Friday, December 31, 2010

Being a “Version 2” Dad

Two days ago I was considering what I had been experiencing with Christmas with my kids. Christmas 2008 was awkward and heart-breaking as my ex and I tried to do Christmas together at “home” and it quickly became the story of how many ways I could be a self-righteous SOB to the ex. Christmas 2009 was spent alone and without money. It was horrible overall, despite my reaching out to the kids by reading the “Christmas story” from Luke to them.

This year, because I had a job, some money, and a car, I was able to plan ahead and get the kids for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We’ve been spending the time in Utah (a halfway place between WA and WY, the circumstances of which shall be covered in a separate post) and I have been gleefully available for every hug and kiss and trying to be a part of every game. I haven’t seen my kids since July and have been staying in contact with them over the phone and, more recently, my daughter and I have been emailing.

Christmas gifting the kids since 2008 has been a different experience to me. For a while I had wanted to simplify and spend less on the kids. We live in a consumer society and I wanted Christmas to be special, a time of peace for the whole family, a time to reach out and “do for others” rather than having the focus on ourselves. But it takes two to make that tango work and I didn't have the support I needed to do it. So, we continued to spend several hundred dollars each Christmas. What really confirmed this feeling for me to spend less was the email my kids’ mother sent last year to me and my parents, telling us what she was getting the kids for Christmas and making available the option to help out with the cost if we wanted to. I was embarrassed to see the total cost outlined for each kid and that it was being made public for all to see how much my then-wife was spending. Everything just seemed wrong.

This year, I wish I could have done more than I have; the kids need and want shoes, Jake threw out his snow gloves because they don't fit anymore, etc.; but the gifting was more purposeful and I am comfortable admitting to anyone how much I spent were they to ask. We did traditional PJs and ornaments, Christmas morning breakfast, and then just spent time together enjoying each other. PEACE, LOVE, MEANING.

Now, assuming we spend the next years flip-flopping who gets the kids for Christmas, that leaves me with only 4 more Christmases with my babies until they are grown. To me it’s devastating because it makes me realize, again, just how much I am missing in a broken marriage. But it also helps narrow my vision to think ahead of time, to do things with purpose and meaning and to make these last 4 “kid” Christmases really special.

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