As the holidays return to some semblance of normalcy this year, I am beginning my preparations by stockpiling presents before the supply and demand problem wipes out the Target toy aisle, losing my pandemic weight in time to gain it back during the holidays, and, most importantly, confirming one of my favorite holiday pastimes: spending time with my ex-husband and his wife. Yes, that is right: I like spending time with my ex-husband and his wife. When I tell people our visits together are one of the best parts of the holiday season, it always creates quite a shock factor, but it is true.
It would seem absolutely crazy that after all the energy and effort it takes to extricate one’s self from their partner, one would voluntarily spend the holidays together — yet, here we are. There are a few reasons that brought us to this place, but the biggest one is that we share an incredible 10-year-old daughter and she deserves to have both her parents together for the major holidays.
Of course, all of this only works because her dad and I actually like each other, probably more than we did when we were married. Even more importantly, I really like his wife and her family. They make my daughter and my new family feel part of their family, and with most of my family living in Israel, her family has become our family. My daughter also loves her stepmom and wants to emulate many of her traits — especially the creative ones that I sorely lack. I am glad that she has a role model in areas I do not excel in. Otherwise, her creative influence would have ended after she finished pre-school, as the novelty of my stick figures would have lasted but so long. Her stepmom is incredibly creative and my daughter always looks forward to receiving a handmade gift or making arts and crafts at her house.
I am fortunate because we get along, and that cohesive unit has been so incredibly important for my daughter. She is surrounded by people she loves and who love her back. She does not have to worry about who gets her on which holiday. Her dad comes to us for the major Jewish holidays and we go to his wife’s family for Christmas Eve. Her Christmas Eve celebration includes myself, my husband, my ex-husband, his wife and all her siblings and their children. This gives my daughter an instant set of cousins to play with and love. As further proof of their connection, her step-grandmother signs my daughter’s presents: “love, grandma.” She truly sees my daughter as another grandkid.
I know that this strategy is a reach for many divorced parents. My heart breaks for ex-partners who cannot be in the same room together much less celebrate holidays together. In the end, the kids suffer and inevitably lose out. Kids do not want to have to choose which parent to spend the Seder with — or worse, be regulated by a court order.
Her dad and I were not meant to be together. We know that and we are more than OK with it. He ended up with a wonderful wife who loves my daughter. I ended with someone I love, someone who treats my daughter as his own. And, in case you are wondering, we go on summer vacations with my husband’s ex-wife, too. In fact, this year, due to logistical reasons, the summer vacation included just she and I and our two girls. We had a great time and will continue our tradition next year.
There is something to be said about the tie that binds. Once the initial trauma of the separation subsides, we were all ready to adopt a new blended family approach. In the end, this is why the holidays with my ex is one of the most wonderful times of the year.