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Divorced Dads-R-Us: A New Tradition in a Non-Traditional Family

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How many dads does it take to make a new tradition? In my case, it takes four. But let me start at the beginning.

Everyone knows the act of divorce puts an end to the traditional institution of marriage and breaks up the traditional family unit of mom, dad and the kids. And they also know it usually means an end to many family traditions.

Conscientious parents try desperately to bring balance and stability to the new family order by carefully dividing time. They believe if the kids split their time between two households, packing bags on weekends and sometimes weekdays, they are sure to have continuous quality time with each parent. Holidays and vacations take on new meaning. In my family, if Dad had us over on Thanksgiving, he couldn't have us during the December holiday break. If Mom took us the first night of Rosh Hashanah, Dad had to have us the first night of Passover. In the worst cases, one parent will completely drop out of the family scene and not participate in any holiday or vacation at all, ever again.

Shuttling back and forth between parents does take its toll, especially as kids get older and want to spend more time socializing with friends. They can easily tire of the constant back and forth, living out of a bag or suitcase every other week. I certainly did. Do we even have to discuss what a void an absent parent creates?

No matter how hard parents try, ending or altering family traditions means one thing, and one thing only to the kids: Pain. "You-two-divorced-and-now-nothing-will-ever-be-the-same-and-we'll-never-have-fun-again-and-I-hate-holidays." And let's face it, parents are probably thinking the same thing.

An alternative is to create new routines and traditions for your family that bring joy and excitement to your new post-divorce lifestyle. You can help ease the transition into your changed life, give everyone a new sense of stability and something positive to look forward to by launching new traditions. These can be as simple as Chinese Food Wednesdays, Movie Night Thursdays, or Sports or Game Night Sundays. As for vacations, like the old saying goes, "now for something completely new and different."

For me, this involved those four dads I mentioned earlier. It began when I was invited to join my fiance, his dad, his dad's best friend and all their children on their first Divorced Dads' Trip to Puerto Rico over the July 4th weekend. Two years later, my father-in-law's divorced college roommate and his children joined the trip, and three years later my dad -- newly divorced a second time -- and my sister joined the trip.

Since then, we have established traditions of our own. Our "family" has grown. We call ourselves "The Council" as we decide where to go next -- we change the location every two years. We discuss future trips over Sunday night family dinners, another tradition we have developed. We look forward to our time together, spending our days at the beach and pool, playing tennis, visiting the spa, laughing at new inside jokes and eating good food at our favorite restaurants. This past July 4th weekend, we found ourselves back in Puerto Rico recalling good times and making new memories.

Where once we mourned the loss of traditional family vacations, now we all look forward to this new tradition. I love it, because it incorporates three things I cherish: family, tradition, and travel.

As you consider the suggestions in this post, are you wondering how many divorced dads or moms or friends it will take you to make a new tradition?

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