Figuring out first Christmas after parents’ divorce
Published 8:00 am Monday, December 25, 2023
Dear Aunty Pam,
Help! My parents divorced after 30 years of marriage and after my dad traded in my mom for a much younger model. Not only is she younger, she’s very successful and my middle-class dad now lives in a fancy country club.
To be fair, my mom is not the easiest person to be around and has always been sort of a control freak, so I don’t really blame Dad for leaving, but cheating on her was really humiliating for her.
Dad and his new wife want to have me and my siblings over for Christmas Eve because Christmas Day was always spent at his old house—now my Mom’s. I’m fine with that, but my mom blew up at me and my brothers, saying she couldn’t believe we were planning to leave her on her own Christmas Eve while we go to ‘the Country Club’ and “live it up with our dad and that woman.”
When I told her that lots of divorced families split the holidays, she said it wasn’t her idea to get divorced and if we leave her alone on Christmas Eve, don’t bother coming over Christmas Day.
I am so stressed over this that I don’t know what to do. My brother says he’s going to Dad’s on Christmas Eve and my other brother, who lives in Chicago, said he might not come home at all this Christmas. I’m wondering if I should stay home too. Any advice?
Welcome to Dysfunction Junction, home-base for kids of divorced parents everywhere!
Your mom was humiliated, hurt and now in her anger, is waging a war of spite. It’s quite ‘young behavior:’ “You hurt me so I’m going to hurt you!” She says it wasn’t her idea to get divorced but she isn’t recognizing that it wasn’t your idea, either. She’s attempting to punish you for even wanting to see your dad and his, er, ‘woman.’
It’s hard enough to be used as a pawn in a divorce when you’re a little kid. It’s not much easier as an adult. And it’s even harder to have to be the adult when parents are behaving like children. I think I’d have a quick pow-wow with your brothers and find a way to be on the same page to have each other’s back. Then one of you lucky three is going to have to have a heart-to-heart with Mom, making sure this discussion is begun with lots of love and sympathy (and a stiff Bloody Mary) for what she must be feeling and then segue into how difficult it has been for you kids, as you’ve now been put into a place of choosing sides which hurts and is completely unfair.
Hopefully, Mom will swallow her pride and pull on her big girl panties to accept this new dynamic after a routine 30 years of Christmases past. And if she doesn’t, she’s going to be quite lonely on Christmas Day, but that will be the result of a choice she has made.
I’m not going to say ‘Don’t let this ruin your Christmas’ as it’s already in danger. But you can salvage what you can by continuing to be supportive, loving and kind, regardless of what guilt grenades might be tossed your way.