12/24/2014 07:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

New Family, New Traditions: Navigating the Holidays After Divorce

We set up our Christmas tree tonight and true to family tradition, it is topped not with an angel or star but a sea creature. One year it was a Purple Squid. The next, a Great White Shark named Pizza. This year, a Manta Ray tops our tree. Our Christmas tree is as untraditional as our family and I love every rogue light, quirky ornament and twisted branch. It's very Martha UnStewart, more Puntrest than Pintrest.


Since my divorce, I have worked hard to establish new family traditions and routines with my boys. Christmas is one of the most significant; my ex is Jewish and never really understood my family's love for gaudy trees, overstuffed stockings and dozens of presents. We celebrated "Chrismukkah" for many years, playing dreidel next to the Christmas tree as the boys basked in their dual heritage.

Tonight after dropping off the boys, my ex asked to have a quick look at our holiday schedule. Hanukkah is late this year and he asked to spend as many of the 8 Crazy Nights with the boys as before we left for Christmas holidays with my family. During our marriage and even following our divorce, we would celebrate the holiday together at Family Dinner. I would roast a chicken per his mother's recipe, spend the day squeezing water out of potatoes for latkes and desperately search Vancouver's North Shore for blue and white candles for the menorah. This year, he asked to have the boys for dinner on the first night. Even though it wasn't his usual night, he promised to have them home for bedtime. It took a moment to register but I realized that I was no longer a necessary part of this holiday. After several years of transition, he is now ready to take on this tradition on his own, or rather with his new partner.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my youngest one lazy Saturday morning a few weeks back. Lounging in our pjs, I asked him what he would like for breakfast (the tweenager was still slumbering). He asked if he could have eggs and could he help make them. He had a "family secret" that would make them extra delicious.

"Really?" I asked playfully. "So how come I, your mother, is unaware of this family secret?"

"Well, you're no longer a part of our family, Mom. I told Dad's girlfriend though because she's part of Dad's family now. "

*Cue heart breaking*

I choked back my tears and told him yes, of course. I understand. He has family traditions at Dad's place and they are very special and that we will also have traditions at my house. But if he likes the eggs at Dad's house maybe he could teach me the trick that made them so tasty. I promised to keep it secret (sorry, but there won't be a recipe following this post). He acquiesced, whispered the secret in my ear and they were indeed some of the best goddamn eggs I've ever tasted.

This post originally appeared on Divorce Doula.