‘Tis the Season… Or, Maybe ‘Tisn’t

Dear Mr. Dad: When our daughter was younger, Christmas was her favorite holiday and she looked forward to it all year. Now that she’s 13, she refuses to celebrate it. Christmas is always a big deal in our house. How do we convince our daughter to participate and enjoy this special holiday?

A: Generally speaking, young children love the Christmas holidays because of what they see as the magical and enchanting atmosphere–beautifully decorated houses, Christmas trees, sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus coming to town, and opening gifts on Christmas morning (not necessarily in that order). Even in my house—and many others—where we celebrate Hanukah, I love to pack the kids into the car and drive around town oohing and aahing over the amazingly elaborate light displays. And yes, some of that gift-opening magic has rubbed off on us too.
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Hang in There, (Single) Dad + Winners of the 2009 Holiday Seal of Approval!

Dear Mr. Dad: My child’s mother and I never married and we split before the baby was born. Nevertheless, she and I used to share parenting equally. We compromised, worked out schedules, and we both spent lots of time with our daughter. But about a year ago, I got married. And immediately, the mother cut me back to seeing my daughter only every other weekend. Two months later, she moved in with a man. Since then, she barely lets me see my daughter at all. My wife and my little girl (who’s now three) have a very strong relationship. The mom and I have been fighting for over a year and I finally got her to agree to go to mediation with me to come up with a parenting plan. What can I reasonably ask for? How can I get anything when she has all the power just for being mom?

A: You put your finger on the problem perfectly–your child’s mother has all the power simply because she’s the mother. Well, nearly all the power.

Every time I address the issue of single fathers in this column, I hear from lawyers insisting that unmarried parents have the same rights as married ones. Well, that may be true on paper, but it’s rarely the way things play out in real life.

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