This is the first Thanksgiving in years that I’m actually looking forward to! As holidays go, Thanksgiving has never been in my top three; but, I’ve always enjoyed decorating, cooking, and finding ways to make special days as memorable as possible. This particular Thanksgiving has earned red-letter status for me because it’s the first in five years when I will have my children for the holiday!
How did I, a mother who has 50/50 shared custody get into this predicament? Well, it’s all spelled out in our divorce. Some of you out there subscribe to the court’s suggested schedule for holidays and other times (e.g. school breaks, and so on), while my ex and I decided to create our own arrangement. In many ways the DIY schedule we made has made a lot of sense and saved a lot of stress; but, in the case of Thanksgiving, I clearly blew it!
I am re-married now, and my husband and his ex-wife use the court-suggested schedule. From what I have witnessed over the years, it is confusing, doesn’t always make sense, and it has caused frustration on more than one occasion. It is fair, but it clearly states that he gets the kids for a select list of holidays on odd years and she has them for even years. Sometimes this works out smoothly because the kids happen to be with us anyways, while other times it feels as though they’re yanked out of one home or another for a designated period of time.
For him and his ex, each holiday is completely different, so each time a new one is on the way, he has to unearth his shared parenting agreement to read the specific language of that event. This has resulted in the kids being at our home sometimes three weeks in a row because a holiday was his, but fell on her usual week, meaning she went without seeing them more than usual.
My ex and I tried what we thought was a more cooperative and evolved approach: if the holiday falls on your week you get them if it’s on my week I get them. This includes birthdays and every holiday or break under the sun. On the one hand, it’s easy peasey because it’s as simple as glancing at the calendar and saying “oh, my week is the same as our son’s birthday, so he will be with me this year!”
Yes, this means that some years I do not get to see my babies on their birthday! It felt like a sledgehammer to the gut the first time this happened; but, as many parents do with their children anyways, we always celebrate whenever it seems the most natural, so a party is planned the weekend before or after their big day, and I always call them on their birthday if I don’t have them with me.
Christmas and Easter were the only two holidays we thought to specify would be split between us. So, if they have been with me the week leading up to Easter and Easter Sunday would be my day normally, they would stay with me through 1pm, then go to their dad’s for the afternoon (or the reverse if it was his week). The same applies to Christmas; however, I have made out like a bandit the past few years on Christmas because my ex prefers Christmas afternoon to Christmas morning (I know- what?), so I have had the joy of celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas morning the past five years with my kids…pure magic!
This brings me to turkey day. Okay, the thought entered my mind back in the divorce planning days of splitting Thanksgiving just like Easter and Christmas. I imagined kids waking up on Thanksgiving and chowing down on a turkey feast in time to get in the car to switch homes to eat a second holiday dinner. I guess when I think of Thanksgiving I imagine family hanging out, maybe watching a football game or playing board games, but the dinner is the main event- am I right?
To me, making my kids sit down to two separate turkey dinners on the same day seemed a little strange, so I thought why not? Why not just let whoever has them that week celebrate the holiday with them so the kids can just stay put? The little fact I ignored in this whole decision is that I couldn’t count on the holiday alternating years; so, when I signed on the dotted line, I essentially forfeited Thanksgiving for as many years as it would take for the holiday to work through the calendar rotation from one parent’s schedule to the next-yikes!
Years have passed, and although Thanksgiving was never the numero uno festival in my book, I began to equate it with being even sadder. The vision of dead brown leaves out my window seemed to be about the perfect way to decorate an empty house, knowing that miles away, year-after-year my children were celebrating the day with my ex and his family! To be honest, I wasn’t even due to have them yet this year, but I worked some schedule trading magic when their dad needed a favor from me and I scored my first Thanksgiving since before my ex and I were divorced!
So, this year, I am finally looking forward to unwrapping to cute turkey placemats I bought eons ago, but have never had the chance to use, and I am planning my menu for a dinner any pilgrim would approve of! My husband has his kids this year, too; so, I expect a houseful of laughter and fun. I am even more jubilant over the fact that my kids are also so excited to finally get a Thanksgiving at Mom’s house!
So, the moral of my story? Be creative and cooperative in developing your parenting agreements with your ex, but think through how snap decisions might actually affect you years down the road! I am still glad, for the most part, that my ex and I have the schedule that we do because it makes the most sense for us; but Thanksgiving is the perfect example of how it may not always work out the way you think it will!
Oh, and, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!