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The eye of the holiday

Alex Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Here we are, balanced in the middle of the seemingly interminable holiday season with the end now in sight. Christmas is past, and the evidence of our excess is visible everywhere ” from the new toys we’re tripping over to the waste bin in the garage overflowing with packaging.

Next year, we vow, we will spend less ” or at least more wisely. There’s always at least one toy we buy where we hit ourselves on the head and say, “What were we thinking!?” You know the one: the over-hyped product that looked so cool on the Nick Jr. commercial but that required 47 batteries, an hour of assembly and the ultimate realization that the end product is sort of lame.

Many of us mountain folk have to work during the holidays, when everyone else in the world, or so it seems, is on vacation. In my case, I always take the week off because it is one of the weeks I get with my son Max, who lives most of the time with his mother in Littleton. Compared with the short weekends twice a month, a week is a great gift that enables us to tighten up our bonds, get in a lot of skiing and imagine what it would be like if Max could be with us all the time.



There are a lot of us out there, I know. “Non-custodial” parents who share crumbs of custody with exes during the holidays and other times. Other than staying together, of course, there is no perfect solution, and someone ” usually the dad ” ends up with the short end of the “visitation” stick. It can mean holidays are spent waiting, traveling and sometimes arguing and renegotiating. Yep, if there’s one truly great way to add stress to the holiday season, it’s to split parenting time with someone toward whom you may have, let’s say, less-than-warm feelings.

I’ve been doing this for a while now; about seven years. At the same time I don’t want to see Max grow up too fast, I find myself counting the years until his mother is out of the picture (or my picture, at least) and he can come up here when he wants to, driving himself. Our current agreement stipulates that I have Max at the McDonald’s in Idaho Springs at 6 p.m. Sunday, every other weekend. No local in his right mind gets on Interstate 70 and heads east at 5 o’clock on Sunday, but I do. And I bet there are plenty of other mountain dads whose exes opted for the Front Range after the breakup. I’m not sure who they are, but I imagine I see them sitting in the parking lot next to me, eyes searching for our kid’s arrival so we can get the hell back home. And we could probably tell the Colorado Department of Transportation a thing or two about when that tunnel traffic really is bad.



But it’s nothing compared with the three years I lived in L.A. and spent most of Christmas and New Year’s Day in the air or in airports. Inconvenient though all that was, and still is, it’s a doable and necessary thing if you want to maintain your relationship with a child who doesn’t live with you full time. I don’t know how some parents allow themselves to drop out of the picture completely, but I do understand the temptation. This is hard stuff. While some parents are able to enjoy civil, even warm, relationships with each other post-divorce, it seems like most of us do not. Given the power to control the board, all too often the custodial parent exercises it to the pain of the other.

But, as they say, this too shall pass. Keeping that in perspective is what keeps me sane.

Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2920 or amiller@


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