A Modern Family ChristmasChristine Coppa
I don’t have to split the holidays with my son’s father because he chooses not to be involved. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my own unique family dynamic going on, nonetheless. Let me tell you a little something about my-a fama-ly …
My parents got divorced after 30 years of marriage. Yeah.
My brothers and I weren’t thrilled, but we were also adults with an understanding that relationships don’t always work out and people grow apart—and if you’re not happy you should move on. That people cheat. And it sucks.
My parents’ split was miraculously amicable. The past few years, you wouldn’t even know they were divorced. They remained civil and friendly.
My father has a girlfriend. My mother does not have a boyfriend and despite my pleas to start dating … she won’t.
But the divorce did cause some hurt feelings all around. Let’s be real, we all feel pain.
Mostly my brothers and I felt bad for my mom, who showed marked sadness, depression and anxiety over the fact that her ex-husband, the father of her children, Poppy to her grandson, had swiftly moved on. Personally, I know this pain. I knew it with an infant in my stomach, then in my arms. But as I explained to my mom, she is a lucky one. My dad cares deeply for her and his children and JD. He did not walk away from anyone. He calls me 4x a day. He texts me at 7 AM: “It’s cold out. Put an undershirt on JD.” Oy!
My brothers and I felt the tug of war, however. Holidays became divided. I spent Christmas Eve with my dad last year and Christmas Day with my mom. The only event that seems to bring everyone together without conflict is JD’s birthday. On that day, everyone smiles, eats cake, and sings. This is, in part, because I set the rules: “Be happy and normal or don’t come.”
I became friendly with my dad’s girlfriend. We had things in common. I liked her … now love her. She is good to my son. JD has sleepovers with her and my dad. I slowly broached this topic with my mom. At first she didn’t want to hear a thing. But, soon she realized that JD was the reason to change her attitude. “You realize we’re his family? We’re his insane, loud Italian family. He needs us, mom,” I pleaded. “He looks to us for … everything.”
The more JD would ask about his father, the more my mom and entire family realized we needed to come together and show JD that modern families are in fact OK. That conflict can be resolved. That families grow and change all the time. This is our stance and belief.
We all started hanging out together. We spent weekends at the beach this summer. My mom and dad’s girlfriend became friends. Real friends, not “smile for the baby and eat a piece of cake” friends.
This Christmas my entire family gathered at my dad and his girlfriend’s home. It was as normal and natural as could be. I bounded through the door with presents and champagne. It was the nicest holiday I had in years, because everyone I loved most in this world was there. In addition, my father is ill. So I truly value our time together.
As JD said between bites of filet mignon in his squeaky little voice: “I have my two grandmas, my Poppy, my three uncles (my mom’s brother was in town from Florida) and my mommy … all together on this nice day. And I have MJ, too!” (JD gave Max a middle name: John. He calls him MJ now. Max is a confused dog.)
Sometimes you have to put the BS aside. You have to wake up. You have to realize life isn’t a dress rehearsal and there’s far worse things in this world than divorce, or simply breaking bread, with your family and the people who have joined your family, and meaning it. The adults can and should set the example for the child(ren). My mom and dad’s girlfriend sat next to each other in tops, I must say, that were strangely color-coordinated at the massive dining room table. The seating wasn’t assigned. We’re just a bunch of people that prevail. The family that eats together, stays together.
I encourage you to share this blog with anyone you know who might be traveling on the VERY grey road of blending a family together.
It’s completely doable. My crazy fam is proof.
Please share your mod fam stories. I appreciate all comments that pertain to this content. xo
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