I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on Christmas. Once the kids grow up and enter important relationships, the whole emphasis changes. We have to share. The other parents need their time too and it’s a challenging transition for all of us.
It’s been 12 years since my eldest went to her in-laws for the first time and this year’s not ‘our’ Christmas again. The day just isn’t the same without everyone there.
I had to work at this one
When she went away for the first time, I was really upset. I didn’t want it to happen. It would be so strange without her. And when the second daughter went as well, that was very odd. It made me realise just how many family traditions we’d built up over the years. It was tough for us and for her to manage a day that was so totally different.
It turns out its the daft stuff that mattered most – like how you unwrap the presents. Seems there
are two schools: take it one at a time and everyone watches as the gift unfolds versus hand out the gifts and all open at the same time. Totally unimportant but a difference that underlines you’re not at home and not together.
Time to let go
As Mother (Matriarch, they would say!) I realised just how important my reaction was. I could make this easy or really tough for them. I decided I had to let go, accept the new reality and take guilt out of the equation. It’s all too easy for kids to feel torn between different sets of parents. They don’t want to upset anyone, they try to please all of us, not to mention each other and still have an enjoyable day. Christmas becomes a pain rather than a time to savour and I really didn’t want that.
When you think about it, we’re just talking about a bunch of cultural agreements. We all agree that December 25th is the day, but no one really knows when Christ was born. Apparently It was plucked out of the air by Emperor Constantine in 336 AD, then made official by Pope Julius I a few years later. So why not change it when the need arises? That way, everyone gets their favourite day together there and no one feels badly about leaving someone out.
We do this all the time in our family. When birthdays don’t fall on a suitable day, we just move them to a better time. Even to the point of having multiple events, which the little kids really love! So why not do the same with Christmas?
See you next Christmas
This was the cry from my grandson as he left to visit his paternal Grandmother. As the dog was handed
over, I could send them off to have a great time knowing his ‘next Christmas’ is just a few days away. They’ll enjoy themselves and we’ll have a peaceful time with the dog before the pandemonium that is our traditional day together.
Of course it’ll never be quite the same. But there are real benefits – like the present that was never going to be delivered in time for the right day or the chance to do your present shopping in the sales. Not to mention the opportunity to set up completely new traditions for the ‘non-Christmas Christmas’ – different houses, conflating into New Years Eve, eating Indian food or pizza – we can do exactly what we want.
Best of all, we can relax
As I deliberated, I came to one important conclusion: I never want to be a chore for my kids. I prefer that they want to be with me. So if that’s what I want, then it’s my job to make this change good for all of us. I want to keep guilt and duty out of the picture and it’s entirely within my gift to do that.
So I realised I had to ease up and manage myself. The first time was very strange, but we soon settled. Then the first grandkids came along and we needed to change again. I discovered that Christmas had become something to dread – so much packing, endless car journeys, too much celebration in close succession. We were fast becoming a chore without realising it. So now, in the ‘off’ year, we choose the day that suits all of us and that seems to work better.
And writing this is a good reminder for me to check in and see how they are doing. When the plans stop working we just need to rethink.
After all, Christmas is just one day
Part of my conclusion was to see that the relationship with my kids is paramount and Christmas Day is pretty low priority in the scheme of things. I’ll go for good times throughout the year in preference to one big blow out. And being willing to adapt and include the other parents without any fuss is an important part of the deal that will only going benefit us all.
So easy does it, Mother. Breathe and relax. December 30th will work just as well.