How was your Chrissie?
Mine was a whirl: happy, sad, hectic, exhausting and exhilarating in equal turns.
My ex’s family has gathered at a massive house south of Nowra for 10 days of festive bonding.
The youngest is in heaven – despite having a virus – hanging out with her cousins.
They spend their days eating their uncle’s amazing food (he tried out for Masterchef one year), singing karaoke, jumping on the trampoline and swimming in the pool.
When I walked in around lunchtime on Monday, the youngest barely registered my arrival.
Later in the afternoon, I headed to the spa with my sisters in law to drink sparkling shiraz and talk up a storm. Always one of my favourite biannual festive moments.
One of my least favourite moments was sharing a bedroom with two over-excited 12 year olds, who’d been talked down from a 5.30am Christmas morning Santa sack opening to 8am.
My joy wasn’t enhanced by the youngest accidentally setting her alarm for midnight. And since 12 year olds sleep like the dead, the only person it woke was me. After about the 12th ring I finally yelled loudly enough that she roused and turned it off. Well, I thought she did … until it started beeping again 10 minutes later … turned out she’d hit the snooze button … and again she didn’t wake up.
So I ferreted it out from under her covers and switched the damn thing off. Unfortunately, I had no idea where my niece had hidden her phone, so it pinged its way through the night with festive messages and updates.
I was feeling a teensy bit surly when the youngest squealed to me at 6.30am wanting to know whether it was time to get up yet …
The next few hours were filled with an orgy of gifts. My favourite was a recycled artwork from the eldest. The eldest loves trawling council throw out piles for items that can be repurposed. I fell in love with this Vietnamese painting that’s been updated to include a ghost dinosaur … sooooooo cool!
I ducked off from my ex’s family Christmas before pudding because I’d promised to spend Christmas night with my parents and sister’s family in Sydney.
I had a bit of a weep as I drove out the gates and into Nowra. I felt a bit betwixt and between. His family were my family for 24 years, so we’ve been through a lot together. But that’s possibly the last time I’ll be together with all of them under one roof. I felt I hadn’t stayed long enough and made the most of the moment, yet my own family were waiting for me.
There were a lot of complex emotions coursing through me on the drive home.
Back in Sydney, we gathered around my sister’s outdoor table: my mum and dad, my sister and her husband, my nephew, my sister’s ex husband, his wife and their toddler son.
There was much love and laughter around that table, as my sister has managed to do the family mash-up thing even better than me. I think it’s wonderful that we’ve both maintained good relationships with our ex-husbands.
My sister also spent Christmas Eve with her ex’s new family, which has been great for her son, as it means he gets to be with both her and his adorable half-brother.
I’m not sure why my sister and I are so zen about navigating the post-marriage journey when others find it so unspeakably difficult. It makes it easier that are exes are gentle, reasonable men who are prepared to meet us halfway.
We’ve chosen the path that makes it easiest for our kids, despite it being bloody hard for the adults at times.
And we’re not the only ones. A journo friend of mine, Kelly Baker, wrote an article about spending Christmas with her ex-husband, called “How I learned to enjoy Christmas with my ex-husband”.
She noted how hard it was at first: “I was convinced it was important for our babies to see that you could break up and still love one another. (I hated him, by the way, but I figured they were too little to pick it if I faked it hard enough, and oh boy, did I fake it).
“You know what happened? Gradually, the pain eased and we genuinely grew to enjoy one another.”
And now they spend every Christmas together.
“While it was painful at first, it’s warm and loving now. All four of us enjoy one another and it’s Christmas, FFS! There’s laughter and love and I feel genuinely very proud that I am showing our boys that you can not be together and yet still share love and kindness.”
She concludes: “Is he my husband any more? No. Is he still the father of my children? Absolutely. And do I feel it’s important to welcome him into my life? Yes, a million times over.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I also know it’s not for everyone. Sometimes the pain and grief and fall-out from divorce is too overwhelming.
But, fortunately, we’ve found a way through.
It’s pretty quiet at my place now, with no kids until January 2 and my office closed until January 7.
There’s just the dogs barking at possums and birds … and me yelling at them for barking at possums and birds … be grateful I’m not your neighbour.
Song of the day: Noel Gallagher “All You Need Is Love”