You know that radio show hosted by Delilah, where folks call in and request a special song for someone in a particularly heart rendering circumstance? I was wondering if you could be a Chump Delilah and let me request a special column for all the Chump Parents who are struggling with double-decker shit sandwiches now that the holidays are here?
Please write one for the Chumps whose kids are excitedly anticipating events with the cheater. Or extolling the virtues of the cheater’s tree/presents/cooking. Or can’t be reached while visiting the now missing half of their former family. Who feel replaced, out-classed, or silenced in their rage and fear. Write a column that reframes that narrative, and gives them an extra slice of super-mighty with a cherry on top.
Deepest regards to you and all Chumpdom,
Oh dear, that’s a tall order, but I’ll try. This one goes out to YOU! And all you newly minted chumps trying to navigate the holiday season.
You know how I say over and over again here that the pain is FINITE? Well, the holidays are finite too. All this crappola ends in a couple of weeks, so hang in there.
Kids excitedly anticipate Christmas, NMN. That’s a given. You don’t have to always read it as the kids are excitedly anticipating events with the cheater. They’re anticipating going to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, or going to Grandma’s and getting stuffed with cookies, or seeing their cousin who has the latest Xbox. Sure they love their parent, but the cheater parent is simply the gateway to Fun Stuff.
From the chump’s perspective, I get that there is a feeling of How Dare THEY! How DARE they get to make precious memories with our children After They Broke Up Their Family! Well they do. They get that right. I’m sorry. It sucks.
Try not to feel excluded because you get to make your own traditions with your kids too. Those are every bit as meaningful (or more) than a trip to Toys R Us with Uncle Daddy and his Guilt. This is your chance to bust out of the holiday rut and do the things that please you without dragging around the miserable carcass of a remorseless cheater. Just think how much jollier your holiday is without wondering where their cellphones are, or if they’ll be disappearing inconveniently for a few days/hours/weeks on a fuckfest somewhere.
You watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” too many times and it’s easy to romanticize family togetherness and bonhomie. You long for what you don’t have or thought you had. Oh, my ex is somewhere with my children having a Fabulous Holiday. They’re all wearing matching snowflake sweaters, and sipping eggnog, and breaking into choruses of “Silent Night” in perfect four-part harmonies. While (sob!) I sit alone. Unloved. Unmourned.
It’s just human nature to romanticize what we miss. I live in Texas. I absolutely abhor 70 degree December. I loathe a holiday season in which I have to wear short sleeves. (I’m over 40. It’s never a good look.) Every day I want to yell at the entire state “YOU’RE DOING CHRISTMAS ALL WRONG!” “In a Bleak Midwinter” comes on the Musak rotation in the department store and I think “You have NO FUCKING CLUE what BLEAK MIDWINTER IS.”
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
NO Texas! YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS HYMN. You don’t know from snow on snow! You SUCK. Stop singing things you know NOTHING ABOUT!
Because I miss snow. I look at all my friends Facebook pages of their snowy winters and their Christmases that look like Christmas is supposed to look and I’m jealous. I romanticize snow.
Fact is, my cousin in Petoskey is probably pouring boiling water on her car locks now. After she shoveled her driveway for 45 minutes in the face of a gale-force wind whipping off Lake Michigan. Everyone is probably dreading driving on the holidays and drearily watching the weather reports. Ever spent 6 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in freezing rain? I have.
Okay… there is a certain suckitude to snow.
But it’s what I know. Wah!
There is a certain suckitude to spending the holidays with your cheater and their family. But it’s what you know. So, of course you’re going to miss it, and any new tradition (or climate) isn’t going to feel quite right for awhile. (Okay, let’s face it. 70 degree Christmas is NEVER going to feel right. It’s an abomination.)
Stop worrying that the kids won’t see how much the cheater sucks. That’s their relationship to work out. If they have a good holiday with the cheater and their family, well, good for them. Doesn’t mean you have to hear about it. Deflect when the conversation goes there.
But they’ll think the OW/OM is a good person!
Children are gullible, NMN. I remember when I was about 5 years old, I used to collect frogs that I scooped up out of window wells. I’d keep them in a cardboard box for a day or so. But an older boy once told me that if I kept those frogs, they would grow and grow and get so big they’d step on my house and crush it…. And I BELIEVED HIM.
Small children are dim-witted. They’ll believe most any fool thing anyone tells them. Sweeten the deal with some toys and sugar? Okay!
But eventually you grow up and realize… hey! I’ve never seen one of these two-story frogs! That was… a LIE.
Your kids will figure out the lies too.
But meanwhile, you’re there doing your job being the sane parent. So keep on keeping on. Make your holidays bright for YOU and forget what the Cheaterpants clan is up to. If they fail to inform you of their whereabouts? That’s enforceable shit with a court order. You document that. Give your kids cellphones, and insist that the cheater let you know where the kids are over the holidays. They don’t do that? Then you don’t agree to visitation. If he won’t abide by the order (document it) by being reasonable, he can see you in court, asshole. You don’t have to accommodate cheaters Just Because. You have to abide by your custody agreement. Period.
No one replaces you, no one outclasses you. You’re the Mighty Parent! Go start a new holiday tradition of mightiness!
(As for me, I’m wearing long-sleeves and humming “In the Bleak Midwinter.”)