‘Twas eight days before Christmas… and I was at our weekly marketing meeting when one of my team members told us she had just watched “A Christmas Story.” If you aren’t familiar with this film or, like me, haven’t seen it in years, it’s about a 9-year-old boy named Ralphie, who thinks the perfect Christmas will be receiving a Red Ryder BB gun.
The movie, narrated by the adult Ralph, really encapsulates the silliness that can go on around the holidays and how far kids will go to get what they want for Christmas. It’s a theme that always rang true for me. Except without anyone’s tongue getting stuck to a pole following a triple-dog-dare. Mind you, we did have our share of shaking my head moments here over the years, though, thankfully, this wasn’t one of them.
In all seriousness, what I’m even more thankful for is that my kids got most of what they wanted for Christmas from my ex and me. The same went for my second husband’s kids. And it wasn’t because we went on a shopping spree to fill their wishlist to Santa. What we gave them didn’t cost a dime. And that was the gift of choice.
We gave our children what they wanted for Christmas by letting them pick what they wanted to do for Christmas themselves, a tradition we started in 2011. It was the same year we got married and blended our family — my four and my husband’s two, to make a grand total of six, who range in age from 29 to 18 today.
It’s a tradition we cherish almost a decade later because it takes all the pressure off of the “divorce Christmas” you hear about so often. You know, the Christmas where ex’s fight over who gets the kids Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, who’s giving what to whom, and who’s feelings are invariably hurt. Thanks, but no thanks.
Here’s how it started. That first Christmas, my husband’s daughter was a freshman in college and scheduled to fly home from school for a visit. Her mom lives nearby, so, to make sure everyone got to “share” her, my husband reached out to his ex to see what everyone wanted to do, with the most important person weighing in with an opinion being my husband’s daughter herself. His ex was on board with the “let the kids choose” approach, and the three of them worked out a schedule that made everyone happy.
At the same time, my kids were supposed to fly out to Minnesota to see their dad. My ex, too, got it; he didn’t put any pressure on our kids to be there on a set day at a set time for Christmas. Or at all. Whoever wanted to come could, whoever didn’t, could visit another time.
As it turned out, one of my sons had a few friends from back home come to visit here in Seattle, adding to the mix of comings and goings that year. It’s what he wanted to do, and because of that, the house was happy and harmonious. All of our homes were, though not all of them quiet.
Typically (in non-COVID times), on Christmas Eve, my husband and I host a big dinner for our big blended family. Then we host another big meal the next day. Whoever wants to come to either is welcome. Whenever the kids want to exchange presents, we do. There’s a lot of cooking and baking (including our messy tradition of baking New Orlean’s style beignets which no one wants to miss eating), and lots of laughs. The result is everyone comes and goes feeling good.
There are no rules. No demands. No traditions. Not for Christmas. And it’s the most precious gift we could ever hope to exchange with our kids — the best of us for the best of them.
Wishing you and the ones you love a safe, happy, healthy, and Merry Christmas.