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Santa Comes a Day Early Every Other Year: Scenes from a Christmas After Divorce

christmas after divorce, race for the best toy, parents competing at christmas

My daughter and her new friend Cecile on Christmas Eve morning.

“Ask your Dad if he thinks Santa is going to come to his house on Christmas, or just Grandma’s house.” It’s my ex’s year to have our daughter on Christmas, and I wanted to be sure she’d have presents to open Christmas morning. My ex is Dutch, you see, and celebrates Sinterklaas early in December. (Sinterklaas is a figure like Santa Claus, if Santa Claus traveled with 6 to 8 black men and didn’t know when Jesus’ birthday is.)

Knowing my ex, I didn’t think he’d bother getting our 6-year-old any additional Christmas presents, especially because he’d already blown his Sinterklaas wad on the American Girl doll I told him our daughter wanted. (In standard “divorced parents who don’t communicate well” fashion, he didn’t mention to me that he actually went ahead and bought the doll. I only found out when I called to see what Sinterklaas brought. Then I was told that Rebecca Rubin is not allowed to leave his house. Another Dutch guy holding a Jewish girl in his attic. Typical.)

“My Dad says he thinks Santa is coming to his house, too!,” my daughter told me, resting the phone on her shoulder for a sec. “Whew,” I thought. Thank God. I called my mother later and said, “Santa is coming to both houses this year.”

“Good,” she said. “But I don’t like the fact that that doll can’t leave his house. I think maybe Santa ought to bring one here, too.”

“Oh boy,” I said. “If that’s what you want to do.”

My daughter hasn’t questioned the Santa myth at all, which might be because we don’t talk about it too much. I’ve never wanted to stress the details with her about Santa climbing down the chimney on Christmas Eve and all that, because:

1) our apartment doesn’t have a chimney.

2) Santa somehow knows to come to Grandma’s house, not ours.

3) when you’re divorced, Santa comes a day early every other year.

My daughter thinks Santa’s first stop on his trip around the world December 24 was Grandma’s house, then all of the homes of the other divorced people. I guess that’s why she didn’t question the fact that Santa showed up at her dad’s during the day on Christmas Eve so she could open her presents that night. (So much for having presents to open Christmas morning…)

But my daughter was more than thrilled with the loot she got, because Santa brought her the few things she really wanted (see below) and the rest of us got her the few things she needed. (Pajamas, socks and underwear are such underrated gifts. I’d still love to get those!) I’m okay with the fact that my mom engaged in the ugly competition to buy the best Christmas gift, because why not, right? I started a dialogue with my ex about the gifts my daughter wanted, and he took the information and ran with it without ever responding. They say all’s fair in love and war, and divorce is where the two meet. As long as my daughter isn’t overindulged (she isn’t) and she doesn’t feel that her parents are competing for her affection (she doesn’t, since neither of us buys much of anything “extra”), one self-satisfied purchase isn’t going ruin everything. Right, Santa?

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  • Santa came! 1 of 15
    Santa came!
    I love my mom's little Charlie Brown tree, and seeing all the packages wrapped nicely underneath. We're not huge Christmas present people: the kids (there are only 2) get a handful each and the adults get one apiece. But it just looks so pretty and festive.
  • Barbie! 2 of 15
    Barbie!
    My daughter loves Barbie - and all things pink and purple - even though I expected her to be more like the little girl who recently railed against color-coordinated, gender-specific toy displays. (My kid likes "boy stuff" too, she's just not as convinced that boys like girl stuff.)
  • My beautiful niece. 3 of 15
    My beautiful niece.
    How quickly they grow! I remember holding my niece when she was born and now she's 14. Hard to believe! Here she is with the card my daughter made her. Instead of giving traditional Christmas cards, this year I scanned a drawing my daughter made and had them printed. You can order some too if you like, at Cafe Press. They look great!
  • The American Girl wheelchair! 4 of 15
    The American Girl wheelchair!
    "And it's my favorite color, too!" Because everyone has a favorite wheelchair color. This is honestly the only thing my daughter really wanted. What can I say? She's a kind soul.
  • What’s inside this one? 5 of 15
    What's inside this one?
    Books. From Mom. She actually stopped opening gifts to start reading. Ha.
  • Breakfast! 6 of 15
    Breakfast!
    After unwrapping presents, the hungry children climbed up to the table for a delicious (and maybe not-so-nutritious) breakfast. I know this picture is a little blurry, but I had to post it because MY DAUGHTER IS USING A NAPKIN TO WIPE HER FACE! OMG! #parentingwin #it'sprobablyonlybecausehersleevesweretooshort #buythreequarterlengthifyouwantakidwithmanners
  • French Toast Casserole 7 of 15
    French Toast Casserole
    My niece and my mother concocted this breakfast delight. It tasted as good as it looks.
  • The Aftermath 8 of 15
    The Aftermath
    My favorite part! Hope you recycled all of your wrapping paper! (My sister reuses half of it, cuz she's a little old lady. It's good, tho.)
  • Matching Nightgowns 9 of 15
    Matching Nightgowns
    And matching poses. Ha. Thank you, Santa!
  • Little Miss Matched 10 of 15
    Little Miss Matched
    Fingerless arm warmers from Grandma. Amazing. (The dress is from last year. Just goes to show you can always spice an old piece up with a new accessory!)
  • Me by the tree Christmas Eve… 11 of 15
    Me by the tree Christmas Eve...
    Yes, my kid and I have the same haircut. p.s. - Dear Santa, please bring me one of those low-light cameras Ashton Kutcher keeps bragging about. My camera is soooo old...
  • The table on Christmas Day! 12 of 15
    The table on Christmas Day!
    My daughter left at noon on Christmas Eve, and I wasn't sure if I'd be depressed for the rest of the weekend or not. Thank God my mother is such an amazing hostess and cook - it was pretty easy to get swept up in the wine-soaked conversation with the rest of the fam.
  • Roast beast with broccoli, Christmas potatoes, fruit salad and shrimp cups. 13 of 15
    Roast beast with broccoli, Christmas potatoes, fruit salad and shrimp cups.
    My mother loves the Grinchy meat reference here, and she insists that what were once known as "Mexican cheesy potatoes" now be called Christmas potatoes. You can find the potato recipe here on Food.com. I don't know how my brother made the shrimp cups, but they had some kind of amazing blue cheese in them and they were to die for. I could have eaten them all day. The fruit balanced everything out perfectly, and made me feel less guilty about the desserts...
  • Thank you for being a friend. 14 of 15
    Thank you for being a friend.
    My brother, ladies and gentlemen. He's a baker and a hedonist. (Or a Buddhist, which he seems to think is the same thing. See bit about wine-soaked conversation two slides back.)
  • My sister and me… 15 of 15
    My sister and me...
    ...just two tired but happy moms without makeup, making my mother's fireplace look even more beautiful. We're both single mothers (like most diseases, it runs in the family!), and I'm so happy we have each other. Even though we live far apart, every one of youse is forever in my heart. (Fart.)

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