When I was married, holidays were often pretty tense. I felt everything always had to be perfect. The ex-husband was very rigid about everything. I never understood why he was so rigid. He was not raised in a family that was formal by any means. He had absolutely no table manners when we met. I was actually horrified when we first got married at how bad his manners were. As the kids grew up, I wanted them to know manners but also, did not want to be as strict as it was in my house growing up. I would have loved a good middle ground with our family. Unfortunately, it  did not work out that way. ExH became very rigid about manners. If anything was spilled, knocked over, or anything else, it was tense the rest of the day. The kids would be yelled at for spilling something so they were nervous at the dinner table and I was, too. He was like this on Christmas morning, too. I just couldn’t truly relax and enjoy the day.

As much as the holidays were stressful, they were also what I wanted. I wanted a family. Mom, dad, kids all together. A man I thought I was going to grow old with. After he left me, I was devastated and dreaded the holidays, especially the first Thanksgiving. One kid was off at college and the other two were spending it with their dad. I was not looking forward to this at all. My mother was wonderful and flew me to her house for the holiday. She remembered how it was for her when she became single after 20 years and didn’t want me to be alone. It was a good holiday but I missed the younger kids desperately. I also knew that neither of them wanted to be with their dad. If they had been happy, it would have been easier to be away from them.

By the next Thanksgiving, I was in love with B- the ex-boyfriend. The kids had all met him and really liked him too so we had him over for Thanksgiving.  He also joined us for Christmas. It was so relaxed and fun and has gotten better every year. This year, he joined us again. Neither of us were sure he would. We have moved on but I wanted him here and the kids also insisted that I invite him. At first, he was hesitant but eventually decided to join us. I have told him so many times how much he means to my kiddos but he never seems to believe it but it feels like family when he is here. When he arrived, all three adult children ran to the door to greet him. They were obviously so excited to have him here.

Usually, I work on the dinner for days but this year I didn’t do anything ahead of time. Instead, my kids and I got up and worked in the kitchen on the dinner together. Everyone helped with everything. B showed up with wine and gifts from his recent trip. Before dinner, he showed us photos of his trip and we all caught up. We hadn’t all been together in months. Dinner was perfect. No stress at all. We laughed, and joked, and just had a great time. After dinner, we played several games and continued laughing and having fun. It was the way Thanksgiving should be. I am glad my kids are finally seeing that holidays can be fun without anyone yelling about something and being upset or any fighting. Now they have an idea of what it could be. I am so glad that B and I are at a point where he can be family without us being a couple. I have never been so comfortable with anyone before and the five of us have become a family. I will enjoy it as long as I can.