Holidays! They’re not far away. If you lean back and close your eyes, you can almost hear the crashing waves on the beach, leather on willow, crickets chirping and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. But between now and then, there’s that big, stress-inducing, expensive, insanely busy and exhausting monster called Christmas to get past, through or around.
It’s fair to say that Christmas doesn’t always bring out the best in us. Exhibit A – shopping trips to Chadstone or Southland. If Christmas is (a bit) about bringing Heaven and Earth closer together, Christmas Eve at Chadstone is a special kind of Hell! Then there’s get-togethers with the part of the family that you’d rather avoid, everyone over-eating and/or over-imbibing, hyped-up kids running amok from too much sugar, and perhaps a mid-Christmas changeover for your child – let’s call him Tommy.
Everyone you’re sharing Christmas with probably understands that you’ve got to attend changeover before or after lunch. You may have chatted with your wider family about the arrangements, including what will happen with Tommy’s other parent. It might be that no one’s got anything nice to say. You’re all on the same side, some have had a few drinks, the odd snide remark is made. Doesn’t hurt, does it? Except that little Tommy (who ‘won’t hear a thing’ when he’s told to brush his teeth/do his homework/get off Minecraft) is dead certain to pick up on those comments.
Changeovers can be difficult at the best of times. You might think that Tommy doesn’t want to go. He’s not properly looked after by the other parent and you’re angry about your ex. Accusations have been made about previous changeovers, so you or your ex decide to bring a witness, or to record events on your phone. Then there are arguments about the fun that Tommy’s missing, the new partners get involved. It ain’t very Christmassy!
These issues are the stuff of Tommy & Tiger Terry, a book written by family law barrister, filmmaker, producer and actor, Darren Mort and illustrated by Niama Wessely. It reads like a children’s book, but like any good children’s book it has layers (thanks Shrek!) and some important messages for adults, too. It shows us Tommy’s perspective of living with his parents in conflict. High-tension changeovers, unkind references to Tommy’s other parent, and overhearing adult conversations. These cause Tommy anxiety and distress.
We have a copy of Tommy & Tiger Terry at the Bayside Family Law Solutions office. It’s well worth a read and some contemplation. We also attended a recent presentation of a film adaptation of Tommy & Tiger Terry. The film is very confronting and a lot darker than the book, though both show in technicolour some of the situations that lawyers often describe in affidavits, filed in court proceedings when it all goes badly awry.
Social science research has long told us that kids are generally pretty resilient and can cope with their parents separating. But what they can’t cope with and what’s damaging to them, is the conflict and violence that is often associated with family breakdown (and sadly all too common in intact families, too).
As we head towards Christmas and those holidays on the other side, please stop and pause to think about how you can tame that big hairy Christmas monster.
Tommy asks us to reflect on our own behaviour and make positive changes that will create better outcomes for him and other children. That might involve making some changes to reduce the stress involved in your Christmas or making some resolutions to consider the situation from your Tommy’s perspective. Maybe reduce the number of Christmas functions you attend or the amount you spend on presents. The bonus for you might mean not having to put up with Uncle Pete tell you how to live your life or having some spare cash to enjoy on holidays with your kids!
At Bayside Family Law Solutions, we want our clients to be their best selves and make the best they possibly they can of their separation. This starts with looking to the future and being focused on their children’s needs. We would like to wish all of our clients, partners and associates a peaceful Christmas and holiday season.