Since I had my first child 14 years ago, we’ve spent every Christmas morning together as a family – sharing breakfast and opening gifts.
The tradition didn’t change four years ago when my ex and I separated. We resolved to put our kids first and our broken marriage second.
I’ve never regretted that decision, no matter how hard it has been sometimes to hold back tears.
We briefly considered ditching our festive ritual this year, but we still give joint gifts to the kids, so it seemed wrong for their dad to miss out on seeing their joy when they opened them. He’ll arrive at 9am and spend an hour or so with us before we head to my sister’s place for Christmas lunch.
My kids are the lucky ones … and so are my ex and I.
I know far too many people – both male and female – who’ve almost been destroyed by bitter exes who’ve alienated their children from them. Christmas is a pretty heartbreaking time for them.
A dear friend who hasn’t seen her young son for three years posted a meme about “alienators” a few months ago:
How do they look at their kids and think “I did the right thing”?
My former colleague Corinne Barraclough wrote a story about estranged dads last week, noting: “Loving fathers, good men, won’t be opening presents with their kids around the twinkling Christmas tree, through no fault of their own. They won’t be eating yummy treats, watching movies, singing carols or playing fun games together. And their kids miss out on creating those memories too.”
She added: “It could happen to any parent after a bitter breakup. This is the Kris Kringle of everyday separation. What you get comes down to luck — or lack of. Who knows?”
In an online support group last week one person wrote: “We lost another good dad this week. I won’t name him here and I won’t point fingers, but I am tired of being quiet about this issue. I have met way too many people lately that are grieving the loss of their living children, for no good reason, other than the fact the other parent can’t or won’t co-operate.”
“Grieving the loss of their living children,” Corinne repeats. “Sit with those words for a moment. How heartbreaking.”
“I will buy my kids presents, as I do every Christmas and birthday. I will wrap them and put them in the cupboard. I am not allowed to send them gifts. One day I hope to be able to watch their little faces as they open them,” says one alienated father.
So tragic and so unnecessary in situations created through pure animosity on the part of one parent rather than any genuine concern for the welfare of their children.
And then there’s financial misery.
A Family Court judge recently delivered a blistering judgment on the “culture of bitter, adversarial and highly aggressive family law litigation” in Sydney.
Justice Robert Benjamin says “the consequences of obscenely high legal costs are destructive of the emotional, social and financial wellbeing of the parties and their children. It must stop”.
He sees constant examples, but finally spoke out after one woman and her ex-husband accrued more than $860,000 in legal fees.
“The children of these parties depend upon the income and assets of their parents to support them,” he said. “Yet, in this case, the costs of the proceedings have taken a terrible toll on the wealth of the parties and consequently their ability to support and provide for their children.”
I will never understand people who keep that flame of hate and anger burning so brightly for years after their marriage ends.
There’s a line in the song of the day that sums it up for me: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Peace, love and forgiveness are a far better things to fill your heart with at Christmas.