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Getting Through My First Single Dad Christmas (Or “The Day I Hit A Kangaroo”)

Ben Dillon-SmithBy Ben Dillon-Smith.
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My first single dad Christmas was hard. Really hard. And a bit of a mind fuck with a fair bit of emotional undoing, BUT….. I got through it and made it to the next one and the one after that. The kangaroo I hit with my car on Christmas morning, was not so fortunate. I really did fuck his Christmas up.

First anythings, are quite often a bit disappointing. Usually you get better with time. Like the first time I had sex: great for me, possibly not that memorable for my girlfriend at the time. All though afterwards we did have a lot more time on our hands than expected.

So as I approached my first single dad Christmas, I was unsure what would happen. It already felt loaded with a heap of emotion and uncertainty and awkwardness swilling around inside me. I have always loved Christmas, more than birthdays. Throw in a child and its even more of a joy, to experience and look forward to.

So I was sitting with the decision of, do we play happy families and have Christmas together, putting aside the hurt and anger and frustration sitting inside me, and drawing on all my acting skills to passively aggressively hide all of those emotions? Or, do we cut the day in half, Jethro starting with one parent then going to the other parent for the second half of the day? I allowed my self to play along in a “pretend everything is all OK Christmas morning” and for me personally, I wish I hadn’t.

The day started with me driving to my ex’s holiday house, early enough to be there as Jethro woke up to open presents together. A holiday house full of so many family memories including past Christmases, Easters, Birthdays, and holiday moments, which now felt cold, and distant. I was full of a wonderful mix of resentment, hurt, confusion, anger and sadness.

Before I’d even arrived at the house, I was driving along a country road early in the morning – the exact same time giant eastern grey kangaroos like to jump in front of brand new cars. Namely mine. And let me tell you, that while traveling along an open road, cruising around a long sweeping bend, with my mind in a scattered mess, over analysing and trying to mentally prepare myself for something I realised I was fast regretting, the last thing you expect is a six-foot tall kangaroo to appear in front of your car. And fuck me if that wasn’t the catalyst to releasing a whole shit-ton of emotions. Of course at the time I’m sure I blamed them all on my ex. “How dare she put that kangaroo there!”

There I was deep in thought, and BANG! Kangaroo down. Car smashed. Front fender destroyed. Headlight gone. For a split second I was in a self-absorbed dream like daze. Why me? Why here? Why now? Fuck life! And then like a scene out of The Hangover – BOOM! up jumps the kangaroo, scares whatever shit was left out of me, stares me in the eye, and some how jumps off into the bush to die. I got out of the car, still in shock, aimlessly trying to find the poor kangaroo, who was now having a much worse Christmas than mine. But it had disappeared into the bush. God knows what I would have done if I’d found it, but I was honestly prepared to give that kangaroo CPR.

At 5:30am in the morning, standing on a quiet country road in the dim stream of my car’s one remaining headlight, knowing the day hadn’t even really begun, I felt a real sadness. This was all very real.

When I finally did arrive at the holiday house, as much as I really wanted to see Jethro, and be apart of that joyous moment when a child wakes on Christmas morning, I also wanted to escape and be as far away as possible. I felt overwhelmed with sadness. As I approached the house, Jethro and his mum came out to greet me on the front porch and as I went to tell them what had just happened, I burst into tears and sobbed. An explosion of snot and tears that was just waiting to come out. The person who would normally step in and console me, and give me a hug was now no longer that person. I felt so alone at that moment.

Merry Christmas Jethro.

We spent Christmas morning together, which for me felt awkward and false, but I’m sure Jethro was none the wiser with present after present to open to distract him. After breakfast and spending the morning there, he came back with me to my mum and sister’s house not too far away, and he had his second Christmas that morning with his auntie and nana.

What I learnt from that first Christmas as a single dad, was yes there are some days and moments you have to just deal with it for the sake of your child, but there are other times when you need to do what’s right for you. To trust your instincts and be kind on your self. In my mind, there is no point pretending and creating a false experience for your child. That doesn’t mean you bitch about your ex or unleash all your life’s anguish in front of your child – but they do need to learn that life has changed. For better or worse (what lovely irony), life has moments that are good and bad and difficult and shit and awesome and unexpected and disastrous and full of love and hate and joy and happiness and, and, and…. Our dreams and plans and expectations for life, can change at any moment. Life creates different experiences for everyone, and it’s how we adapt and learn form those that makes the difference. Because sometimes a big fuck-off kangaroo will jump out in front of you, when you least expect it.

I still really miss that all encompassing family get-together without the thinking about who has the morning, who has the afternoon, what time do we need to be here or there….. but I have a much better and fulfilled life than many in this world, so I’m grateful for that. And maybe one day we will all come together as an extended family, but only when it feels right. My Christmas is just different now, as is Jethro’s. I’m sure he loves the fact he gets two in the one day, surrounded by people on both sides of his family who love and adore him.

Whatever your first celebration day is as a single parent, may feel hard, and a little awkward for the first few, but they’ll evolve into new ways to celebrate over time.

REMEMBER – YOU ARE NOT ALONE – IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE OUTSIDE OF YOUR FRIEND AND FAMILY GROUPS, THERE ARE PLENTY OF FREE SERVICES WITH TRAINED PROFESSIONALS.

This is a blog post from Ben Dillon-Smith’s brilliant blog: The Single Dad Journey. Check it out here