Since my last blog post I have suffered with some health issues which included a ride in an ambulance for a suspected mini stroke. I am pleased to say that I’m feeling better, however the downtime has given me a lot of time to reflect, and with Christmas looming, I thought this would be a great time to post this blog, Divorced Children at Christmas.
My parents divorced when I was quite young, and I personally found it extremely difficult to manage my emotions at the time, and know what to do for the best. Who should I want to spend more time with, what could I and couldn’t I say about one parent to the other. Did they love me any less, was the divorce my fault, would they ever get back together again?
I have one Christmas childhood memory, and only one, which reminds me of the loving family Christmas we once had. The house was decorated from top to bottom, and myself and my siblings would barely sleep on Christmas Eve. We had giant red stocking style sacks which had our names on it, and we knew it would be full by the time we woke up. We would leave mince pies and milk out for Santa, and a carrot for his reindeer, and we would creep out of bed several times during the night to try and catch a glimpse of the man himself. These are the memories all parents should want their children to have, a house full of laughter and smiles.
We relocated to Florida when I was six years old, and it wasn’t long after that everything then changed. We had a great first year, settled well into school, made plenty of friends, and the family restaurant business was booming. We were really lucky to experience the lifestyle we had out there, but little did we know that it was all about to come crashing down.
My parents were getting divorced, something I didn’t really understand, but that caused me so much sadness. It was all very sudden, Mum had moved out, and my Dad told us at the time that she didn’t love us anymore. She moved into a new home, and my Dad would decide how often we were allowed to see her. He would spend his time filling our heads with stories of my Mum and trying to convince us that she left him for someone else. Meanwhile on the very rare occasion we were allowed to see my Mum, all she cared about was that we were alright.
Christmas time was awful, my Dad wouldn’t let Mum see us, and she was made to leave our Christmas presents on the doorstep, This was having a huge impact on us as children, but also on my Mum, imagine not being able to see your own children at Christmas. We had no say in the matter, and what we wanted was never asked.
Fast forward back to the UK, and now being ten years old, we were still with my Dad. We had Christmas with him and my Nan who also then lived with us. There was no laughter, no smiles, no mention of Mum, Christmas was just going through the motions.
Eventually my Mum tracked us down, took my Dad to court, and gained full custody of us, and we were then moved down to Somerset. My Mum was a single parent with a part-time job, in a new home, and with two of her children back living with her. Financially she was struggling, working two jobs, and trying to do everything on her own. We would speak to my Dad on the phone regularly, and very occasionally he would do the five hour drive to see us.
Christmas was looming, and we had no money, no fancy Christmas food, and presents were the last thing that Mum needed to worry about. She felt embarrassed, like she had let us down, she wanted so much to provide a lavish family Christmas, but as children, all that mattered was that we were together.
Christmas was never the same, and never has been, once that family unit is lost, so is the festive spirit. I’ve never had children, and therefore don’t need to lay on a family Christmas, and I find the time of year brings back buried memories. I wish that my Dad had spent less time trying to hurt my Mum, and had spent more time tuned into our emotions as children.
All of the TV adverts feature families, big Christmas trees, warm homes, lots of presents, and the real world isn’t always like that. You have children struggling with mental health from such a young age due to divorce, and being used as weapons by the parents against each other.
If I could have three wishes that would change the world, one of them would be for all parents to always put their children first. There is nothing wrong with getting divorced, however there is something hugely wrong with not protecting your children when going through this. Children hurt too, they blame themselves, they feel unloved, they don’t know where to fit in, they get bullied at school, and they have a roller coaster of emotions on a daily basis.
Children remember everything, so fill their heads with great memories, happy memories, let them be children, and give them the best Christmas you are able to give them. Don’t let your struggles impact your children, just embrace them and hold them tight, they will experience their own struggles in life in years to come.