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Christmas forgiveness

kalantri on Articles - Chele wraps our 4-year-old in footie pajamas, snow-coat, a Pendleton wool blanket and Santa hat then snugly packs her into the back seat of our 1987 Ford Taurus. Complaining from the restraint, Heather screams, "I can't move!"

Chuckling from her frustration, my wife and I offer, "Settle down; we are going to look at Christmas lights."

Three months ago our family sleigh lost its source of heat and with little income, feeding my family becomes more important than enjoying the luxury of warmth as I travel to and from work. For this reason, my wife, daughter and I are now packed into our only form of transportation on this Christmas Eve, freezing on this South Dakota winter night in search of homes lighted by sparkling, pretty green and red lights.

Heather screams, "There's one. Look! It's pretty."

With John Denver's "Aspenglow" playing on the radio, my wife cuddles up next to me while my daughter is warmly nestled in the back seat of our family sedan, excited to see pretty holiday lights. At this moment I know we have started a family tradition.

When I enlisted in the Air Force I knew my life would change but never imagined I would have to reinvent family traditions. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter are now focused on my little family of three and my military family of friends instead of my extended family of relatives. I am excited at the opportunity to create new traditions for my growing family and friends.

Children of divorce are thrown into this same quandary. What once was tradition is now new and often scary. Ample presents under the Christmas tree might now be few and a huge Christmas feast might include barely enough food to fill the bellies of the participants.

Divorce is an interesting thing. Children often lose faith in things once thought important in hope not to upset the custodial parent. Santa, the desire for gifts, the need to celebrate and joy often leave a child at Christmas in exchange for practicality, sadness, sympathy for the grieving parent and a desire to fix what is broken.

This is a parent's opportunity to start creating a world of mental wellness for a child. Children of divorce often struggle to understand their role in this world. Should he or she be a caretaker, take on the role of mom or dad, revert to the mental capacity of little child or remain a sturdy, competent young child? These are all choices of the child of divorce.

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