Christmas is coming and the Semi-Detached Parent is getting stressed.
LAST Christmas I spent every teeth-clenched, nails-in-palm moment telling myself that NEXT year the festive period would be FINE; I would no longer be in a state of limbo; my broken relationship would finally have a line drawn under it, and it would be tidings of comfort and joy all round.
This was as my ex and I tried desperately hard to play happy families in what was 'our house' against a backdrop of anger, resentment, burnt potatoes, and various visiting rellies.
Little did I know what the situation would actually be 12 months on...
This year, my clenching-of-teeth and nails-in-palms have begun before we have even opened the first door on our advent calendar - mainly because I have no clue what is going to happen on the two days of the year we spend a month prepping for: Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Days, which the cutesy ads have us believe are full of love and laughter, gentle snow falls, inappropriate jumpers, Delia Smith cake and wall to wall whimsy. Where children skip about in check pyjamas and felted dressing gowns, and adults clink glasses of sherry and bask in an aura of smug.
Oh, if only. And I don't even like sherry.
The fact 90 per cent of my present buying is done and wrapped is probably a sign that I expect things to get even more teeth gritty as the festive period (what is it these days? two days? A week?) draws nearer. My energy levels – usually reserved for Christmas Eve gift wrapping and last minute dashes to Tesco for brandy butter which will be thrown away un-opened the day after Boxing Day – seem to be subconsciously reserving themselves for the battle that is sure to commence over Who Has Access and When.
Now, I know in most cases of separation and divorce there seems to be an agreement that it is either done on a year on year basis – children go to one parent one year, t'other the next, or a Christmas or Boxing Day arrangement with two celebrations for the kids.
But for various reasons, this does not work for us, yet nothing else has been mooted or suggested, so, much like last year, Christmas is once again once a big prickly limbo land affair with neither side actually coming out and saying what they want from it.
All I really want is a magical, special time for my son, and quality family time for all concerned. Why I can't just say this, I don't know. Perhaps I am too busy updating the shared-on-Google-docs spreadsheet present list (another joy of separation...), or trying to arrange childcare for various festive work events, or cloning myself so I can simultaneously be at the school carol concert AND at the other end of the country on a job.
Or perhaps I am hoping Santa is good with telepathy and will instinctively know what I'd like for Christmas; so, a nice time for my son, a laying down of arms, and some stress free family time. And, OK, I'll admit it, a smidgen of fun for myself too. Because I don't think that is too much to ask for, either. It being the season of good will and all that.
How do you manage Christmas as a separated or divorced parent?