Christmas contact. Two words to put dread into the heart of any separated parent. So much anxiety, so many different ways to play it. So what is my experience?
When my own parents split up my father started spending Christmas with his sister, taking my youngest brother. I chose not to go, although I lived with my father. As I was a teenager, I was able to stay home on my own. I would go to my mother’s on Christmas Eve and spend that night and Christmas Day with her and her new partner and her partner’s children, but do my own thing at home around that. It suited me very well. One year my father decided that he’d have Christmas at home as well. He liked it, but it was hard work for the rest of us, moving between two sets of festivities. After that he met his second wife and for the rest of the time I still was at home for Christmas at all he and my brother spent it with her at her parents, so I went back to the previous arrangements.
When I got together with my ex, he had young daughters. We had a system by which they spent from midday on Christmas Eve to midday Christmas Day with one parent, then the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the other, alternating years. This meant that we each either had them for stockings or for Christmas dinner. It worked fairly well when they were small, though when we had them Christmas morning it meant that we had to open presents quite early and quickly, to get it all done in time. We also always had Christmas dinner in the evening, as it meant that while my stepdaughters were with us in the morning we could concentrate on them and not have to cook. The years they came to us at noon they were usually full of chocolate so didn’t want to eat for a while anyway. Before our younger ones were born we would go for a walk during the child-free bits of Christmas, which was nice for us, too.
When they became teenagers, though, the girls realised that stockings were better at our house and Christmas dinner better at their mother’s. She always has loads of people over and an enormous and fairly elaborate meal, so it was entirely understandable. So for a few years they would come over sometime on Christmas Eve and stay until late Christmas morning – though sometimes they would come for supper and then go out with their friends, or even arrive at midnight directly from the pub, and they also started going back earlier to help their mum with the cooking. It was a bit hard for them as teenagers to have to get up to open stockings with their younger brothers, but they did their best to be cheerful about it.
Since we split up, my ex has never asked for Christmas contact, so it’s not been an issue. I think he spends it either with his girlfriend or his mum, or maybe both. The boys and I have started spending alternate Christmases with my brother and his children. He has a week on week off arrangement with his ex, and whoevers week it is, gets the children at Christmas. If it’s not your week, you have your Christmas with them when it is – which means that some years the first of their Christmases is as early as 20th December! This seems to work well for them, though they are on such good terms that when we were at his place a couple of years ago his ex came over on Boxing Day to see us all. When we are at home my stepdaughters usually drop over for a short time to exchange presents and see their brothers, though not always on Christmas Day itself.
The years we don’t see my brother, I wouldn’t have a problem with the children spending Christmas with their father, as long as they both did it, and they know that. What I really don’t want is one child here for Christmas and then having to have another Christmas Day just for the other. But then I’m not particularly bothered about Christmas myself – I’d be happy to spend it painting a ceiling if there weren’t anyone else around wanting to celebrate.
Written by SexySadie