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The Holidays

By Charles Houghton

My hands were covered with grease as I reached into the toolbox. I needed a 7/16 wrench and at the moment the best I could come up with was a half-inch.

A couple of hours of sunlight were still left, so I hopped into our second car and headed toward the hardware store.

As I drove, my thoughts were fairly scattered. I was contemplating the life of the furnace through yet another Michigan winter. Fall’s leaves were still spread across the lawn and I figured I should get them out of there before it got too cold.

As I said, fairly scattered.

The upcoming holidays were the one thing that definitely had not crossed my mind. That luxury was soon to be extinguished.

This particular hardware store had always been pretty friendly. I was usually able to walk in and find what I needed with particular ease. However, this time was entirely different.

A 3 foot plastic Santa Claus met me at the door; and the familiar sparkle and chrome color of the tools had been camouflaged with garland and tinsel.

My thoughts were no longer scattered. The holidays had arrived.

In the ever evolving world of the divorced dad, my thoughts immediately turned toward the calendar.

Halloween had yet to arrive but was only a few weeks away, and I quickly surmised that the holiday fell on a Friday. My Friday. The next holiday would be Thanksgiving. I shared Thanksgiving with the kids last year, which meant that Christmas this year would be spent with my children.

The excitement began to build, but with it came the normal angst of the divorced parent. How was I going to make these holidays special?

I had learned a few things over the last few years. Struggling through previous holidays had left me with a few points of distinction.

Firstly, it is important to create traditions that emphasize the unique way in which you celebrate holidays. After divorce it is common to try and duplicate the way holidays were enjoyed while you were married. The thing that you need to remember is that the holidays are different after a divorce, and that isn’t a bad thing.

Make the holidays your own and involve your children in preparing for them; whether or not they will be spending the holiday with you should not be a factor.

Holidays are magical if you allow them to be so.

Secondly, be careful to avoid the guilt factor divorced fathers, myself included, will often try to overcompensate for the guilt by filling the house with presents. I remember my first Christmas with the children after the divorce.

Gifts were stacked three and four high all over the room. You know what? It didn’t make the holiday any easier, and I’m still paying for some of it.

What the children need is quality time with you to create memories. Sure, they want the new bike and Rollerblades’, but the memories you create together will last a lot longer.

Lastly — on my list, anyway — you should help your children shop for gifts for the other parent. Kids can feel awfully awkward when it comes to shopping for one parent when they are with the other. Make sure the child knows that you are there to help.

Let your children pick the cards that will be sent out and let them help in sending them. They can lick the envelopes or apply stamps. The idea is to do as much as you can together.

After weeding through the garland and tinsel, and knocking over that plastic Santa Claus, I had the 7/16 in hand and was heading home.

Things appeared a little different. My thoughts were no longer scattered. I decided that the kids and I would build a scarecrow over the weekend and work on our Christmas lists.

Now, it seems a little cooler outside, but that’s OK. The holidays are approaching and things are sure to warm up real soon.

Happy holidays.

Next: New Dad / New Identity

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