Christmas in a Divorced Family: A Survival Guide

It’s the Festive Season and along with the standard cheer, I happen to be feeling a bit nostalgic and filled with the spirit of giving. You know peace on earth, good will toward men, and all that sort of thing and it’s in that spirit that I’m writing today’s entry. I’m the child of divorced parents and I have firsthand knowledge of how tough it can be for a kid especially around the holidays, so I’m offering to today’s young people some knowledge that I wish someone had shared with me when I was young. Even if you’re not a young person please feel free to keep reading anyway and share this post with anybody who might benefit from it. If nothing else, this might be worth a couple nyucks.

So the Dalmatian is supposed to be next to my aunt’s firefighter Santa, but each year my mom and I make a game of moving the dog so he’s sniffing something inappropriate

Everybody and their brother is telling you that the reason your parents stopped getting along had nothing to do with you and sometimes no matter how hard we try things just don’t work out. You’re probably really sick of hearing that, so I’ll start with this: Remember that you are a person with feelings. You are not a bargaining chip, a go-between, or a pawn for one parent to use against the other. If you think for even a second that one or both of your parents are using you to get to each other, you’re within your rights to call them on it. The truth is adults aren’t perfect and they sometimes get wrapped up in their own things and just need a gentle reminder that they’re not the only ones going through this, so remind them gently.

You might be angry at one or both of your parents and that’s okay. You’re entitled to your feelings, but it’s Christmas. So maybe just for one day you put the bad feelings aside and just spend time with them. Spoiler alert: Your parents aren’t going to live forever no matter how much you want them to and you’re going to regret the time that you didn’t spend with them a lot more than the time you did.

Making faces at the dinner table w/my niece. #adulting

Now let’s talk about how you’re going to survive this. Your strategy will depend on how your family does Christmas. Ideally, one of your parents will have you for Christmas Eve and the other for Christmas Day. This way you get the full experience of breakfast, presents, dinner, etc. without having to do it in a compressed timeframe. Also added bonus, you get to open at least some of your gifts a day earlier. Having divorced parents is a tough situation, so you’ll want look for any silver lining you can find.

However if your family is like mine you’ll be with one parent for Christmas Eve into Christmas Day early afternoon and then the other Christmas afternoon into the next day, possibly the weekend depending on how the calendar falls. I’m not going to lie to you, this has a way of turning a holiday into a freakin’ endurance trial and it just might suck all of the joy out of Christmas if you let it. The key is not to let it.

Bubba loves Christmas. He spends hours staring at the tree

Tip #1: A day like this is incredibly long and even with a young metabolism, it is exhausting. Be aware that you will be tired and plan ahead by getting plenty of rest on Christmas Eve, even if that means going to bed a little earlier than usual. Trust me this ounce of preparation will be totally worth it.

Tip #2: Eat a good breakfast, but don’t go crazy. You’re going to have an epically huge and also I’ll say it again incredibly long day. You’re going to need a crap-ton of energy, so make sure you give your body enough fuel, but don’t forget you’ll be eating two holiday dinners and two desserts and the last thing you want is an upset stomach.

More inappropriateness involving a ceramic Dalmation.

Tip #3: Pace yourself. I know all your friends are jealous because you’re getting two Christmases, but you and I know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. What they don’t realize is that your Christmas Day is going to be a marathon whereas their single Christmas is more of a sprint. So conserve your energy because believe me you’re going to need it.

Tip #4: Take a nap. Heck, take multiple naps. I’ll say it again, your day is going to be long and tiring and you don’t want to run out of gas before it’s even time to head to Christmas Part II at your other parent’s house. Cat naps are perfectly acceptable and if your cat decides to nap on you while you nap like mine did, so much the better…until the catnip you gave her kicks in and she gets all goofy and starts pawing you and walking across your head because she wants you to feed her because she has the catnip munchies. Ahhh memories…

My niece playing with the stuffed dolphin and marine animal vet play set I get her. That’s me for the aunting win.

Tip #5: Now we get to the most important thing I can possibly tell you and yes, this will sound ridiculous, but remember to have fun. I have been in your shoes and it sucks that your parents got divorced and the old cliché is true, the kids always suffer the most and I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I don’t wish for anybody to go through it, but just for one day that comes only once a year, forget all about that. Forget the fights you overheard or maybe still overhear. Remember that you’re not going to be young forever and just enjoy the time you have with your family all together now; well mostly all together anyway, because one day you’re going to be an adult and you’re going to look back on what Christmas was like for you as a kid and I promise you that you are going to miss these days. Just enjoy the moment and remember what the season is all about.

Comic Cons

Gotham poster signed by Ben McKenzie who’s a darn nice guy.

To some people, yearly comic conventions are like Christmas, the most wonderful time of their year. Then there are others who, let’s be honest, just don’t get it. It’s understandable. There are things about comic conventions that may seem a bit unappealing. There are the cosplayers who make some rather questionable wardrobe choices. It’s a huge crowd and the whole place is lined with venders just aching to take your money. Then there are the long lines for everything from food to the restrooms and the astronomical cost of the VIP passes.



Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Poster signed by David Tennant also a darn nice guy.

Having been to a couple comic cons in Philly, I can tell you that there are some wardrobe choices that I can’t unsee no matter how hard I try. There were definitely some tutus that should’ve been four-fours. Huge crowds can be off-putting and retail temptation can be tough for people to resist. Long lines suck, especially for the restroom and the cost of the VIP passes can be prohibitively expensive and makes it seem like the whole event is all about money. But…

While comic cons may not be for everybody, they’re still an absolute blast to go to. I had an awesome time at Philly Comic Con for the following reasons:

Seriously where else can you mean Old Lace the Velociraptor from The Runaways?

1) The cosplayers. Yes even the ones with rather questionable wardrobe choices that I can’t unsee. People show up in some really awesome stuff. I’m always amazed at the level of creativity that goes into it. Even the questionable wardrobe choices show a certain level not just of creativity but of sheer gutsiness and I admire that. Do your thing, cosplayers!

2) The huge crowds because that means there are loads of people around who share the same interests I do. It’s a great feeling belonging to such a huge community. The vendors are actually really cool and happy to help you find what you’re looking for without a high-pressure sales pitch. You can find trade paperbacks dirt cheap especially on the last day of the con when the vendors slash their prices just so they won’t have to haul them back. Speaking of vendors, Yards brewery was one of them this year and getting day-wasted at Philly Comic Con is a somewhat fuzzy memory that I will cherish forever.

Picture taken before becoming day-wasted

3) The long lines only suck if you make them suck. It’s all about changing your mindset. Think about it: you’re in a huge convention center filled with people who are into the same stuff you are. You’re waiting anyway, so why be bored? Strike up a conversation! Crack some jokes! Just be careful with your laughter if you’re in line for the restroom to avoid any potential embarrassment. I hear urine stains are a bitch to clean out of Lycra.

4) Yes, the VIP passes are expensive, but here’s a little secret: the thing about VIP passes is that you don’t really need them unless there’s someone in particular that you absolutely can’t live without seeing and you do get a lot for your money. You get a photo-op, an autograph, cool swag, and admission to a Q&A session with one of your favorite celebrities. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you can’t put a price on that. A wise person once said collect experiences, not things.

Picture taken after becoming day-wasted. Ooooh! Shiny lightsabers!

Money can’t buy good times with friends or cherished memories, but both are things that can be found at a comic con. The experience is absolutely worth it. Comic cons have a little something for everybody. There’s a spectacle for the voyeur in us all. They provide a nice excuse to pull out the sewing machine and get busy and creative. You can find a crap ton of back issue comics and trade paperbacks if that’s your thing. If you’re a social butterfly there are loads of people to talk to. If you’re not really that social, trust and believe that there are loads of people who feel the same way you do. No matter what you’re into, you can be sure that you won’t get bored at a comic convention. There’s just something really awesome about a group of people getting together to share the things they love with each other. Even if comic cons aren’t really your thing, I think we can all safely agree that there are much worse ways to spend a weekend.

What I meant to say

Normally I use this to share my comedy and as an outlet for my snark and a place of levity but today I can’t do that. Today driving to work I realized that exactly three years ago today was the last time I spoke to my father. It was a Thursday and he called the night before to let me know that he’d gone to urgent care because he didn’t feel well and was having trouble breathing and they set him up with a bed in the hospital in The Villages in Florida. I called him as soon as I could because my dad was always a stubborn man who resisted any and all urges to see a doctor so the fact that he actually went to an urgent care was a big deal. The fact that he was in the hospital was a big deal, but I hid how worried I was because I knew he was already worried and knowing that I was too would just upset him more. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted him to get better so I could watch him open the awesome Redskins sweatshirt I’d gotten him for Christmas. I wanted him to get better more than anything so I could make plans to play golf with him so I could hear him give me such great pointers on my game as, “Hit the ball straight.”
But he didn’t get better. He got worse and they went from a partial oxygen mask, to a full one, to a ventilator and a medically induced coma because despite being a teacher and not medical professional he kept trying to extubate himself. Did I mention he was a stubborn man? Four days after I spoke to him, he died. Fast forward back to the present day and I’m sitting in traffic trying to hide my tears because I was raised to believe that a proper Emonds woman doesn’t cry in public unless at a funeral and then we only do so grudgingly. He was a stubborn man who raised a stubborn child; two to be precise. Anyone who’s ever tried to tell my sister anything can attest to that. I’ve been telling her to quit bossing me around for the past thirty years and she still does it from time to time. Alas, I digress. As I sit in traffic today I’m not just choking back sobs. I’m choking on every word I never got to say to him.
If I knew three years ago that I was talking to my dad for the last time, I would’ve said everything and I wouldn’t have cared how long it took or that I was at work while saying it. If my supervisor questioned my prolonged desk absence I would’ve told them that I had to handle something and it was more important to me than my work will ever be. I would’ve said that despite the challenges our relationship had, you see because when you’re a stubborn child raised by a stubborn man you’re bound to have some challenges, that he never stopped being my hero. I would’ve told him that he never stopped being the guy who took time off from work when I was six to come to my school and carry me up and then down the stairs because I was on crutches and he was worried that I’d fall and deep down I never stopped being the little girl who knew that she wouldn’t fall because Dad had her.
I would’ve told him that I wouldn’t last ten minutes in law school and he most likely would’ve gotten a call to bail me out of jail probably for throwing an absurdly large textbook at a professor but his faith in me meant the world. I would’ve told him that I wasn’t as into golf as I was spending time with him and that’s pretty much the only reason I played. I would’ve told him that I loved him no matter how crazy he drove me. I would’ve told him that I knew everything he did to drive me crazy was out of love for me. I would’ve told him that everything I did to drive him crazy was to make him proud of me.
If your dad is still around, call him. Seriously do it right now. Call him and tell him what he means to you. While you’re at it, call your mom and your siblings. Call everybody who’s important to you because SPOILER ALERT: we don’t live forever. Tomorrow’s not promised and the world is and has always been a bit of a scary place where anything can happen. I know what it feels like to leave things unsaid and the regret that goes along with it and I don’t want anybody else to feel that. I’d give anything to tell my dad, who by the way taught English, that this post was supposed to be a bit of a free-write but I’ve carefully edited it. Twice.