Divorce is hard on kids. As it turns out, it's not all that easy for adults either. One of the toughest things, at least for me, was sharing holidays with my ex, the father of my 3 boys.
It wasn't so much him seeing them. That I didn't mind. It was more the hassle of having to make them leave the fun they were having at my house to go to his.
We came to an amicable solution whereby the boys would spend part of the evening with their dad and his partner at the time, we'll call her Laura, on Christmas Eve. They opened their presents from him there and had a bite to eat. Christmas Day was spent with me as their dad often chose to take up overtime shifts during the season.
It worked well and there were even times when he dropped the boys off that I invited him in for some Christmas cheer.
But as they became teenagers, the boys started resisting the arrangement. Not because they disliked their father, they just wanted to do their own thing. They didn't care for Laura and didn't feel welcome in the home their father shared with her. But like a dutiful mother, I encouraged them to continue the Christmas Eve visits. And in that, a new holiday was born - the Dysfunctional Family Christmas.
The Dysfunctional Family Christmas has given us more laughs, more joy and more WTF moments than it had any right to. We still talk about it to this day even though there hasn't been one for over a decade.
The inaugural Dysfunctional Family Christmas took place on December 24, 2009. As it turns out, it was also the first Christmas my mother agreed to spend with us. She was nearing 80 and had finally let go of her stubborn insistence on spending the holidays alone.
The evening started out nicely. I made a punch, some hot mulled cider and various treats to make things special. The boys were 19, 16 and 14. My oldest, being of legal drinking age, wasn't shy about taking his punch from the adult bowl, right in front of Grandma.
She protested. She didn't go in for foolishness like the demon drink. But she didn't say too much. She was having too much fun eating shortbread cookies and butter tarts and basking in the youthful energy of the boys, their friends and their girlfriends.
The boys asked if they could have their stockings. I let them. First, I'm terrible at keeping gifts away from people. I like seeing their faces when they get something they want. And, let's be honest, we were all way beyond the Santa phase. There were no illusions as to where the presents came from.
My oldest went first. And my mother lost it! He pulled out the gift card to the liquor store. But that wasn't the issue. It was the package of condoms that really got to her.
She started flailing her arms around, hollering about fornication and how I shouldn't encourage such things. The boy was 19. He was in university. I've been 19. I've been to university. I'm not exactly naive.
But it got worse. My middle son dumped out the contents of his stocking. Another pack of condoms. Then the baby, 14. Wait for it....yes more condoms.
Mom was losing it! She stood up, all 5 feet of her accusing me of putting ideas in their heads and saying things like what they needed was a good switch on the ass, not prophylactics. There was some talk about ruination and how she raised me better than that.
And she did. She raised me to think for myself and to look at life realistically. I had 3 handsome teenage boys in the 2000s. I was well aware of what went on. We had conversations, many of them uncomfortable, and I decided it was better they be informed and protected. She didn't see or appreciate my reasoning.
But that's not the dysfunctional part. You'd think dumping out your stockings, finding condoms and your elderly, ultra-conservative grandmother seeing them would be the very definition of a dysfunctional family Christmas, but no. When we do crazy, we do it full-on.
The boys' father showed up right on time at 8 pm to pick them up. He had to work the next morning at 6 am, so the visit was only supposed to be 2 hours. It didn't last that long.
I wasn't there, so I tell the story the way it was relayed to me. And I do have to say, my ex isn't a horrible person. Well, he was horrible for me. We were horrible for each other. And he's horrible in any situation where the slightest amount of stress might be involved. He's also very impulsive.
The kids arrived to find a very tense household. Laura was scowling as were her 2 daughters. That was nothing new. Holidays always involved some sort of drama at their father's place.
There was a tree, but only 3 or 4 presents under it. And there were 2 delightful, rambunctious puppies.
The puppies were named Zeus and Zeena (later renamed Thor). They were purebred Bull Mastiffs. And they were beautiful dogs. My ex, as it turned out, maxed out Laura's credit card to purchase them. His plan was to breed them and make money.
However, his dog breeding business wasn't to be. You see, the pups were both boys. Maybe that's what the tension was about.
But he pressed on, determined to show his boys a good Christmas. He opened his presents first. The boys bought him a hat. It wasn't much, but it was at least a Nike hat, and he loved it. And let's be honest, they didn't buy it, I did, for them to give him.
Bickering started. I can't say who started it. But my ex and Laura started sniping at each other. She snatched the hat off his head and tossed it. He flew into one of his fits and started screaming about the need to "maintain the structural integrity of the hat."
The tree fell over. Laura ran out to sit in her jeep.
Oh, and, there were no presents for the boys. My oldest got nothing from his dad. The middle one got some bubbles. BUBBLES! He was 16. What does a 16-year-old boy do with bubbles? And the baby? He got bubbles and bath beads. I don't know any 14-year-old boys that have a use for bubbles or bath beads unless the bath beads are filled with Axe body spray.
Now granted, I enjoyed the bath beads. And he did give each boy an IOU. He explained that he'd spent so much on the dogs, he had nothing for presents.
For some reason, the boys came home after about an hour.
It sounds like a bad night. It sounds like it would never happen again. I mean, people can have a bad day. But no, that was just the first one. Each and every Christmas after that was pretty much the same, dysfunctional. It became something we looked forward to, simply for the entertainment value.
And to this day, we joke about it. My boys are 32 (almost 33), 30 and 28 and there isn't a Christmas that goes by where the Dysfunctional Family Christmas isn't mentioned. My middle son lives near me and each year, I stuff a stocking for him and each year, he gets bubbles.
Sometimes the fondest memories come from the weirdest stuff. My ex and I couldn't give our kids Christmas together, but we sure managed to give them a few they'd never forget.
About the Creator
Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
too funny! It just kept getting better haha
Some of the most uncomfortable and cringy stories end up making the best memories simply as something to have all experienced together. Glad you can laugh about it and kept up the 'bubbles' tradition! Great work :)
I knew it was going to be crazy, but this one was super duper crazy. Loved it!!!💕❤️
Oh my, what a giggle I just had! I remember dysfunctional Christmases that often occurred with an ex from my younger days, and they were pretty bad. Nevertheless, we always remember the funniest ones. Your story is funny, and it is good that you can see humor from those memories.
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Haha. This is great. I can picture your Mom's reaction. My Nan's would have been the same. Great story.