10 Reasons Why Summer Can’t Get Here Fast Enough

summer

Autumn and winter are a beautiful time of the year. From the beautiful snow to the festive cold weather holidays, it’s hard not to love the cooler months. However, it doesn’t take long for the average person to get sick … Continue reading

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Did You Know? Thanksgiving Trivia!

thanksgiving-quiz

By Sean Carter What comes to your mind when you think of Thanksgiving? The big fat golden-brown turkey? Grandma’s pumpkin pie? Or the oh-so-nice cranberries and corn-on-the-cob? Well well, all these ARE a major part of the Thanksgiving holiday. But … Continue reading

25 Thanksgiving Quotations

moochicken

By Danielle Hollister “It is therefore recommended … to set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their … Continue reading

Sean Carter Presents: Thanksgiving History and Origin

first-thanksgiving

By Sean Carter One of the biggest and warmest holidays of the United States, Thanksgiving has its history and origin way back in centuries. There are various instances of thanksgiving observances in history, all of which bear resemblance to the … Continue reading

Screw The Turkey and Make These Seafood Thanksgiving Dishes

spinach,-crab-artichoke-mini-tarts

One of the great things about being in your own home for the holidays is the freedom to host your own Thanksgiving meal, instead of graciously adhering to someone else’s schedule and choices. You’re able to start a tradition that … Continue reading

Top Story: 10 Gifts for the Female Fitness Nut in Your Life

fitness

Maybe it’s your sister, best friend, coworker, or daughter, but chances are, you have a female fitness nut in your life. So what do you get for the girl who has everything (even those 6-pack abs)? Here are 10 ideas … Continue reading

5 Reasons Not To Wait Until Black Friday To Start Your Christmas Shopping

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It happens every year. You’ve been walking past Christmas decorations in stores since August and even late July. But then before you realize it, November sneaks up on you. You are unprepared for Christmas, and now you get to join … Continue reading

How to Shop for the Holidays on a Budget

family-budget

The holidays are fast approaching and with each day, budgets and wallets begin their yearly shriek of dismay. Shopping for so many people can quickly add up and though it may seem easy to stick everything on “plastic,” the repercussions … Continue reading

4 Things To Do With Leftover Turkey

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Image by: Andrea Goh There’s no doubt about it, at every family celebration we always overestimate the amount of food we need. Whether it’s after Thanksgiving or Christmas, there are plates of potatoes, various vegetables, pies, puddings, and of course, … Continue reading

Winter Blunderland

SOLO PARENTING

The Ghost of Christmases Past

 

“Remember last Christmas, when Daddy…?”

When Daddy was still here. When Daddy was still alive or when Daddy was still living with you, whichever the case may be. When Daddy took the kids sledding, or when Daddy reached up to place the tree-topper without needing a stepladder, or when Daddy fought all day to assemble the presents the kids had gotten that admitted “Some assembly required.” Some?!

Is that the kind of reminiscing that’s going on in your house?

Or maybe it wasn’t just last year that Daddy did whatever you’re remembering over Christmas. Maybe he’s been gone—divorced or dead—two years or more already.

The question here is: Is that kind of reminiscing a healthy thing to do? And the answer is, Yes and No.

No if the kids are having a happy holiday season and you drag them down by reminiscing and introducing a sad subject.

Yes if the kids bring it up themselves…and don’t dwell endlessly on it.

No if Dad is divorced from you, and the subject is raised in bitterness.

Yes if Dad is dead rather than divorced.

Life goes on…but the past isn’t always the past

It’s important to live for today and for tomorrow, but we can’t help reminiscing about yesterday. It just isn’t healthy to live in the past—remembering fondly is one thing; being dragged down by memories is something else. If your kids’ father is alive but no longer living with them and you, honor and respect their sadness but don’t encourage their dwelling endlessly on the past. It’s not going to change anything, even though they may wish for a reconciliation and his return to the household. Refocus their thoughts on the fun you’re going to have this year.

If their father is deceased, totally gone from their lives, that’s a fact they have to accept, unlike the case of a divorce, where hope for a return may spring eternal despite your insistence that it’s not going to happen. In the case of a death, some dwelling on the past is less damaging as it’s not going to lead to their being filled with false hopes for a return.

The past lives on in our memories and helps form who we are. You do not want to erase your children’s good memories of their dad, even if he was a lying, cheating, no-good husband. Those good memories are an important part of their childhood. No matter what bitterness you may harbor toward your ex, he was still their father. On the other hand, you also want to encourage them to look ahead.

New traditions

One way to accomplish this—regardless of whether their father is gone by virtue of death or divorce—is by instituting new traditions. Don’t try to start 10 new traditions in one year. That’s overload. One or two or three are workable numbers. You can always add another new tradition next year, if you want. These can be big traditions or small and can center around the actual day of Christmas itself or the holiday season in general.

If your imagination fails you and you can’t think of a Christmas season tradition to institute, perhaps you could borrow a tradition from my book Family Traditions, Customs, and Celebrations. Though the original hardbound edition is out of print, it has been re-released as an e-book and is available on the web from Secret Cravings Publishing or from Amazon.com.

Give your children something to enjoy now and remember fondly in the future concerning the holiday season, something that doesn’t involve their father.

Missing your ex

The truth is, especially if you were not the one who asked for the divorce but even if the divorce was your idea, you may be looking back fondly too. That’s normal. It does not mean you made a mistake by divorcing him, or you are weak-willed, or anything like that. Surely the marriage was not all bad. There must have been some good times too. And it is natural to remember them fondly. If he had been a totally unremitting S.O.B. you never would have married him in the first place.

The point, though, is not to wallow in a tear-fest and not to encourage your kids to do so either. We can’t forget the past, nor do we want to, but we don’t want to dwell on it interminably either. Move on. Don’t have a sad holiday season. Be sure to make it a truly Merry Christmas.

We Gather Together

SOLO PARENTING

This week, as Thanksgiving approaches here in the States, many of you will be facing your first holiday as a solo parent. What I have to say applies most particularly to those of you who are newly on your own, though many of the rest of you, who’ve been divorced or widowed for a while now, can benefit from it as well.

One of the traditional Thanksgiving hymns is “We Gather Together,” and that’s what most of us do on Thanksgiving: gather together for a family meal. But if you were divorced or widowed within the last year, you may feel like you’re not so much of a family anymore. Have you said to someone, “It’s just the kids and me—” in a way that implies that the absence of your husband downgrades your status from “family” to something lesser?

Hogwash! You’re still a family…and it’s important that you convey a sense of this to your kids.

Yes, the makeup of a “traditional” family was always considered to be Mom, Dad, and one or more kids. But this is 2011, and all sorts of other configurations are also possible. What of the grandma who’s raising her grandkids? Are she and they any less of a family than the traditional so-called “nuclear family”? What of the two lesbian mothers who live together with their kids in a household that offers two moms and no dad? Aren’t they a family too? So why should you feel any less entitled to the label “family” now that your husband is no longer part of the household? You’re still a family—very much a family—and, again, it’s important that you convey a sense of this to your kids.

Love and connection are what make you a family—not the presence in the household of a certain prescribed number of adults and kids.

The word “family” has all kinds of mostly good associations: love, warmth, protection, sharing, belonging. These are the feelings you want to instill and encourage in your kids. You very much want them to feel they’re still a part of a family, a loving and supportive family, even though their father is no longer a member of the household.

Over the upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving and, on beyond it, Christmas, you may be tempted to alter your tradition. If Thanksgiving in your house was usually a small-family affair, just the two of you and the kids, you may be tempted to do something entirely different this year, so you and the kids don’t feel your ex-husband’s or late husband’s absence so keenly. And that’s not necessarily a bad idea. Getting together with one or more other families headed by solo parents like you is one option. Volunteering at a soup kitchen (if your kids are old enough) is another option. Some families will simply go away for the weekend, if their budgets can afford it—if not something extravant and distant, like Disney, then something closer to home and more budget-friendly, for a change of scene and a break in the Thanksgiving routine of years past…since this year isn’t going to be like years past anyhow.

There’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things (or some other “new tradition”), but if your Thanksgiving celebration in years past involved just the two of you and your kids, gathered around the dining table in your home, consider staying home with the kids this year as well, and having a quiet but thankful holiday just to yourselves. It sends the kids a message—or several messages. “We’re still a family.” “Some things have changed, but not everything changes. Life goes on.”

Of course, if you live geographically close to other family members, maybe your traditional Thanksgiving dinner celebration was spent with these others all along. If these were your side of the family, and you want to continue in the tradition, fine. But these days, in our “portable” culture, not everyone lives close to their family of origin. You may have moved to Seattle, leaving your parents back in Des Moines, while your only sibling now lives in Phoenix. For you, Thanksgiving in recent years has never been about extended family. It was always just you two and the kids. So now it’s just you and the kids.

You’re still family. And it’s still Thanksgiving. Don’t downplay the holiday “because it’s just us this year.” That makes the kids feel that they’re less important to you.

If money is an issue, remember that turkey leftovers will stretch for several nights’ dinners and/or lunch sandwiches, so although the initial outlay is not inconsiderable, pro rated over the number of meals you’ll get out of it, a turkey is not that expensive. You don’t have to get the biggest bird in the store. But don’t simply roast a chicken “because it’s just us.” Again, you’re sending the wrong message. There’s no “just” about you and your kids. You’re still very much a family, albeit a family that’s composed a little differently than in years past.

Whether or not you’re religious, and whether or not you say prayers of thanksgiving before your Thanksgiving repast, it wouldn’t hurt to express aloud the things you’re thankful for. This can be done before the meal, afterward, or at some other time during the day. It need not be formulated as a prayer or addressed to God, if you don’t happen to have a strong belief in the Deity. It can simply be a time of sharing with the family, when each family member expresses a list of what he or she is thankful for this year. When your turn comes, consider including “I’m thankful that we’re still a family”  and “I’m thankful to have two wonderful kids like you”  on your own list.

It’s Thanksgiving and, despite the disruption in your family’s life due to your husband’s permanent absence, you are still a family and you do still have much to be thankful for.

As you gather together this holiday, make sure your kids understand that.