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The Eagle

Christmas for two

What it is like to celebrate the holidays with two families.
The Manning/Conrad family Christmas 2023: Kirt Conrad, Meredith Conrad, Ally Manning, Payton Manning, Addison Conrad and Kathrine Conrad posing infront of their Christmas tree.

In the media, divorce is portrayed as the destruction of a family and the worst thing that could happen to a child, but in reality, it is different for all families.
During the summer of 2016, my parents went through a divorce. I was only 10 years old and it felt like the world was ending. In my mind, I thought if I cried hard enough they would change their minds like they always do when I sobbed, but no amount of tears changed the situation.
That night my dad left the house and moved out.
Figuring out how to navigate childhood and separation was tricky for my parents, but we fell into a rhythm. Every Monday and Tuesday my sister and I would stay with my dad as well as every other weekend. Every Wednesday and Thursday we would stay with our mom and every other weekend. At first, not seeing my parents every day was almost excruciating but the deep homesick feeling became second nature.
Just as I was getting used to living separately from one parent half of the time, Christmas came around.
To celebrate with both parents, my sister and I are constantly going back and forth between Dad’s house and Mom’s. I call this holiday ping-pong; I still feel like a ball constantly in motion each holiday season. Christmas Eve is spent with one parent and then at 10 p.m. my sister and I go to the other parent’s house to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
Waking up Christmas morning without both of my parents for the first time was hard. Christmas is about family but half of mine was not around, but families can grow and change.
Christmas of 2017 was the first holiday we spent with my stepmom and step-siblings. I did not particularly like my stepmom at first and I was a spiteful child, I complained and cried the entire night begging to go home.
I was surrounded by step-family, strangers in my eyes, and all I wanted for Christmas was for my Mom and Dad to be together again.
Later when we started opening presents I was given a tiny box. I reluctantly opened it and inside were diamond studs. Ten years old me was dumbfounded, ‘how could this be right?’ I thought. The name on the front tag read from Step Mom and Dad. ‘Why would this stranger get me something so precocious and valuable?’
As I grew older and spent more Christmases with my step family, I came to realize that my stepmom was just as scared as me. It was uncommon ground for the both of us and she was simply trying to become part of my family.
In 2018 my stepdad entered the picture, I was not too sure about him at first. He was a big burly man with a thick beard, tattoos, and a stern demeanor. I thought he was intimidating, but underneath the sternness, he was simply a sweet man who deeply loved my mom.
Decorating the Christmas tree with him for the first time was when I started to see him as a part of my family. He treated our family ornaments with a gentleness that I admired.
Christmases now are still just as special to me as they were when my parents were together, but now I could not imagine the holidays without my step family

.
Finding your place among a new family can feel alienating at first. Being nervous or scared is a normal thing to feel, the most important thing I did during the first Christmases with my step family was allow time to mourn the past but not get caught up in it.

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About the Contributor
Meredith Conrad, Broadcast Manager
Meredith Conrad (they/them) is a senior and has been on new staff for three years. They're an aspiring cinematographer and in their second year of the video production career tech. In their free time they love to crochet, read, and workout.
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