Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ho. Ho. Bloody Ho.

So that's another Christmas over and done with.  Well, nearly.  And thank God (or Jesus, perhaps?) for that.  There WILL come a time when it is a day I look forward to and truly celebrate again...and not just dread for weeks and then limp through wanly with a drag queen smile plastered on my face.

At least I got to spend most of the day with my boys, for which I guess I should be very grateful.

They went to their dads the night before Christmas Eve.  The arrangement Ex and I have had for the past 2 years (this is our 3rd Christmas since we separated) is that we would always spend Christmas and their birthdays together.  This was a principle that I insisted upon, because I had always hated the fact that as a child, ever since my parents divorced, we were never able to celebrate a single event together as a family.  And I have always wished that was different.  Christmas and birthdays were never the same again with one parent always absent.

How ironic then, that I seem to be the one struggling the most following through with our agreement.  This year I just wanted to run screaming for the hills rather than face a day with Ex, painfully aware of my every move, gesture and word in his presence.  Unable to relax for a single moment and conscious of every forced conversation - trying, oh so hard, to be polite and cheerful and natural.  There felt nothing natural about my performance today.  By the time I left, feeling guilty about leaving the boys before their bedtime, I was emotionally wrought and physically exhausted.

Of course, it didn't help that plans had, unbeknownst to me, changed from those we had agreed upon over the 'phone a week ago.  Ex confirmed he was going to be alone with the boys - and I was to join them.  I enquired about AG's plans, to a non-commital response, so I took a deep breath and suggested she should join us in the afternoon - and then late afternoon I would leave them to it.

I wake up in my friend's beautiful home and spend an hour with her family, the children tearing their way through the piles of presents while the adults sip coffee and take pains to avoid the dreaded video camera.  My friend has bought me luxurious gifts and written a card that almost has me in tears.  Part of me just wants to hole up in their house all day and another part of me is itching to see the boys.

Before 9am I drive to Ex's home and, of course, who is the first voice I hear before the door is open?  It's her.  She's there.  She's woken up with my children on Christmas morning and is seemingly going to be there all day.  As I stand on the threshold to the house (where I can hear my boys leaping over each other to be the first to the door, to let mummy in) I can feel my blood pressure sky rocket and there is practically steam coming out of my ears.  I am instantly livid to the point of turning puce and feel totally ambushed.  What a disrespectful fucker.  Why couldn't he have warned me?  My little two year old self wanted to have an almighty tantrum.  The teenager in me was in a monumental huff.  Luckily my adult self managed to seize control before the door opened and I was able to stuff my bitch face grimace into the waistband of my control top tights (really, there is nothing that can escape those buggers) and plaster a Happy Christmas smile on my face.

Watch out for the Oscar nomination, folks, in January.  I'm telling you, it's definitely on the cards this year.

There were hugs all round, but I couldn't look Ex in the eye.  Far be it from me to confront the issue and effectively 'spoil the day'.  Ex and AG cooked breakfast, while the boys showed me the gifts they had already unwrapped in their stockings.  AG was as pleasant as ever (I really can't find one single person to say a bad word about her - even those that have made it their life's ambition to nitpick the hell out of anybody and everybody - which is just so damned irritating, isn't it?).  I didn't have much of an appetite (actually not true - I pretended not to be hungry purely to be petulant and because this whole sitting around the table, 'breaking bread together' still makes me feel like a bit of a though I am somehow being made a fool of by being so compliant with AG in our lives).

After breakfasts, we opened gifts.  And I guess that is when I started to relax and accept the new version of Christmas v.2010.  Of course, the focus was completely on the boys and they were so overjoyed with everything that they opened, it was easy to be distracted.  AG and I sat near each other, but I still can't bring myself to initiate a conversation directly with her.  There is not a single molecule in my body that can feign any interest whatsoever in her life and adventures with my (soon to be ex) husband.  It's all just a little too close to home.  But her presence does make things a little easier between Ex and I.  A buffer.  I try hard not to scrutinise her too closely and formulate questions in my head, like "WHY does he prefer you, exactly?" and "are you a bit of an animal in bed, because I just can't picture that myself?"  I wonder if she thinks the same about me?  Probably not.  Hence the preference, possibly.

The boys bounce all over me, like over grown puppies, lavishing me with affection and insisting that I help out with their new lego projects.  AG has bought me a book that I wanted and written a thoughtful card, thanking me for letting her be a part of the boys birthdays and Christmas.  I have bought her a bag full of Lush goodies from the boys, which seems to go down well.  It's all very civil, verging on pleasant.

Then, unexpectedly, AG leaves to see her family.  I am relieved - yet it is far more awkward without her around.  The next few hours are strange.  As though we are playing happy families.  I keep laughing and joking with the boys, but inside I feel lost at sea and lonely - in their house, surrounded by pictures of their happy coupledom.  I spot a picture of AG and the boys in their bedroom and it instantly fans the flames of jealousy and resentment.  Am I wrong to feel it's a liberty?  How would he feel if the situation was reversed?  Even after 2 years of separation, it still feels way too soon to accept this other woman's place in the boys lives.  I can't stand seeing the physical evidence of all the things that they do together.  It smarts like a fresh wound all over again.  I just ache to leave - not the boys, but definitely this home where I do not belong.  Where I have no place at all.

Late afternoon, I decide to leave.  The boys are sad and ask me to stay.  They want me to sleep over.  How much do they understand of this situation, I wonder?  Do they see us making an effort to get along and think....maybe?  Maybe if we just nudge the situation a little, our family will be reinstated.  At Christmas.

I feel guilty as I kiss them goodbye.  Their hugs are reluctant and I know I am letting them down by not staying longer.  By not having the strength to see this day out to the bitter end.  I leave, berating myself internally, and struggling not to cry as I drive away in the snow.  It's just another day and I have done the best that I could.  But, yet again, I don't think it's been good enough.

It's just not how Christmas should be - but it will be the last one of its kind.  That's the intention.


  1. I just spent ages writing a long comment only for Blogger to eat it up and spit it out. Here's a precis of it:

    You're still in once piece, this is good. You are in charge now, this is also good. We had our first Christmas at home, just the three of us, it was different but lovely. Different can be good too. Good luck, take care x

  2. Well, my comment disappeared too. How strange. Anyway, yes that was a complete liberty, but like you say, it'll be the last like that.

    Safe travels sweetie. I'll miss you.

  3. I think you are actually dealing with this A LOT better than you give yourself credit for. It's inherently a difficult and tense situation, and you can't avoid that. You navigate through, you think of the boys and their feelings, you cope. That is probably all you can hope for at this point.

    It would be kind of weird if you didn't mind at all, or if it was all plain sailing.

    Today is the 27th, and I think you are leaving Chicago. I wonder if you are at home, at the airport, in the air, or even at Heathrow already (if Heathrow is open, that is). I'm sending out thoughts and prayers for you as I leave this comment. If you feel a little turbulence half way across the Atlantic, maybe that's my positive vibes reaching you.

  4. Best wishes to you as you embark on your next phase!

    I, too, insisted on joint holidays and birthdays with the ex, and now struggle mightily with it. (My ex brought a girlfriend to my son's 5th birthday, at my house, without informing me first, and she stayed on with him for nearly an hour after everyone else was gone - inexplicable, rude. Oh well. Unlike you, I found plenty not to like in the lady! I don't think that makes it easier.) I breathe a huge sigh of relief now, after holidays and birthdays are done for another year. And that makes me sad.

    But with every year (this is my third Xmas, too), we forge new traditions and build the memories that our kids will cherish. In the midst of a Christmas Eve moment when I was feeling particularly sad and alone, my 7-year-old daughter looked at me and said, "This might be the best Christmas ever!" Turned out that all it took was a mug of hot chocolate after stocking-hanging to inspire such joy.

    So easy to feel inadequate. But maybe all they really want and need is the love that comes through us, no matter what. That's my prayer, anyway.


  5. Wow.....that is amazing that you did it! Give yourself a lot of credit because there aren't many that would I don't think. So hard, I really admire you and my stomach churned at the thought of you facing her as she opened the door and then saying goodbye to the boys later. x

  6. You did well to get through the day at all. I don't think I could have, even for my kids. On the plus side, your ex and AG probably enjoyed the situation about as much as you did!

  7. wow, what a tough day. Sounds like you did marvelously and the boys had a great time.

  8. I love dignified women. Not only did you conduct yourself impeccably but you were also incredibly witty about it. "I was able to stuff my bitch face grimace into the waistband of my control top tights". Superb.

  9. I think you did brillaintly and I hoe that you can give you self credit for it too! You are wonderful .
    I have an Award over at my place for you just to prove it!

  10. Gosh, you write about it so brilliantly, I hope that in itself was cathartic. A hideous situation. Divorced Christmas is the WORST thing ever. But I am very much looking forward to your Oscar acceptance speech!