A week or so ago I wrote a post here about the anticipation of having our adult children and their spouses come home for Christmas. Christmas is now behind us and they've left to go back to their own homes and lives....but not before I do a recap of what this family Christmas meant to me!
Funnily enough, my vision of Christmas togetherness was not how things panned out during the early stages of our children being married. They needed to work out how to fit in two sets of parents each, four or more sets of grandparents each, and a multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides. So our little family microcosm was just a blip on the radar in their juggling of family traditions and trying to be in half a dozen different places at once (oh the joys of Christmas festivities!)
The big lesson that Christmas has taught me is that everyone has their own set of expectations and you can't shove yours onto your children and expect that everyone will be happy. So, with time and pain and a readjustment or two (or three), this year Christmas was pretty darn good - as far as I was concerned anyway - and (judging from the picture I quickly snapped of them above) - it was good for them too.
Expectations are the biggest cause of heartache for me - I need to be more realistic in what I want from family life. I think coming from a fairly dysfunctional family background has made me try too hard to make my own family fit my picture of "perfect". Letting go and letting our kids find their own balance has been a wonderfully freeing experience and this Christmas has been all the more relaxed and special because of it.
So, my advice (not that I give advice), to parents struggling with the changes that adult children bring with them, is let go. Don't hold on too tightly, don't get your hopes too high, accept that you aren't the centre of their universe, and open yourself up to new ideas and compromises. I think Boxing Day is going to be our "Christmas Day" and that's really fine. I'd rather have a relaxed and chilled out day or two somewhere around the Christmas season than a forced and stressed day that nobody really feels happy about.
The kids are gone, peace has descended and I think we all had a lovely time - what more could a mother ask for? Who knows what Christmas 2016 holds? I'll just wait and see.