The Christmas Dilemma

I posted just a week ago about creating our family traditions for Birthdays, Christmas and New Year. I really thought I had it sussed. Christmas would be spent with extended family, in one country or another, we would have a tree which we would make our own decorations for as part of the lead up, we would both have Christmas PJ's which we would get the night before to sleep in, we will have modest Christmas lists, santa will visit...

Well, it turns out it's not so easy. It seems when you have a very untraditional family, creating simple Christmas traditions is not so easy. Perhaps I should have anticipated that! The problem I am having is how Daddy and PP fit in. I need your help with this as I think I am probably thinking too hard and losing the point.

We spent BB's first Christmas in Australia with DD's family. It was great. It would be awesome to that again. Last year, we were at my house, but DD wasn't there. PP's mum was sick and they spent Christmas with her. As BB was so young, we got away with having Santa come early so DD was here for the whole "Christmas eve" and present opening on our own "Christmas morning". 

I guess I had just assumed that was a one off and that normally DD would want to be with BB for Christmas. It's not something I would consider missing as a Mum, but I was forgetting for a moment that for DD, PP takes priority, and PP traditionally has a great family Christmas with all his extended family in France. DD suggested we do our own early Christmas again before they go, but I am not sure if we can get away with that this year, next year it certainly wont be an option. BB is quite aware of all the things going on around him, the TV and radio, and everyone else in the whole country will be mentioning when Santa is on his way, I really think we are going to have to do it on the day.

DD is OK with that, he said he will just visit and bring presents a few days before and we can exchange gifts amongst ourselves then. That's fine with me for this year, it solves the immediate problem, but how does it impact on what I was hoping to do regarding creating memorable Christmases? Ones that BB can look back on fondly in forty years and tell his family and friends about Christmases when he was a kid. 

I guess the big issue behind my dilemma is that really feel the need (like it's my duty as a Mum) to protect BB from knowing that he comes second. I really don't want him to be sad on the Christmases that his Dad chooses to be elsewhere. I don't want him to form memories of Christmas as being either with, or without, Dad.

One idea is that we just have a separate do, every year. We did have a "French Christmas" a few weeks early, in the year we went to Oz - that could work. Then we could create traditions around two events and there would be no need to feel the absence of Dad at Christmas sometimes. But that also feels a bit like we would be cutting off our noses to spite our face. What about the years we could spend Christmas with DD's Australian family, or with PP's French family, or when they were both available to come and be with us. It would be silly to not spend the time with them when we could, right? But if we do, how do I protect my little boy in all of that?

Am I just over thinking this, or is it as important as I think it could be? I didn't even really celebrate Christmas for 10 years prior to BB coming along, so It's not like I have any big attachment to it myself, but it seems like it is an important thing for kids - it was for me as a child. That said, we always did the same thing for Christmas, which was go to my Nan's, and when that stopped it was never the same, which is probably part of the reason it became so unimportant to me for a while. So, with that in mind, is creating traditions around Christmas fatally flawed anyway?


P.S. I wrote this while BB napped this afternoon. DD left while BB was asleep, and although they said good bye and BB was all casual, "Bye bye, Daddy, see you soon", when he woke up BB was distraught. He hunted around the house, calling "my Daddy" and his little face crumpled so when he realised he had really gone again. I have seen this coming. It gets worse each time. I ended up crying with him as his sadness makes me sad too. He has also become really clingy to me in the last couple of weeks, sleeping in my bed again, and tonight wanted me to hold him all the time, he even wanted to sit on my knee to eat tea and play with play dough. I guess it's just something he has to get used to. He knows Daddy goes away, and he knows he always comes back in a week or two, but he is more and more sad each time. 

Hello, and thanks for stopping by. My name is Emma and I am a lifestyle entrepreneur, writer, teacher, coach and mentor. I am passionate about eating real food, learning, travel and health. I get to spend my days with my amazing son who has chosen to learn from the world rather than at school. We write to share the life we love and to help others create a life they love too.


  1. I think you should aim for traditions that allows for flexibility. We always got a new set of Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve, but we some years we were at home, others we were at various family member's houses. You can't predict or plan for every possibility for years to come, so don't set over realistic expectations for your "perfect" Christmas.

    Have a Daddy Christmas when you can, and make sure you're always there with him on Christmas Day. BB can never be second if he's always your first.

  2. Thanks Sarah - you're totally right. I was thinking last night that things could change anyway. I might even meet someone (miracles do happen!) and then have a third man in the mix, just to complicate things even further! I just don't like seeing my little boy being sad, but I guess too that's a life lesson in itself and my job is to help him deal with it, not protect from from it.

  3. Thanks Nell - I think you are right too. I have also been thinking that I need to talk with DD about leaving when BB is asleep. I will do it!

  4. I usually wear sunglasses when driving in winter too. but I'm now being told that I shouldn't because a sudden change in the light (e.g. driving in sunshine and then into a very shaded area) causes "blackout". I've never experienced this. Perhaps it depends on the sunglasses.

  5. HI Nelly, I think it does depend on the lenses. When I was researching the article I found people that were saying you should have special 'winter' sunglasses, but actually, everyone saying that was trying to sell you some, so I took that with a pinch of salt and left it out of the final piece. I do use polarising lenses myself, as I find that they are much better for dealing with the changing light all year round>

  6. Ack Emma, I feel your pain. I think you have to put this into two categories: The Christmas issue and The Daddy leaving issue:
    My first thoughts on the first one are that you are making memories. But what are memories? Your memories of a more traditional Christmas or BB's which are one of a more colourful and alternative event. What lucky child gets the opportunity to have 'two' Christmasses? Also, he doesn't come second place. He comes first in your life and a very, very, very, close second in DD's. Let's be honest Em, if you'd chosen an anonymous donor initially, the conversation you'd be having both now with us and with DD later on in life, would be very different. For children who's fathers leave them have a far tougher time in my opinion. Right now, you're dealing with a small two year old who is having normal two year old anxieties because he has a good secure relationship with his father...that's actually a GOOD thing. That kind of moves me onto my thoughts for your second issue. He will learn that this is normal for him because he has nothing to compare it with. It is normal for him that DD lives with PP and you and he live together. DD spends LOADS of time with him, but has to go home. Two year olds hate it when grandma leaves or they can't find their favourite bear ;-) Is there any way that next time DD leaves before nap time or after. I think the issue was exacerbated because DD left when he was asleep and he didn't see him go, so for him it made less sense. If he got to wave him off, then it would be a little less traumatic.

    So, that's my thoughts: Make your own memories with BB and DD, sod what we assume is 'normal'. If your memories of Christmas are wonderful and happy, that is the important thing. Huge hugs love, speak soon xxx

  7. and apologies for the appalling grammar in the second paragraph, I've only had one cup of coffee so far ;-)

  8. I woke BB up from his nap this week so was awake when DD left. We went to the front door and watched him walk away. He did cry when Daddy disappeared round the corner, but not for long. Much much better!

  9. Creating a balancing act between 2 'families' is difficult. Sometimes PP needs to come first and sometimes BB comes first. As this is PP's first Christmas since his mother died it's his turn to come first and be surrounded by his family. BB is still young enough to not associate Christmas with his dad needing to be there. I have 6 year olds in my class who don't know when their birthday is. I know BB is a genius, but I think it will be ok this year. PPs family have extended the invitation to everyone, but as the French don't start Xmas eve dinner until 9pm and finish at 2-3am, this year is probably not the best time to introduce BB and BM to that.

  10. Yeah I think BB will be OK too! And I know that the balancing act is hard and I appreciate DD's efforts to keep everyone happy… He is much better at saying goodbye to Daddy these days too

  11. I too build up the idea of the "perfect holiday," which is probably why I flee holidays as much as possible. I agree with Sarah about having reasonable traditions (love the idea of the pj's) and being flexible on the rest. Of course if you move that would factor in later also. As for BB's sadness, I remember from when I actually took part on the SMC message boards, one of the moms said that when her child cried over not having a dad, she held the child and cried and agreed that it really hurts sometimes. BB has a dad but you could let him know that you know it hurts when Daddy leaves and you wish you could make it not hurt BUT he will always have you and Daddy will be back for a visit again soon. And next time smack DD if he even thinks of leaving while BB is sleeping. :-(