Groucho Marx ... "I have just one day, and I'm going to be happy in it."

Last year was the first time I woke up on Christmas morning and didn't have my kids with me. It sucked.
12/23/2010 06:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Last year was the first time I woke up on Christmas morning and didn't have my kids with me. It sucked. Nothing else I can say about it. That pretty much sums it up. When I became a parent, I certainly didn't intend to spend any Christmas morning away from my kids ... not for years and years ... perhaps not until they were on their own, married, and balancing that careful dance of compromise of where to spend the holidays. But life happens, and as it happened, I found myself 'kidless' last Christmas morning.

I distinctly recall waking up and thinking how quiet it was. The kids hadn't barged into my room at 5:30 a.m. asking if it was too early to get up and race downstairs to see if Santa had arrived. I missed that. I got a little sad. I got a little angry.

And then I thought to myself, "You can choose to be sad and angry and have a bad day, or you can accept the hand you've been dealt and carry on." I think Groucho Marx said it better when he said, "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."

I decided I was going to take my Christmas Day and be happy in it. I could have grumbled and moaned all day about the unfairness of not having my kids on Christmas Day, and when I'm honest, I do still think it's unfair, but I also know that life doesn't always appear to be fair. I'm blessed and fortunate. I have been able to spend every single Christmas Day of my entire life with my mom. That's over 40 Christmas Days if you're counting! My daughter will never be able to say the same thing. Through circumstances beyond her control, she stopped spending every single Christmas Day with her mom at age 10.

And so it goes. No, it's not fair for my kids to be punished and not be able to spend Christmas Day with both of their parents. It's not fair for their father not to be able to spend every Christmas Day with them. Frankly, my mother doesn't think it's fair either. Since her grandkids have been born, she has spent every Christmas with "us." Now, through no fault of her own, every other year, that "us" doesn't include her grandchildren. No, life isn't always fair. But, we have to learn to roll with the punches and make the most of each day and just "be happy in it."

This Christmas morning, I will be awakened by my kids (hopefully not at 5:30 a.m.) wondering if Santa has arrived. They actually don't believe in Santa anymore, but still, it's all part of the tradition. And, while some traditions have had to change since our divorce, others still remain the same. For example, my mom will be here; we'll start with the stockings; we'll take a breakfast break half-way through openings the gifts; and Santa always brings underwear!

The positive attitude side of me relishes knowing that we are also creating new traditions to be cherished. The realistic side of me realizes that those traditions will remain intact only until such time that life evolves and those traditions so too come to an end. And so the cycle continues!