh*t to come to light, but for me, all of my crazy was out in the open, and he saw it all in one fell swoop. For that, I thank Thanksgiving, divorced parents and alcohol. Huzzah!
5. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
My parents' divorce had a weird effect on my family; it split us in two and yet, preserved us. The holidays are a perfect reminder of this. Despite all of us having different lives and schedules and gripes and places to be, we set aside time to be together, even when we're at each others' throats (it's the holidays; I didn't say it was lala land).
There are no lies, brave faces, or illusions. The charade we put on for so many years before my parents realized they weren't happy together is done, and now we have something that's real and so much better to come home to. Seeing both of my parents in their new lives is the exact holiday miracle I needed, and it’s what saved my family...both families.