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Single +1

Sarah Fowler

It has to be said. Sometimes the holidays just suck. There, I said it. From crazy in-laws to the dreaded fruitcake, Christmas isn’t for sissies. The months of stress and preparation all come down to one day, a mere 24 hours, where you marathon your way through parties, presents, and overall madness. It’s exhausting and, let’s be honest, a freaking nightmare, but we do it willing so our children will have a memory that they can cherish the rest of their lives. But. What if instead of waking up tp the sounds of laughter, wrapping paper being ripped to shreds and squeals of delight, you wake up on Christmas morning to…silence? It’s a heart wrenching feeling and as much as you secretly dread the holidays, maybe the feeling of dread isn’t due to longer lines at the mall, that one elusive toy or the panic as your realize you forgot to buy batteries. Maybe the feeling of dread is because you know that on Christmas morning your children will wake up, run down the stairs, see the goodies that Santa has brought them and then cuddle up on the couch with your ex-husband and his new wife. And you’ll be home alone in a house across town.

I remember Prinny’s first Christmas like it was yesterday. Her father and I were still married and we woke up Christmas morning to a bright eyed little angel who had somehow gotten out of her crib, found her way into the wrapping paper and stuck a bow on her head. Dressed in her red and green footy pjs she was just sitting there laughing, her pudgy little cheeks about to burst from the smile on her face. I remember pulling her into bed with us and spending the first half hour of Christmas morning cuddling with my two loves thinking that I was the luckiest woman in the world. That was the first and last Christmas we would spend together as a family. Less than a year later Prinny’s father and I were in the midst of a nasty divorce and barely on speaking terms. It’s been just Prinny and I ever since. Except this year.

As I write this, I am sitting alone in my living room, the Christmas tree is lit up in its purple glory, presents are wrapped under the tree and Santa’s goodies are neatly laid out by the fireplace. And it’s December 27. Prinny spent this Christmas with her father and I’ll be the first to say, this isn’t my idea of a holly jolly Christmas. We don’t do every other weekends, there is no split custody and I swear, if you asked me a week ago, I don’t know if I could have told you where the man lives. It’s sad really but it’s always been the situation. Now, the times they are a changin’. And I’m not sure just what in the world I’m supposed to do, say, think or feel. Of course I want Prinny to have a relationship with her father. For the past five years, I’ve been the one who gets up with her in the middle of the night, I’m the one who bakes cupcakes for school, goes to every single play and class party, hosts spend the night parties and play dates, kisses her boo boos, reads her bedtime stories, calms her fears and cherishes her kisses. And he hasn’t. Now all of a sudden, her room is empty and she’s 12 hours, 750 miles and a time zone away. Simply put, it sucks. Instead of seeing her eyes light up as she sees what Santa has left under the tree I got a phone call, hearing her excited little voice on the other end proclaiming, “Mommy, I got a scooter!” I know it’s selfish and I’m happy she’s happy but dang it, it feel like my heart is in Texas with her. We are in unchartered territory here and I’m not sure even Santa and his reindeer could navigate through this.

The one thing that no one ever tells you about divorce is just how hard the holidays are going to be; especially when children are involved. Before signing your name on the dotted line that will forever change your life and your last name, you talk about splitting up finances, property, and even sort out tiny little details like who gets the yappy dog and the LOST series DVD collection. You set up a visitation schedule with your soon-to-be ex and, in theory, discuss spring break, summer vacation and holidays. But what you don’t discuss is how you’re physically going to be able to make it through it. Yes, you discuss drop off times in the Wal-mart parking lot but how are you physically supposed to get back in the car, see her empty car seat in your rearview mirror and drive away? There is no magic solution, no easy way to wrap it in a pretty little bow and make everything OK. All the cliches in the world can’t fix that kind of hurt.

In less than 24 hours, I will finally get to see my sweet baby. These past seven days have dragged by and tomorrow can’t come soon enough. To be honest though, I’ve surprised myself this past week. I’ve thrown myself into work, done more laundry than I thought possible and actually changed the oil in my car. And I’ve only had a breakdown once. Or twice. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve missed her like crazy but I’ve realized that the bond between a mother and daughter is much stronger than I’ve given it credit for. While the logical side of me knows that she loves her Daddy too, somehow, a tiny part of me wondered if she would love me less. Those words look down right ugly in black and white and make me far more vulnerable than I would ever care to admit, but it’s the truth. I’ve been a single mommy for five years and this Christmas is the first time that we’ve ever had to deal with the reality that most single parents face everyday. It’s hard, and depressing and some days I just feel numb. But then I hear her voice on the other end of the phone as she excitedly tells me about her day and know that her knowing that she has both a mommy and a daddy who love her is more valuable than any present I could ever buy. I still have no idea how to make this work but if the last week is any indication, I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll make it through it just fine.

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4 comments

  1. Candy

    This is how I spent my Christmas too! For the first time ever. However, they weren’t that far away & they did stay up to call me & tell me Merry Christmas. I’m thankful for that! It still wasn’t the same as them running in my bedroom to wake me up screaming Merry Christmas & let’s open presents. This was their new baby sister’s first Christmas. It was also MY weekend to have them. I wanted them to share their excitement with their sister, so I put aside my miserableness (is that a word), got me some ice cream & watched LMN. I won’t admit how many times I cried, but I will say that after every time my babies called me (about a dozen) I smiled…..knowing that I had made the right decision!

  2. Steve

    Well I did not spedn my Christmas like this. I have however spent three out of my last four Christmas holidays either deployed (with the US Air Force) or stationed in a remote environment (Greenland). My little girl is almost 4 and even though she is in Louisiana and I never get to talk to her, Iknow she misses me too. It hurts but you just have to go on and hope someday she understands how much I sacrified for her. So stay strong Sarah Fowler and remember it could ALWAYS be worse.

  3. Austin

    This is a brave, honest column this week. First time in reading these that I felt a connection and some real truth in your words. It is a good thing to have both parents, even when they can’t get along with each other. And this will be a Christmas she and her dad will remember and is a great gift for both. Hope to see more articles like this and less dating columns. Much more relateable, even for us guys.

  4. Brittany

    Wow..this truly is a heart wrenching brutally honest story. I can only imagine how you felt the Christmas holidays. I have been married 2 yrs and have a 4 mth old son. I was unhappy about the inlaws being down but after reading your story it put things in perspective for me & I realize things could have been much worse. Hang in there and stay strong…

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