My Journey

Our First Holiday Together in 4 Years!

The first time we are home together as a family, celebrating a holiday, since Fall 2016! Yes, there’s a pandemic and trick or treating is cancelled. But they are home, here in our house, hanging out in their rooms, spaces that had waited empty of kids, their voices and mess, for four long years. Like all of our firsts, this one is bittersweet. Mourning all the Halloweens we missed. Picking out their costumes, unable to attend their school parties or parades because of the court order, watching The Great Pumpkin together. Lost memories that we can’t recapture.

My second and fourth graders, elementary schoolers when they left my home are now sixth and eight graders. Navigating the traditions they want to keep – decorating the house, carving pumpkins, dressing up, eating Gigi’s sugar cookies, and those they’ve outgrown or don’t work because of covid – trick or treating, Halloween cartoon specials, holiday crafts. Ridgely and I even did a deep dive into all of our Fall bins and purged all the Halloween and Thanksgiving crafts they’ve outgrown. We gave those to a dear friend of mine with three little kids.

So fun to be the one who gets to make the holiday plans with them. Ridgely decided to be a black cat – super easy to pull together – while Trafford gave me something harder to work on – a Roblox figure named Bad Ceee. Everyday over FaceTime I would give him updates on my search – the gray vest and the gold fedora were tricky. Finally success! Costume was finished, with lots of help from Gigi, and he loved it. Actually told us at dinner, when I was asking everyone to remember their favorite Halloween costume, that Bad Ceee was his favorite.

And pumpkin carving – we hadn’t done that together in 4 years. Sadly, Dashiell at 18, was no longer interested, but it was so fun to watch T and R come up with their concepts and get to work. With a little pumpkin gut scooping help from me.

I hit on the idea of a scavenger hunt as a fun substitute for treat or treating. And the kids were really excited, Dashiell just to assist, with Trafford and Ridgely going head to head. Eliminating fighting between the two of them is always important, and I could picture the pushing that would happen as they battled it out for a clue. Instead, I started them at different points in the hunt, so they were never on top of each other, and couldn’t get on each other’s nerves. Even though I walked carefully through every clue, trying to make sure it lead to the next one correctly, I made a mistake on both of their hunts. While T was low key and totally fine with it, Ridge was upset and a little mean.

Later that evening, after she had calmed down, I went up to talk with her. Last Halloween was really hard for her, she had lied to dad the night before Halloween about her dog Dory having an accident. As punishment, Dad had thrown out her Minecraft costume and sent her to school, the only fifth grader without a costume for the school wide parade. She told me the story, that morning, as we sat carving her pumpkin, that she had cried herself to sleep both the night before and at school. I didn’t know about that part, since I was still barred from school under the court order. Her teachers, trying to make it better, came up with a mad scientist costume, and kind as that was, it was too big and made her feel worse. She hung back in the parade, something she had been so excited to lead as a fifth grader and said the whole day was just so sad. The part I knew about, the evening, was equally traumatic.

Our routine, since our divorce in 2012, had been that the parent that had the kids on Halloween made sure the other parent got to come over before trick or treating to see the kids in their costumes. I have especially looked forward to that time over the last few years, since I was not allowed to see them at their school parties and parades, as the time I was able to share a few minutes of their holiday excitement.

Until 2019, when their dad responded to my text asking what time I should be there, by telling me he was not comfortable with me coming over. Back and forth we went, me trying to get across that this was not about him – it was about what was best for the kids. He then told me Ridgely had lost trick or treating for lying about the dog having an accident. Panicked, I started crying, remembering all the years their dad had taken Halloween, Easter, birthday celebrations away from Dashiell. I knew Dashiell would never forget those wounds, and it was almost inconceivable to me that now Ridgely was being hurt the same way. Eventually, I had to dry my tears, be content with the picture he texted of Trafford in his costume, and hold tight to the knowledge that kids are highly resilient.

All of Ridgely’s feelings bubbled back up on Halloween, and as we sat talking in her room she explained that because last Halloween was so horrible she had wanted this one to be perfect. And there it was, the always unspoken need they have and I willingly place on myself to try and make things better, happier, than life is at their dad’s. After lots of hugs, I told her how much it meant to me that she trusts me with her feelings, and that I always want to make things so nice for them at our house – especially holidays. But that I wasn’t perfect and I make mistakes, like the scavenger hunt.

Our evening was back on track and we all had fun watching a movie and eating lots of candy. I’ll keep that conversation with Ridgely tucked away in my mind, a reminder of how important open communication is with all kids, particularly mine as they navigate the minefield of their childhood.

My second and fourth graders, elementary schoolers when they left my home are now sixth and eight graders. Navigating the traditions they want to keep – decorating the house, carving pumpkins, dressing up, eating Gigi’s sugar cookies, and those they’ve outgrown or don’t work because of covid – trick or treating, Halloween cartoon specials, holiday crafts. Ridgely and I even did a deep dive into all of our Fall bins and purged all the Halloween and Thanksgiving crafts they’ve outgrown. We gave those to a dear friend of mine with three little kids.

So fun to be the one who gets to make the holiday plans with them. Ridgely decided to be a black cat – super easy to pull together – while Trafford gave me something harder to work on – a Roblox figure named Bad Ceee. Everyday over FaceTime I would give him updates on my search – the gray vest and the gold fedora were tricky. Finally success! Costume was finished, with lots of help from Gigi, and he loved it. Actually told us at dinner, when I was asking everyone to remember their favorite Halloween costume, that Bad Ceee was his favorite.

And pumpkin carving – we hadn’t done that together in 4 years. Sadly, Dashiell at 18, was no longer interested, but it was so fun to watch T and R come up with their concepts and get to work. With a little pumpkin gut scooping help from me.

I hit on the idea of a scavenger hunt as a fun substitute for treat or treating. And the kids were really excited, Dashiell just to assist, with Trafford and Ridgely going head to head. Eliminating fighting between the two of them is always important, and I could picture the pushing that would happen as they battled it out for a clue. Instead, I started them at different points in the hunt, so they were never on top of each other, and couldn’t get on each other’s nerves. Even though I walked carefully through every clue, trying to make sure it lead to the next one correctly, I made a mistake on both of their hunts. While T was low key and totally fine with it, Ridge was upset and a little mean.

Later that evening, after she had calmed down, I went up to talk with her. Last Halloween was really hard for her, she had lied to dad the night before Halloween about her dog Dory having an accident. As punishment, Dad had thrown out her Minecraft costume and sent her to school, the only fifth grader without a costume for the school wide parade. She told me the story, that morning, as we sat carving her pumpkin, that she had cried herself to sleep both the night before and at school. I didn’t know about that part, since I was still barred from school under the court order. Her teachers, trying to make it better, came up with a mad scientist costume, and kind as that was, it was too big and made her feel worse. She hung back in the parade, something she had been so excited to lead as a fifth grader and said the whole day was just so sad. The part I knew about, the evening, was equally traumatic.

Our routine, since our divorce in 2012, had been that the parent that had the kids on Halloween made sure the other parent got to come over before trick or treating to see the kids in their costumes. I have especially looked forward to that time over the last few years, since I was not allowed to see them at their school parties and parades, as the time I was able to share a few minutes of their holiday excitement.

Until 2019, when their dad responded to my text asking what time I should be there, by telling me he was not comfortable with me coming over. Back and forth we went, me trying to get across that this was not about him – it was about what was best for the kids. He then told me Ridgely had lost trick or treating for lying about the dog having an accident. Panicked, I started crying, remembering all the years their dad had taken Halloween, Easter, birthday celebrations away from Dashiell. I knew Dashiell would never forget those wounds, and it was almost inconceivable to me that now Ridgely was being hurt the same way. Eventually, I had to dry my tears, be content with the picture he texted of Trafford in his costume, and hold tight to the knowledge that kids are highly resilient.

All of Ridgely’s feelings bubbled back up on Halloween, and as we sat talking in her room she explained that because last Halloween was so horrible she had wanted this one to be perfect. And there it was, the always unspoken need they have and I willingly place on myself to try and make things better, happier, than life is at their dad’s. After lots of hugs, I told her how much it meant to me that she trusts me with her feelings, and that I always want to make things so nice for them at our house – especially holidays. But that I wasn’t perfect and I make mistakes, like the scavenger hunt.

Our evening was back on track and we all had fun watching a movie and eating lots of candy. I’ll keep that conversation with Ridgely tucked away in my mind, a reminder of how important open communication is with my kids, particularly as they navigate the minefield of their childhood.

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