31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Holiday Hurdles!

Single with Children: Holiday season will test a mother's faith

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 11/28/01

Thanksgiving is over, and I'm sure most of us have had our fill of turkey, leftover dressing, and pumpkin pie. This is the time of year I like to think of as a chance to don my magician's wand and make the impossible possible, or, at the very least, probable! Moms and Dads do that on a regular basis;we just get more of a challenge during those fleeting post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas days. And here we are.

The real challenge during this time is the extra balls we juggle into our already full rotation. We work to make paychecks stretch so that "must have" presents appear. Then, there are the impromptu holiday gatherings. And just when we think we've covered all our bases and have completed our shopping lists, someone appears at the door with a gift that wasn't anticipated. That's why, along with giving thanks for things like family, health, friends and, this year especially, peace on earth, we're grateful for 24-hour discount stores.

And, of course, there is the decorating. I've backed off from the days when I must have looked like Chevy Chase in "Christmas Vacation," but I still feel incomplete without a little exterior illumination. And because confession is good for the soul, I also admit that anyone who receives a gift from me of something edible can be certain I had nothing to do with its preparation. I've long since gotten over that guilt. I've even rationalized it to the point that I'm doing myself and the intended recipient an extra favor, in that baking is simply not one of my talents. I save time and they save a trip to the emergency room. It's a win-win situation!

I've done the "Single Mother Christmas" gig for five years now, and I'm less intimidated than I was in the beginning, but there's no way around it...even with the experience I have, it's still a formidable task.

As most custodial parents know, holidays usually entail travel, and this one will be no different. However, because of the actions of a handful of terrorists, I will confront an extra dose of anxiety. My ex-husband called earlier this month to ask how I would feel if Justin flew out to his home on Dec. 21 to spend Christmas with his Dad and stepmother, then flew back home with his Dad to pick up Katie and drive to a ski resort for a few days. It would be pure folly to invite Katie to fly right now, so that wasn't even a consideration. Justin, however, has never had flying issues, so this was a viable possibility.

What to do? I've enjoyed Justin for 14 Christmases, and, because he sees so little of his Dad, I understood this might be something he would be up for. I've even casually told friends I wouldn't necessarily be afraid to fly right now, but that was abstract conversation. This is real stuff. This isn't about a friend taking off on a holiday. This will be my son boarding a jet for a fairly long flight. Alone.

I thought about it and asked Justin how he would feel about flying out to spend Christmas with his Dad. Of course he was excited at the prospect. Justin is 15, and I'm certain he misses his father. He was a little concerned about leaving me, but I assured him we would celebrate our own Christmas the day before he left. With that assurance, Justin jumped at the opportunity.

So this Dec. 21, as I head out for the airport with my precious son, my "wish list" will be small but more important than any I have ever compiled. My fearless son will be winging his way across the country to join his Dad for some much needed bonding, and I'll be praying with all of my heart that he arrives and returns safely. I will have to employ my best acting skills to keep the days leading up to his departure happy, carefree and even matter-of-fact. If I'm able to pull this off, I really should look into taking up drama.

This season is all about hope. For a practicing Christian, it's also about faith. I've often told my kids that faith isn't worth a whole lot unless you're challenged and find a reason to use it. If it's the "real deal," it can carry you through anything. And as a parent, it will again be one of those times when Katie and Justin will see if my beliefs were simply talk or straight from the heart. My goal is to prove the latter. What we "do" as parents has a much greater impact than what we say.

I'll be nervous in the days leading up to Justin's departure. I probably won't get a great deal of sleep in the next couple of weeks, but there is comfort to be found. In Isaiah 11:6, my Bible states "and the little child shall lead them." Could any statement be more fitting? I will find energy in Justin's enthusiasm. I will find peace in the presence of an optimistic young man flying off to spend a few days with his father. I will employ my Faith and it will serve me well.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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