Your Normal Isn't My Normal & That's Okay

November 2019

I’m a Christmas person. I love everything there is about Christmas. I love the decorations. I love the festivities. I love the finding gifts for those I love – that perfect little gift that is just for them.

Last year, I was still a little on edge at Christmas. Last year I was worried about being normal and conforming, despite the circumstances. Last Christmas was the first Christmas since I’d walked out with the kids. I wanted it to be a better Christmas than all the others before it, but I was confused about whether it should be one with or without my ex. I wanted it to be as normal as possible for the kids but I also knew that our “normal” celebrations at home, in that old life, weren’t that happy.

The lead up to any birthday or Christmas for the kids meant that they had to go through their toys and get rid of more than a few. That never seemed to be negotiable, and whilst the idea of getting rid of things to make room for more things, made sense at the time, looking back on it now, it wasn’t very nice. It was manipulative and it was another way to retain control, because if the kids didn’t choose the “right” things to get rid of, they were either taken away and thrown out anyway, or literally thrown or man-handled until they were broken and had to be thrown out. Of course, the “right” toy was only ever determined by him and seemed to consist of a toy that created an abundance of happiness and joy in that child, and where that child spent a lot of time playing with it… and having attention directed at anything but my ex, seemed to be problematic. So yeah, the lead up to celebrations weren’t happy like they should be.

Anyway, last year, I remember being told (by family, friends, counsellors, and everyone else who meant well) how important it was for the children to be able to spend Christmas with both their parents, even if it didn’t happen in one event, or to choose a neutral location for everyone to come together and celebrate. That thought in and of itself, had me stressed and worried, but I still made the effort and reached out to my ex, making several suggestions of what we could do over the holiday season. But I never got a reply to any of those suggestions.

I remember asking the kids about how they wanted to spend Christmas, and they replied by asking if we, just the four of us, could just spend Christmas at home with no one else and if I could make one of my special Christmas buffet lunches for them. I asked them about their thoughts on their father joining us, and they replied with a flat no, and followed it up with a long list of reasons why, without any prompting from me. It all made me sad and stressed, but I plastered on a smile and just kept going. I made plans for a Christmas of “just us” and had many contingency plans in place in my head, just in case.

I remember going to church with the kids on Christmas Eve. I remember looking at all the other families there who looked so much more complete than my own, because there were two parents there and, in some cases, aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents too. I remember being asked by the other parents about how we were going to spend Christmas and how I felt I needed to justify and explain why it was just us, and how guilty I felt every time someone probed me about why my ex wouldn’t be with us (and why he wasn’t at church with us). But the fact was, even on Christmas Eve, he still didn’t reply to any one of my texts or messages about how he could spend Christmas with the children.

This year it’s different. This year, I’m in complete control and I’m going to do what’s right for me and the children, and damn what anyone else thinks.

This year, I’m not forcing anyone to throw out their toys to make way for the new. This year, I’m not stressed about Christmas. This year, I’m embracing all the beauty that surrounds the holiday season and allowing myself to be in love with the season. This year, I’m doing it my way.

This year, I’ve already written and addressed all my Christmas cards. The ones for my family and friends overseas, have already been sent. I’ve already taken the time to buy all the presents for those I love. They’re all wrapped and sitting in a corner of the lounge room, waiting for the new Christmas tree I’ve just ordered, to arrive. The Santa photos are already booked and the gifts from Santa have been purchased. I haven’t put up the Christmas decorations but I’m sure that will happen sometime this week. I have a special Christmas meal planned and I know what we’ll be doing on and around Christmas day. And I know it’ll just be the four of us and that there’s no need for any contingency plan.

This year, I won’t be embarrassed or self-conscious about what other people think. This year I’m making sure that we do what feels good for us; And I know that doing what is right and best for us, is what will make it “our” normal.

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