The day I've been mulling over for months has finally arrived: my first Thanksgiving without Cadence. In just a couple of hours I will hug her, tell her how grateful I am for her, thank her for our really awesome day together yesterday, and send her on her way to spend the day with her daddy and his family. This is one of the real-life consequences of choosing a healthy single life over a miserable coupled one. I made the decision consciously for her to spend every Thanksgiving with her dad. I know it's best for her. He has family here. I wanted her to have memories of turkey and dressing, aunts doting over her, board games and football in the background. I couldn't promise her any of those things on my own. We have amazing days together just the two of us, but I didn't want her Thanksgiving memories to seem lonely.
She and her daddy will continue the family tradition we started by going to the Thanksgiving Day Parade downtown. They will have an awesome time. I know this.
The holidays haven't been so merry and bright for me for a lot of years. This year, knowing that my girl is happily settled into a day of fun, food, family, and friends, I can begin to rewrite my holiday narrative. I have been invited to the home of one of my dearest friends—family of choice as I call her. Her children call me Aunt Julie. We will love on each other. I will be able to be me. To not worry about smiling when what I'm really feeling is sadness, disappointment, and loss—like in days of old.
I will bake my pumpkin dessert in her kitchen. We will watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (a tradition I gave up when I moved to St. Louis). I will feel their love and extend mine right back.
But let's be clear: I am making the choice to be joyous, to be thankful. It would be really easy to be sad and ache over my daughter's absence. But that choice wouldn't serve me, my kiddo, or anybody else.
Today, I am praying for the other mamas who find themselves packing up their children to spend the day with other family members. It's hard, and not how it's “supposed” to be. I am praying that we can all breathe in what is and make it good and whole and healthy. And breathe out the “supposed tos.” To let go of what we'd dreamed for our families that didn't work out as planned.
I am praying that in the midst of missing our kids, we can have some space to heal and grow stronger. To rest from the expectations of a holiday that carries with it the weight of tradition and high expectation and be restored and revived for when we see our children next.
Our kids are watching us today. Are we sad? Are we joyful? They are taking their cues from us. I want my daughter to feel good about today. I want her to see me happy and full of gratitude. After all, I'll see her again tomorrow. And for that I am grateful.