I am at home tonight with my kids. It’s Christmas time. And it’s the first Christmas season in many years that I’ve had both of my kids here with me at the same time.
I am divorced, and for many years they lived with their mother in Virginia. I would sometimes get them for a few days after Christmas, but often it was not enough time to warrant a trip to Vermont and back, so I’d pick them up and we would visit relatives.
My daughter moved up here while in high school. We got to have Christmases together, but without my son. And then my daughter went off to college and my son did the same thing, moving up here in high school. Jobs and school and all sorts of things conspired to make it so that we didn’t all three get to spend the Christmas season together.
Last week I went down to DC and packed my daughter up and moved her back to Vermont. She got a good job offer up in a nearby town and suddenly, 12 years after my separation and divorce, I have both of them with me for a sustained time before my son goes off to college.
We’re kinda loving it. OK, maybe more than kinda.
And it was never predictable. My ex spent a lot of time trying to make sure my kids didn’t like me, didn’t trust me, didn’t want me. It happens a lot in divorces. And it pretty much sucks for everyone. The best thing parents can do in a divorce is to make sure the kids love and have the love from both parents. But that evenhandedness, focus on the kids thing happens too rarely.
My first Christmas without the kids was horrible. Already depressed because of the end of the marriage, I discovered something that caught me by surprise: As much as I loved being married (and I did.), I loved being a day to day Dad even more.
The path back to my kid’s good graces took a long time. I didn’t do anything special. I was just me. I never gave up. I just loved them and trusted time and truth to sort things out. It usually does. And it did for us. In time they figured out I wasn’t an ogre. In fact, I had a fair number of redeeming social qualities, and, when things got tough for them, I was there. Always.
I often tell people that I hate the reasons and ways my kids came to me. But I have loved that they have come back. And by simply being here, simply being consistent and reliable, proactive and available…. we found our way together again.
If anything, we’re probably closer because of the long journey back. We know what it means to lose something precious and regain it. Our love for each other has been tested to the breaking point and come back from the brink, and it is all the more precious for that.
Seriously, sometimes, when we are all together and I hear them talking and laughing in the next room. I cry. Sheer joy. Sheer undeserved crazy joy. Grace.
Why am I writing this?
Because it’s Christmas time. And the media does nostalgia to the hilt during the Christmas season. It’s easy to forget a lot of people are in broken situations right now. They are all around us and they just aren’t feeling it. And feeling worse for not having it when the media portrays it as if everyone else does.
I didn’t have anything to say to those people when I was younger. I felt sad that I didn’t. But I had not lived in that broken place. I had not lived in that place of loss. I had not felt the despair of being alone during the “season to be merry” .
But at this point in my life, I have felt that despair. And I stumbled my way back.
Even before the kids came back, I let moments of joy find me. As they came back, one by one, I found more. Christmas became good again. And this season, with my kids around me, with the woman I love near at hand, my joy is something else. It is complete.
Now, having seen the worst, I have something to say: Hang in there. Things can come around. We can move past the deadness of broken times. We can find new joys. And if we are persistent with the things and people we love, some, or all of them, will find their way back to you.
We need to wait for it. We need to allow it in. We need to keep offering what we have to give. (“It being love.)
For those readers of mine who are Christians, you already know that Christmas is the embodiment of never giving up – John 3:16 : ‘for God so love the world that he gave his son….” Mankind had failed again and again, but God never gave up on us. He never gave up on love.
And neither should we. Keep loving. Forget what others do. Keep loving. Forget what society does. Keep loving.
Any other path but simple love and I would never gotten my kids back. Nothing else could have worked. Everything else destroys. Love builds and rebuilds. It’s what works. I really believe that.
Off my soapbox. Sending week before Christmas love to all you who read me.
Be well. Travel wisely.