By Shannon Serpette for Dadspadblog.com – In the early days of your relationship, your holidays with your baby’s momma were probably filled with mistletoe and romantic evenings by the fire. But ever since your relationship crashed and burned, your holidays are more likely filled with screaming matches and power struggles.
While the holidays are always going to be difficult to navigate now that there is a child involved, you both need to suck it up so your child isn’t the one who pays the price for your immaturity levels.
Playing nice is easier said than done, however. If you’re struggling to put the holly and jolly back in your holidays whenever your ex is around, here are some tips to help you survive with your sanity intact and to keep that smile on your child’s face.
Find Your Richie Cunningham
What you need is a sounding board for when the going gets tough and your ex just pushed every button of yours – even ones you didn’t know existed. To get back to your happy days, steal a move from the Fonz from the old TV show Happy Days.
Whenever the Fonz started to lose his cool, which in all honesty was usually once an episode, he’d ask Richie to step into his office – the bathroom at Arnold’s. Then he’d dump the whole situation in Richie’s lap. Richie, being the rational, moral compass of the show, would help talk Fonz down from the ledge. He’d make his feel better about his situation.
You’ll need a friend like Richie, especially during the holidays, when co-parenting can be particularly tough. So when you’re feeling overwhelmed, angry or downright depressed, call your Richie. Just don’t ask him to meet you in a bathroom. That’s where most friends would draw the line.
Try to Find Some Together Time
You might have ended your relationship because you didn’t want to see your ex anymore, but it’s beneficial for both you and your child to try to keep things friendly.
Unless things are exceedingly bitter between the two of you, try to find a short amount of time in which you and your ex can do something with your child as a family. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – no one is asking you to spend the whole day together. But maybe attending a holiday movie in the theater would be possible. It’s the perfect setting – you won’t have much time to talk before the lights are out and the movie is on. Your child will sit between you as a buffer.
Your kid will be so much better off if you two can play nice with each other. They’ll be happier, and they won’t worry as much. That alone is worth the effort you’ll make. And if you can successfully make short outings like a movie work, both you and your ex will feel friendlier and more cooperative as well. That’s good news for everybody involved.
Keep Some Perspective
Every move your ex makes can feel intensely personal, like she’s only doing something to punish you. Maybe she is. But the thing to remember is that you can’t control what she does, only how you react to it.
You’ll handle setbacks and slights a lot better if you remember that this won’t be your life forever. It’s only temporary. The time will pass faster than you’ll ever imagine. Before long, your child will be 18 and you’ll no longer have epic custody spats with your ex.
Even in your darkest days, it helps to remember your child is watching everything you do – not only to form an opinion about you, but also to help figure out how to treat others and how the world works. How you react to your child’s mom can influence your child for the better or for the worse. Keeping that in mind – that you’re doing this for the lifelong betterment of your child – can help you get through anything if you’re a committed enough dad.
Find New Traditions
It can be crippling at times letting go of the stable family unit you once had or giving up the vision of the perfect family you’d always imagined. Equally painful can be giving up all the old traditions you and your child once had during the holidays.
If you two used to relish snuggling on the couch, drinking hot chocolate and watching holiday movies on Christmas Eve, but this year you won’t see your child until Christmas morning, it hurts. You’ll have to give up your annual tradition.
While it’s okay to mourn that loss, it will also give you a chance to form new traditions. You might even stumble upon a tradition that you both look forward to more than your old ones.
Keep Plugging Away
No matter how difficult it may seem, and it will at times, make co-parenting with grace your ultimate holiday goal. It will help keep you off the naughty list with your ex and your child. And giving your child the happy, innocent holiday all children deserve will be the best gift you will give and receive this year.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.