We are a family of traditions. Every Christmas certain things need to happen or the planet spins out of orbit.
It starts Christmas Eve with an old chipped gingerbread man plate that we’ve had since my ex and I got married. Even though the plate is chipped, the kids still insist on putting cookies on it so that Santa will have something delicious waiting for him upon arrival.
Carrots are also left on the front lawn for the reindeer because they too need refueling after a long cold journey from the North Pole. And if it’s a year when I happen to have oats in the cabinet, they get a handful of those too.
Around 3am on Christmas morning you can usually find me in the kitchen cutting cinnamon roll dough because they need a final rise before the kiddos get up. So there I usually stand, in my jammies complete with apron tied overtop, rolling and cutting the sweet dough stuffed with cinnamon and butter.
Once the pans are filled, I crawl back into bed hoping for another solid four hours of sleep that never comes because the kids are usually awake shortly after my head hits the pillow.
And then the torture starts. This too is a tradition. Before we tear into the gifts, Mom makes everyone sit down to have a proper breakfast complete with the cinnamon rolls, homemade quiche, fruit salad and juice. Oh, and coffee. Copious amounts of coffee due to the 3am cinnamon roll wakeup call.
No one likes this tradition of having breakfast before opening gifts because of that whole delayed gratification thing. Even though Mom lets them open their Christmas stockings during breakfast, the kids are certain I’ve formed this tradition to make them miserable.
But the truth of the matter is that I created this tradition for them because when they become adults they will understand that the best part of the holiday is the time spent together. I also hope by then they appreciate how much work it takes to make those damn cinnamon rolls.
But this year tradition breaks and new traditions form.
This will be my first year waking up without my kids on Christmas morning. It’s not my year to have them.
This is not something I thought about as much as I should’ve during the divorce process. Maybe the mind skips certain things when it can’t handle the stress.
And there are no oats in the closet this year which I guess is just as well.
No one will be waking me up at 4am asking if it’s time to go downstairs yet.
There will be no cinnamon roll dough stuck underneath my wedding band that I always forget to take off while baking.
No one will be subject to my mandatory Christmas breakfast before the gifts are torn open this year.
All the traditions are broken or at the very least modified. Because I can still do some of the traditions with my kids when I see them afterwards, but it won’t be the same.
And I’m starting to wonder if Christmas and all of the other major holidays on the days that I don’t have my kids, are those going to be the years that I just skip the whole thing? Sleep the day away hoping that the time passes swiftly? Or maybe that this is just awful right now because it’s the first year?
I don’t know. All I know is that this year is tough. And that the chipped gingerbread man plate tucked safely away in a box feels like it’s shattered on the floor right now and I’m standing barefoot in the midst.