The following post came in via the mailbox so I thought I would post her question and answer in both places (here and in “Cathryn’s Mailbox).
Her Question about the holidays:
With difference visitation schedules, how to include and handle stepchildren and biological children, into Holiday traditions?
I’m a mother to four children. The older two boys are technically my stepchildren, though I have been a mother to them longer than they can remember. They are now 9 and 7. The younger two are my biological children with my husband. A girl, 3, and a baby boy. The younger two live with us all the time, the older two are with us 50% of the time, every Wednesday through Saturday or Sunday.
I’m “mommy” or “mama” to all of my children.
My oldest two children made me a mother.
I love them completely and without distinction between biological and non-biological.
It is, however, hard to deny that their experiences are different than the other two younger children. They have another family- another “mom” (biological mother) and another home where they live 50% of the time.
I’m struggling this year with Christmas. Until this point, we would just celebrate Christmas with all of the kids whenever we were together. It has almost always been on Christmas day. This year Christmas eve and Christmas day fall on days when they’re at their other house. I really don’t know what to do.
Santa can clearly only come on one day– Christmas eve. The kids are old enough to know what day of the month it is and when Christmas is.
When should we open presents?
Do we wait 3 days for them to get back to open gifts together?
Is it fair to the biological children (for lack of a better way to refer to them) to have to wait and not open their Christmas presents knowing that their brothers are having a full-on Christmas experience complete with gifts at their other house?
If we wait, then how can we make Christmas special to them without doing something “too special” so the stepchildren feel left out?
It seems that there is always an emphasis on the feelings and experiences of the stepchildren, but not on how to handle the biological children who stay behind.
As the biological children get older I get more and more concerned about how to handle these types of things. Trying to explain to them how lucky they are to have one home would be completely lost on them. They can see that their brothers get two times as much of everything- Christmas, birthdays, Easter, gifts from extra grandparents… And that’s the way that their brothers see it, too (at least so far!).
I don’t have any worries about my stepchildren. They are very loved and seem happy with their life and their families. I just don’t want our love for them and their place in the family leave the other children feeling left out.
What do you think? Thank you.
A concerned StepMom
PS. Our relationship with the older boys’ biological mother is not good. We only communicate necessary information through the mail and do not communicate otherwise. This is the healthiest way we have come to for all of us. Before that, we made efforts for years to cultivate a healthy and relatively friendly relationship, and she continued to send hateful letters, behave disrespectfully to us in front of the children, and even came into our home when we weren’t there and scratched expletives into our family photo. I’m only sharing this to emphasize that our solution must come from a place of working within the time and family arrangements that we currently have, and a “working together” strategy of sharing Christmas gifts is not practical. Maybe someday…
Dear “Concerned StepMom,”
I’m going to be sharing your letter and this reply in two places.
First, It will be in “Cathryn’s Mailbox” AND I’m posting on a thread on our general bb, for members only. I urge you to register with us(free) so you can benefit from any comments from sister Stepmoms. We call ourselves “SMOMS.” Rhymes with Mom’s and you are very welcome to join our community of Stepmoms on a Mission.
With that said, I’d like to acknowledge your situation and all that you’ve ben through with your stepkids’ bio-mom. It sounds like you’ve done a tremendous job creating your family life in spite of bio-mom’s tactics and antics. Most of us can understand just how much emotional energy having a hostile bio-mom can cost you and your DH (Dear Husband.)
Now to the specifics of your question, a few ideas:
Since your bio-kids are small this year, what about having your Christmas just as you would like and tell your stepsons (when/if you talk to them) “Santa came here also and your things are waiting for you when you get here!” Hopefully your enthusiasm and reassurance that everything is still in place for them, will give you AND your bio-kids two chances to enjoy the happiness of the Christmas morning celebration.
Since your bio-kids are still little, it may be easier for you to handle this now. Perhaps you can “Find” another little something for your daughter IF she feels left out. You and your DH can find something in the tree or something that has “fallen behind the couch” etc. as a way of her sharing in the delight. Do you think that would work?
As your bio-kids get older, you could create a few special things for them to enjoy the second celebration, instead of feeling left out. Creativity is one of our specialties here at SMOMS.org. For ex: Santa could mistakenly placed a couple of things in your stepkids’ stockings as your kids get older (so they get something else to open when your stepkids come back. Or, you could start some new traditions that include holding a few gifts to share with all the kids.
I think you can find ways to use the fact that your stepkids are a bit older, as an advantage. If you’re lucky enough to have thoughtful stepkids, they can be helpful in keeping the spirit of Santa alive for their siblings. Their ages may give you the chance to divvy up the number of gifts so that everyone feels included. This also gives your own kids 2 celebrations, of sorts.
I’m not sure if your stepkids are going to be giving you all any gifts but if so, then your family will have 2 times of gift exchange and for a few years, anyway, your own bio-kids will just enjoy another celebration. For them, it will just be the “Way it is.”
In terms of your stepkids feeling they missed out on something…Perhaps they are old enough to understand they can’t be 2 places at once AND you can ask them for their list of the 2-4 things they love doing the most together with you. If doable, perhaps you can save those events for time together. Again since your bio-kids are so young, you can do whatever you want with them so you can have the best of both worlds. This is kind of unique in that you can enjoy your time with your bio-kids and with your stepkids, teaching both of them ways to have fun anytime, independent of the calendar and even better, disconnected from the impact of a hostile bio-mom.
You have such good questions and hopefully I’ve convinced you to put on your creative thinking cap. If you want to register for the BB, you will be able to read any more replies and follow-up with me and other sister SMOMS. I will look forward to that, if it makes sense for you.
May you get all kinds of good ideas so this can be the beginning of a whole bunch of fun family traditions for you all. Thanks for writing in. Best Wishes, Cathryn
Comment from “FindingMyWayInWI”:
Great ideas! I also think that taking the stepkids shopping to pick a couple gifts for their half siblings and vice versa (now that they are little mom and dad can pick presents out) and have them open them on the day stepkids are there will allow the bios to still have gifts to open with their siblings. And might be a nice tradition. I know my dad always bought 1 gift that was just from him, mom didn’t pick that one out, and it was the one I look most forward to opening because it was because he went out of his way rather then just having mom pick it all. Maybe that can be something special shared between the siblings. The gift they look forward to and it being special.