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The big tradition blender

Alex Miller

Children today will look back on their 2006 Christmas holiday with fondness. They’ll remember spinning dreidels under the tree while Buddy played “O Tannenbaum” on his electric guitar and others observed the lighting of the kinara candles for Kwanzaa. Later, if memory serves, everyone played a pickup snow football game out back: half brothers and sisters versus the adopted kids. Maybe even the original moms and dads will be behind center, with second wives and husbands in wide-out positions.My wife came across a staggering figure in Sunday’s paper: Nearly 30 percent of all the kids celebrating Christmas this year (or holidays in general, I suppose) will be in a blended family situation of one kind or another. Many kids will split their holiday between two households, and kids from recently split families will struggle to make it all make sense as established traditions from original Mom and Dad yield to a shifting landscape (Stepmom allows one present open on Christmas Eve? Cool! What, no Christmas turkey? No way!).As a blended family ourselves, we’re probably luckier than most in that none of us was so wedded to traditions that we waged pitched battles over them. The kids took it all in stride when they saw Mom and Dad weren’t losing their heads over tinsel placement. Our big thing, really, is making sure everybody is under one roof for at least part of the season, and it’s those times when the seven of us are in one place that make it special – not whether we have real mistletoe or plastic stuff hanging over the door.Sometimes, though, it’s easy to lose sight of that stuff as we attempt some sort of impossible holiday perfection. It’s a worthy goal, sure: an idyllic blend of Norman Rockwell and Bing Crosby, gilded in fresh snow and laced with eggnog and hot cider. For most of us, the reality tracks downward, from a relatively normal, happy Christmas where we get most of what we want to the horror-filled relative-run-in holiday bash: Uncle Ernie passed out in the bathroom while the twins set fire to the tree.With all these blended families and kids careening back and forth, many of us are forced to travel on Christmas Day. For the three Christmases we spent in L.A., the special day for me meant spending a lot of time in LAX, DIA and a Frontier jet between. Now, it’s a little easier with my middle son in Littleton and the exchange at Idaho Springs – but I’ve had to get used to the fact that I never see Max on Christmas Eve or morning.For many a split family, the holidays can open old wounds. Maybe you spent 10 grand on lawyers to get this time with your daughter, or maybe memories of when everyone was together become overwhelming and sad. It’s never easy, it’ll never be perfect – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be nice. As I’ve learned, after the bleeding stopped, it’s best to put all the crap behind and focus on what you have today. That’s an oft-used maxim for life, but it’s particularly relevant for freshly split parents who have the best interests of their children foremost in mind.The reality is that kids move on faster than parents do, so if yuletide bliss is what you seek, remember they’ll make the most of what you lay out for them. Introduce new traditions within your blended family, and the kids will likely take to them immediately. Focus on trying to re-create a past that no longer exists, and, well, get ready to be disappointed.So to all you blended and “normal” families out there, I wish you the best this holiday season. Take what you can, leave the rest behind, … and don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or amiller@vaildaily.com.


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