Like many things in life, such as waiting in line for a rollercoaster, the end result is never as bad as it may seem at first. Since writing a heartfelt blog about spending Christmas Day coparenting my two-year-old son TJ for the first time, I have taken a few steps forward in life.
Finally, I got the keys to my own flat in time to put up a Christmas tree. This made life a lot easier. It gave me perspective, space and the freedom that I have been craving. As the December days of co-parenting flitted away, I was gradually able to get through Asda’s festive advert without crying. Christmas is about more than one day. So, I went to town making sure all the days around it were as special as can be.
The big day
This culminated on Christmas Eve. After throwing money at the problem with Black Friday deals, I established some Christmas traditions for us. I packed a Christmas (Eve) box with activity books, a reindeer soft toy, new pyjamas and a DVD of The Snowman. As darkness fell on the night before Christmas, I silently cried a few tears. They were sad tears for missing TJ before he had even gone. But, they were also tears of happiness that a little bit of Christmas magic had given us time for just the two of us. Afterwards, I tucked TJ up in bed, filling him with promises of presents, a visit from Santa and a day of all of his favourite things after a lovely night’s sleep.
The picture perfect scene didn’t last long. We were both plagued with the lurgy which had been doing the rounds faster than Santa on his sleigh. Before Midnight came, TJ asked to sleep in my bed. I didn’t have the heart to do anything but scoop him up and carry him to where he wanted to be. Eight restless hours later, and with moments to go before my family arrived laden with presents, I whispered to my tired toddler that it was Christmas morning. He replied with an excited ‘yeah!’ as he hopped out of bed to see if Santa had visited.
Reality, not reindeer
As TJ opened his gifts, my mum made breakfast and my sister took photos whilst my dad and sister’s partner assembled plastic. It was brilliant and blissful. However, the minutes ticked by and the dreaded 11am pickup from daddy arrived. TJ was distraught. It was the worst handover we have had so far in our co-parenting arrangement. My little boy clung to me as his dad wrestled him away. With hindsight, I totally understand. He was torn from the fun of that newly assembled plastic without knowing why.
I tackled the emotion in the best way I know how. So, I did something practical. Wrapping paper was thrown away. Toys were put in their new home. I did the washing up. When I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I shut myself in my bedroom to cry. But, I realised that I was behaving more like a lovestruck teenager than a co-parenting grown-up. So, I picked myself up, showered, and got on with the day.
My fabulous sister cooked up a feast and ensured that the alcohol kept coming. I worked myself into a gluttonous haze to the sound of Eastenders in the background before my dad drove his 34-year-old daughter home.
A co-parenting Christmas wish
Co-parenting switched roles and TJ came back to Hampshire on the 27th for fake Christmas Day. My sister (amazingly) got back in the kitchen with one more place to set at the table. TJ was still under the weather so he had a couple of tantrums up his sleeve. But, we had some family fun too. If we all loved each other as much as TJ loves (homemade and alcohol-free) mince pies then the world would be a much better place.
I learnt a lot by facing the festivities co-parenting yet without my favourite family member. I realised that a date on the calendar shouldn’t dictate everything. The penny dropped loudly that TJ deserves an explanation for all that happens to him. I discovered that I shouldn’t overthink things.
It will be a completely different ball game next Christmas. This is not just because it will be my turn to have TJ for the big day. He will be older. As his parents, me and TJ’s dad may be wiser and have worked out how to be slightly more successful when co-parenting. But, one thing will never change and that’s the love that we have for our son and also for each other, despite everything. That’s the really important stuff.