The Challenge of Co – Parenting at Christmas

Here we are, we are hurtling towards my favourite time of the year but as the joy arrives, so does the challenge of co – parenting at Christmas.

Lets be real, co parenting is hard. Really bloody hard and my ex and I are a crap example of how to co parent productively. I wish it were different and I have offered and tried everything but it gets us no where. I’d like to get together, sit down and plan Christmas but I don’t think it’s going to happen. 

Starting at the beginning, Bear’s dad and I broke up before we had ever had a family Christmas. We hadn’t had the opportunity to start our traditions or to play it out. 

Bear spent his first Christmas day with his Dad. He hadn’t slept over at his Dad’s yet and so woke up at our house and then his Dad collected him, they spent the day with his family and then came home at tea time. On Christmas night, I got to play Father Christmas and we celebrated on Boxing Day, as if it were Christmas Day. The next year, he spent boxing day with his Dad and to be honest I don’t really know what happens there. The next year, Bear was almost 3 yrs old and we again shared as we had before and again, I celebrated Christmas Night and Boxing Day as if it were Christmas Eve and day and he woke up to a stocking. 

 

christmas co - parenting

 

This year, Bear is almost 5 years old, much more clued up on the media / movie Christmas and will be spending Christmas Day with his Dad. He doesn’t want to sleep over on Christmas Eve and so will wake up at home with me and then his Dad will pick him up for the day. This is where the problems begin. He will be with me on Christmas Eve and so he will get his Christmas stocking from Father Christmas when he wakes up but what to do next is the dilemma. 

I’m not 100% sure but Bear might be collected quite early on Christmas morning – at about 8.30am and then he can go to Church with that side of the family, open his family presents and then he wants to come home at night-time. 

The tradition that his Dad wants to start is that Father Christmas brings a stocking with things such as ‘pens’ and little bits and that’s that. Father Christmas doesn’t bring proper presents supposedly and there will be nothing under the tree from the big man, all gifts are from his Dad and his family. 

I really struggle with this as in my mind, children write a letter to Father Christmas and the big man brings one or two of the main presents the rest are from parents, friends and family. Because Bear doesn’t want to sleep over at his Dad’s on Christmas Eve, my quandary is that up until he made that decision, Bear had been asking about where his presents will be from F.C. I had explained that his presents will be delivered to wherever he sleeps. As he will be sleeping at our house, F.C will be bringing his stocking and one or two bigger gifts here but it feels so wrong for him to wake up, get these presents and then get whisked away from them. I would rather he got his proper F.C gifts at his Dad’s house – I would wrap them and send them as I don’t need the glory but that wouldn’t make sense. I’ve tried to think of some kind of a story, that Father Christmas left his stocking here for him and then on Boxing Day, when I’ll be giving Bear all of his presents from me and my family, we could find glitter snow footprints and a letter explaining that F.C hid his presents in the boot room and tadaa, he gets proper gifts from F.C but again, that doesn’t make sense.

I’ll happily let him take his new opened gifts to his Dad’s house on Christmas Day, I’ll buy and give his Dad the presents to give to Bear on F.C’s behalf, and if would work, I’ll ask him to take his Father Christmas presents to his Dad’s house to open them there but a part of me will find it hard to make him wait as my family tradition has been to open presents when we wake up although I know that some families open presents after lunch. I’ll do pretty much anything to make Christmas as wonderful and magical as I can but something feels wrong about him waking up, feeling the magic and getting his presents and us doing all of our little special bits and bobs that I’m building as our traditions and then me having to rush him to get dressed, eat up, brush his teeth, stop playing and bam – he’s pulled away from it all to go to Church and start all over again and try to build the magic but with no Father Christmas or Mummy. 

 

christmas co - parenting

 

The problem is that neither his Dad or I have been through this. We don’t know what it’s like to have to split Christmas in any way. We’re used to waking up, spending the day with our family and toys and just breezing through the festive period. 

Our Christmas co – parenting has always been to share and alternate but I’m wondering if we need to adapt to suit Bear. We had assumed that by now, Bear would spend Christmas Eve and day with one parent, Christmas Night and Boxing Day with the other. Here we are, 5 Christmas’s in and I’m not sure that it’s working. As Bear doesn’t want to sleep over at his Dad’s, I think that maybe he should spend Christmas Eve and day at home and then go to his Dad’s on Boxing Day morning for the day. However, although I have asked, we have not been able to sit down, discuss and plan for this year. I know that his Dad will not be happy with this suggestion and I can totally see why and if it were the other way round, it would be upsetting but I don’t know what else to suggest. Bear has already started to make small noises about wanting to stay at home with me and I’m not encouraging it in anyway – the exact opposite as I’m ‘bigging up’ the fun he will have at his Dad’s house as I do, constantly but at what point does it become less about what we as parents want and more about the children? No parent wants to spend Christmas Day apart from their children. Of course we don’t, but in all honesty, It doesn’t upset me.

My sister is 5.5 years older than me and has been with her husband since they were 16 yrs old. She began to alternate her Christmas Day’s between his and our family and so instead of us having Christmas without them, from my teenage years onwards, we would celebrate Christmas Day with them one year and the following year, we would almost ignore Christmas Day and celebrate fully on Boxing Day – we would save presents, the full meal, you name it, until the next day. It meant that my sister and her husband got 2 Christmas’s every year and everyone got to have a family Christmas.

 

co - parenting at christmas

 

That’s how I feel about having Bear. When he’s with his Dad, I don’t even register that it’s Christmas Day and Boxing Day feels as magical and exciting as a normal Christmas Day. So, if Bear wanted to spend Christmas Day with his Dad, I wouldn’t mind as I want to volunteer to help in a shelter and have invitations to more than one house every year. Other than the stocking and Father Christmas gifts, we celebrate in exactly the same way. So, if Bear wanted to spend every Christmas Day with his Dad, I honestly wouldn’t mind but as it’s the other way round, I don’t think it will be an option. I almost wish he did want to spend Christmas Day with his Dad every year as it would make it easier and ultimately, my son would be getting the Christmas he wants. 

A few days have past since I wrote this article – still not published as I’m waiting to speak to Bear’s Dad first but Bear is getting anxious. He knows that it’s almost advent and Christmas is becoming a focus. I snapped at him for not listening last night and he burst into tears. I comforted him and asked him if he was ok and he cried that he loved Christmas and wanting to be at home with me on Christmas Day. I told him that we would have Christmas Day on Boxing Day and he cried that no, he wanted to spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day at home.

This is so hard. I want my baby to have the type of Christmas that I had. I don’t want him to be taken away from his home on Christmas Day – as I know a lot of parents feel and so they stop visiting grandparents for Christmas and have them come to stay instead. I don’t think Christmas should be formal with rules, it should be about love, family, sharing and if you are religious, celebrating the birth of Jesus. But, And it’s a big but. What do you do when your family is ‘broken’ and the children don’t want to Christmas that you’ve planned? I can’t bear the thought of having to make him leave. I can’t bear the thought that he’ll be unhappy and feel pushed away by me on Christmas Day as in order to make him leave me, I have to tell him that I have jobs to do and that he can’t stay as it will be boring and that it’s time for Daddy time as Mummy gets to play with him all the time. If my Mum had said that to me on Christmas Day I’d have been heartbroken.  

I’d really like to hear your perspective if your parents were separated when you were young. Did you have to split Christmas between your parents houses? Did you always spend Christmas with one parent? How did you find it? What worked and what didn’t? I don’t want my son to look back at his Christmas’s and to able to say that he didn’t like one aspect or the other. I want him to look back at being happy and remember the magic. 

I’d also like to find out what happens in your family if you are the parents that are separated. Do your children spend Christmas Day with one parent every year? Do you alternate Christmas Day and Boxing Day or do you alternate the full season i.e.: Christmas with one family one year and New Years with the other and the alternate?

I also want to point out that I have in no way engineered this. If Bear does end up staying with me on Christmas Day, we will have a lot to change. My Mum and Dad were planning on coming to my house on Christmas Day to put together and install a fabulous climbing frame that they and my sister and husband have bought him for Christmas. We need to lay safety flooring and then we were going to prepare Christmas Dinner to cook and eat on Boxing Day. If we do have Bear, we’ll have to do all of this on Christmas Eve, or rather my family will as I’ll need to take Bear out for the day (or maybe he could spend the day with his Dad?). Also, my sister and her husband will be with his family on Christmas Day and so we won’t get a full family Christmas. I need to make plans for all eventuality so need this conversation to take place soon.

Please do let me know as hearing what other people do can help.

Thanks for reading

Love

Hannah Spannah 2016

 

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14 Comments

  1. 05/12/2016 / 07:30

    My parents seperated when I was very young, so I always remember Christmas being split between two families. It really wasn’t a big deal, but I loved visiting my Dad and seeing that side of the family and liked being at home with the other side of the family as well. It was alternated where I spent Christmas Eve and day each year and then on Boxing Day I would go to the other family house and open my presents there. We never treated it like a second Christmas though, just Boxing Day with my second set of presents. My family is really big, so there was always a lot of food and so many people to keep us entertained. We never had presents from Santa, people always bought them and sent them to North Pole to be wrapped by elves and then delivered by Santa on Christmas Eve. I think it helped that both sides of the family had similar traditions. I think deciding on where presents come from would be a good thing to agree on. I hope you find a way to navigate this time of year easily.

    • Hannah
      05/12/2016 / 09:41

      Thank you so much for telling me how it was for you

  2. 05/12/2016 / 08:02

    Hey Hannah I find it funny how often your posts relate to my own world! Anyway bless you and bear I know only too well the struggles of separated families at Christmas. My two youngest have just turned 12 & 13 and we’ve never had a normal family Christmas. I’ve always felt a complete failure cos of the arguments between me and their father, the fact I’ve always been broke and his family (he lives with his parents) are rich and everything at their house is beautiful and perfect and I’d be spending the months leading up to xmas running round like a blue ass fly trying to get everything organised and buy as much as I possibly could..as a single mother to four and many years a foster Mum too and I have never been able to bring in a good income on my own (never heard of maintenance payments) and the heartbreak and emotional damage it would cause every time I had to see my kids go off. Xmas has never really been a good time for us. Two years ago after my first hospitalisation with lung damage from RA/methotrexate poisoning he had had to care for the children for a few days while I was in. His reaction to knowing how Ill I was, was to go travelling the world, he’s still somewhere half way across the world….and our family life, in spite of the terrible onslaught of rheumatoid arthritis and the damage to my lungs progressing….well we (me and the kids) are happier than we have ever been. We are relaxed day to day, no stressing over weekends and all the ridiculous ways he would affect us are no longer a problem. They don’t want anything to do with him, this year would have been his Christmas. Back in July I was hospitalised again and the majority of my lungs are damaged, I know it sounds very negative but it’s just a reality that I won’t be here for all their future Christmases. Again I don’t have much money, the kids and I are getting one big present between us all. That doesn’t matter, we are together and we are happy…really what more could we wish for. PS father Christmas isn’t an issue here anymore….when I told the kids I do the job of a hundred men, I really meant it 😉 but when he was I too found this to be one of the biggest issues, plus if they spent the day with him he would rub it in the whole time that all the posh snazzy stuff from his house was only allowed at his house and they could never bring them home here to play with. For years and years I thought they were happier there and better off without me. Now I know 100% they are happier with me and having no additional frills than he could ever make them no matter what he bought them. He would also wait to find out what I was buying them and then buy them the same (or better quality/designer brand) from him and so I just never felt good enough. In a way I’m so glad for you that you already know without a doubt that bear loves you and would rather be with you, but I still see your quandary. Have a blessed Christmas however it turns out. Your family sound fabulous too so that will help no matter what trials you face. Much love to you and your bear from me and my little birds x

    • Hannah
      05/12/2016 / 09:45

      Oh Cassandra. My goodness. I am so sorry that your lungs have been so badly damaged, that breaks my heart- I feel so lucky that I have been delayed from starting methotrexate. You are so strong and such a wonderful mother that it breaks my heart. I’m sorry for the years that you have had and that the children do t have the father that they deserve but I am glad that you are all happy. Sending love xxxx

      • 05/12/2016 / 15:20

        Thank you Hannah, it’s been a learning curve for sure. I consider that we are very lucky, my two oldest son’s are 22 and 19 and my foster daughter is just turned 18, so where they don’t have the father they deserve they have two very caring and responsible big brother’s and a big sister to help them through everything and help me stay at home as long as possible. I’m truly looking forward to Christmas 🙂 I do wish I hadn’t wasted so many years worrying about everything that I couldn’t change. Have a wonderful Christmas x

  3. 05/12/2016 / 08:30

    I just don’t know what to say lovely, it’s so very hard, my kids were 11, 12 and 18 when my husband left and I made them promise that whatever happened Christmas would always be mine because I am the queen of Christmas whereas he doesn’t really care (of course he’s now trying to out christmas me) and it would break my heart to not have Christmas day with them, Abigail said “I really need to get you used to Christmas on your own because I want to stay with dad next year” heart, shattered into a million pieces!!

    There’s no right or wrong answer you just have to do what feels right for you and Bear right now, maybe not for next year or the years to come but do what is going to make everyone happy now!

    • Hannah
      05/12/2016 / 09:49

      It’s so hard to find the right balance isn’t it. Try not to be upset that Abigail wants it to be different one year. You know it’s nothing personal. I think a lot of children worry about the other parent without them x

  4. Susie
    05/12/2016 / 15:21

    Hey my lovely, for many years we invited L & A’s Dad over for christmas dinner. It was really hard especially for my husband, but we made it work because we didn’t want the children to choose who to spend Christmas with. (I know this isn’t a option for you) obviously now they are older and the choice of seeing their dad isn’t a option any more. (Long story) it makes it so much more easier for me and I have the kids to myself. I’m so glad my youngest doesn’t have to go through this.
    I hope that you find a way that works for bear. Christmas is such a special time of year for them. Xxx

  5. 05/12/2016 / 15:27

    Bless you Hun I felt a glimpse of how that made you feel. It really isn’t personal but still hurts. I always felt I should have the right to Christmas day as I worked so hard for my family all year. Of course he knew that so he wanted it. Hope your daughter has her Christmas there and learns that she much prefers Mumma 🙂 merry Christmas x

  6. 09/12/2016 / 19:20

    What a problem. Firstly, me and my daughters dad (along with my sisters who were/are single parents and some points together 3 of us were and 2 of us now) decided that all presents would be off F.C. We explain the gifts are left at everyone’s houses as F.C. gets a little too confused after too much milk and cookies (shocking reason I know but it works) and gets all the family confused as they are together all the time (it gets worse we made it up after a hard on the spot questioning session). My daughters dad agreed to this too.

    We also split Christmas/boxing day too. When my daughter didn’t want to go I would just explain that Christmas is a family time and as you have a lot of family we need to make sure everyone sees her. Although if she wanted t stay longer/less with one parent we would just ring up and arrange drop off. We are lucky we have a great relationship though so it makes it easier. I’m really sorry I don’t know what to suggest to you. I presume you have explained this to him how he feels. It wouldn’t be fair of him to demand he goes if he so strongly feels like he doesn’t want to #weekendblogshare

  7. 09/12/2016 / 21:08

    When we first separated, the girls dad would come and have Christmas with us so that they had their family Christmas, but now he’s remarried that doesn’t happen anymore. I have the girls Christmas Day until late afternoon when they go to their dad’s for a few days. I don’t like it at all, but I know they need to see him too and vice versa. Hope you manage to get your plans sorted out soon. Will be thinking of you #weekendblogshare xxx

  8. 13/12/2016 / 22:40

    This is so hard Hannah. I really feel for you. In our house, and when I was growing up, Father Christmas brought all the presents but they were always left where we slept… Will Bear’s Dad just go along with what Bear wants? I’m sure any parent would just want to do whatever would make their child happy, especially at Christmas.

    My older brother has a different Dad to me and I can’t really remember what he did at Christmas. I’m sure he was always at home at Christmas and would spend boxing day or the weekend before at his Dad’s house. It’s such a tricky situation. Thinking of you x

  9. 14/12/2016 / 15:23

    It has been 10 years I don’t have a Christmas with both dad and mom. Christmas’ only woderful when you be with your family. I don’t know what to suggest you, but hope the best thing will come to you!

  10. 18/12/2016 / 16:37

    Hi Hannah! I don’t know if i’m helping but maybe you should ask for Bear’s thoughts about the whole Christmas thing! i think at the age of 5 he can decide on his own what he likes and what he doesn’t. Hope you could find the perfect solution and have a lovely Christmas!

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