A Holiday Divided


Zachary Ninomiya

The illustration depicts the appearance of a house divided during the holidays.

Emily Ito, Editor-in-Chief

For children with divorced parents, the holiday season can be a bittersweet experience. We look forward to the gifts and the meals. The time off from school and the overwhelming feelings of joy. But we dread the fights and discomfort. The decision of which house we’ll spend Christmas at and the feelings of guilt because of the choice we ultimately make. It’s a stressful time that can pull a child in every direction, making it so that we are so focused on worrying about our family that we forget to think about ourselves. 

Personally, I dread the holiday season. Given that I am 17 years old, where I spend Christmas is entirely up to me. Having the freedom to choose where I go may seem like a luxury, but for me, making that decision is a no win situation. Regardless of which parent I spend the holidays with, my heart still falls heavy with guilt as I think about the other parent, sitting by the Christmas tree all alone. 

Thus, every year, I try to meticulously plan out my schedule to appease both parents. Spend Christmas Eve with one, Christmas Day with the other. But despite splitting up my time as evenly as possible, I can never escape the feelings of guilt at leaving my mother alone on what should be a time of family, warmth, and tradition. My father’s family lives within an hour’s drive of us, meaning that he will still be surrounded by people, regardless of my attendance. Yet my mother’s family resides in New York, leaving her alone when I am not there. Because I adore both of my parents and want both of them to feel loved and appreciated, I have to constantly weigh what the best choice would be. Neglect my dad completely because he has his siblings, or let my mom feel deserted on a day meant for companionship? 

There is a misconception regarding the holidays for children of divorced parents. I think almost every child whose parents are no longer together have heard something along the lines of, “You’re so lucky. You get two Christmases.” But as Payton Armbruster (12) can attest, “It’s not so much two Christmases, it’s more like two halves of one.” Unlike some other families, we don’t have the pleasure of being in a room with all of the people we love at once. So while we’re physically present at one household, our guilt tethers a part of us to the parent that we aren’t with. 

Adding to the guilt and the stress that make the holidays miserable, the constant reminders of people with families that are still together is really what makes the holiday season challenging. It can make us feel teary-eyed when we see our peers continue the family traditions that they have had since birth. It brings about envy when we see our friends become excited at the mere thought of Christmas dinner. I can’t help but feel jealous that other 17-year-olds are writing their wish lists while we are stuck creating a detailed agenda of how to divide up our time. 

While I criticize the experience that a child from a “broken home,” has during the holidays, I can’t say that it’s all bad. I still have the fortune of spending time with the people I love. I still get to open presents on Christmas Day. I still see a table full of more food than anyone can eat for dinner. Of course, there’s aspects of my holidays that I would love to change, but I also think that this season is about gratitude, love, and family. So I will always have some added stress and struggle during this time of year, but I remain grateful for all the happiness and warmth that the holidays bring.