Monday, 12 December 2016

Midlife Monday ~ Re-Defining Christmas

when your ideas about Christmas get turned on their head - it's time to re-define Christmas

THE EARLY DAYS

Christmas has always been one of those occasions that I looked forward to for weeks/months beforehand and planned, organized, and micro-managed. I used to have visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, the Christmas Carols pumping, the tree colour co-ordinated and the day ruthlessly scheduled. I think there was a little bit of 1950's housewife that poked her nose out whenever Christmas got mentioned.

Having family in the city and in the country meant we packed kids in the car and traveled on Christmas Day itself, because It was so important to me to try to fit all the family commitments in, to not upset anyone by not being available to attend the family Christmas lunch/dinner/supper/church service, or whatever else was on the schedule for those hectic couple of days around Christmas itself. People Pleasing 101 kicked in big time over this season of celebration.


OUR SON

Fast forward to my own family being grown-up and things seem to have done a complete about face. We live in the country, both our "kids" and their spouses live in the city. Our son married a lovely young woman who has a very "full on" family where Christmas is non-negotiable. So, exit Stage Right for seeing our son on Christmas Day ever again. It felt like a bit of a punch in the gut at first because the little voice in my head screams "What about me???" and why aren't we worthy of Christmas Day?

Then the other little voice (the quieter and more rational one) says, "you know what? Boxing Day is just as special if you choose to make it that way. Why put all that pressure on them when it's just going to cause a myriad of upsets and a tug of war between the families?" Fortunately that little voice of sanity keeps asserting itself and I've come to accept that Boxing Day is a pretty good compromise - especially if it means they stay down for a visit for a couple of days and it extends Christmas into more family time.


OUR DAUGHTER

Our daughter on the other hand seemed to have issues with Christmas on and off through her late teens and early twenties. She didn't like conforming to other people's expectations (especially mine) and often found the whole "Christmas" thing overwhelming and confronting. She dealt with this by blowing off the day and in all honesty, this killed my heart a little bit more every time.

Even after she was happily married, there were all the issues of balancing his family and our family plus their own need to "have space". I thought I'd never get a family Christmas ever again. But, you know what? Letting go and switching off all the buttons that this presses freed me up tremendously. I could say "whatever..." and leave them to decide what they wanted to do. For some strange reason, releasing them from my expectations turned the situation around and now we have them down to stay over Christmas and it's like those painful years never happened.


May your walls know joy; May every room hold laughter


GIVING UP THE FIGHT

Letting go of the Brady Bunch Christmas that danced with those sugarplums inside my head is the best gift I can give myself. When I look at how fraught my own newly-wed Christmases were, I wonder why I even imagine that my own children would want to inflict that on themselves! Young people today are much braver than I was, they make their choices and you can like them or lump them, but basically you don't have a lot of say in how it goes. 

Fighting for preference usually provokes resistance and resentment, so I'm learning to be gracious and to accept what is offered with gratitude. That doesn't mean I don't have my "poor me" moments still - I even had a little weep while I put up the tree this year because it's always such a compromise now days. I guess I still have a way to go before I can let this new phase of Christmas be what it needs to be - I'm a work in progress.
when your ideas about Christmas get turned on their head - it's time to re-define Christmas

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Midlife Monday - www.crestingthehill.com.au

44 comments:

  1. There is a lot of pressure on us to have the "Brady Bunch Christmas". I have always had the big extended family days with my side of the family and my poor husband has missed out over the years because his family are disjointed and aren't as close knit as mine. My two grown up kids are a bit like your two. My son usually likes to spend Christmas with us but has to go to his girlfriend's place first. Our daughter is a self-proclaimed Christmas disliker and hates the big family get together. She enjoys a small Christmas lunch or dinner with us. For the past few Christmases she has either been overseas holidaying or working so she seldom joins in for the family Christmas. It's strange how we place so much emphasis on Christmas. This year we are having our big get together 2 days after Christmas with a picnic in a park.

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    1. I keep thinking the same thing Kathy - why is Christmas such a big deal to me? But it seems to push some buttons that are entrenched in me and when things go off the rails it stresses me out big time. I am getting better at letting go but I do wonder why it's so hard to get my "moment in the sun"

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  2. I think we are all increasingly re-defining Christmas and that is a good thing. With blended families and often great distances to traverse, life isn't quite as neat as it once used to be (or was it neat or just a clever disguise). I love that we can evolve to new traditions which may be very non-traditional.

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    1. Hear, Hear! This is a great attitude, Retiring not Shy! :)
      https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/

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    2. I know exactly what you're saying - we need to move with the changes or be left behind. My version of Christmas is different to my kids' and we need to meet somewhere in the middle. If that means changing the day then so be it!

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  3. Yessss. And this sob very much works for Hanukkah here as well. xoxo

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    1. It makes me glad that I don't have Hanukkah or Thanksgiving Carla - my poor little mother brain would probably have imploded by now!

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  4. I totally love your perspective! Have a great Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Paula - a cheer squad is exactly what I need at the moment :)

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  5. Oh my, it is stressful after the kids are grown and then have children who have another set of grandpaprents or even more if the grandparents have married again. It's best to do just as you did. So glad it turned out so well for you! Enjoy their visit and try not to spoil the grandbaby too much :) FYI: For a chance to be featured, put our button or link on either your post or sidebar or party page :) Thank you for partying with us at Blogging Grandmothers Christmas Link Party. We've shared your post on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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    1. You do what you have to do to keep the peace and to have some joy over Christmas don't you Dee. A bit of compromise means I get the time I so desperately want with my kids, so it's worth it in the end.

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  6. After 15 years of our house being Christams Central for our adult kids, grandkids and family's... the day began to splinter. Each family wanted to celebrate in their own way-- I was joyous. "They are growning up and want to make their own traditions, the pressure is off" I was morose. "What about me? Where will I fit in" I was ashamed.
    After decades the family not only splintered but fractured over when to spend time together.

    We decided to travel during the holidays every other year and guilt the adult children into a full family holiday every other year. Its working

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    1. Oh Beth that sums it up beautifully! It's about being happy that they have their own families and their own traditions to make, but at the same time there is "what about me?" going on in the back of my mind! The travel thing is very tempting if things fracture down any further.

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  7. Family traditions are hard to reinvent.Wishing you all the best this season!

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    1. They really are Haralee - trying to find time to all be together for ONE meal is like organizing an army campaign!

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  8. We are sold a bill of goods regarding lots of things, such as the perfect family, and the perfect Christmas is one of these. I am all for adaptability. And not feeling badly if you don't have the Brady holiday.
    Carol

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    1. It's very hard to toss that bill of sale out the window Carol when you've invested so much in it over the years. I'm getting better at settling for what's on offer because it beats the alternative.

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  9. Yep. Adaptation. Part of our Christmas evolution! :)

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    1. Nice to see your Father and Mother Christmas avatar happening there Diane - and you're right about adaptation - adapt or become extinct!

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  10. I think one of the great things about getting older is the ability to look at change as having some true positive outcomes. Sure, we miss the old days....none of which were perfect, truth be told. But if we get creative, we can always make the new days into something spectacular as well. Life is full of opportunities just staring us in the face!

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    1. I think you're right Cathy - my daughter reminds me that I don't need to continue the "running around after family all Christmas" tradition. It's a lot more pleasant to sit back and let things work out in their own way. The worry and stress just isn't worth it in the end. Joy to the World :)

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  11. Every family must decide on how they want to celebrate christmas. Some family members just will never be into celebrating and that is okay. Thanks for linking up with Blogging Grandmothers.

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    1. It's a lesson I'm learning Candace - we can't please everyone, all we can do is find a happy medium and be grateful.

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  12. How freeing for all of us to realize that the Brady Bunch Christmas was a show not reality.....now I just let each holiday take on its own life. We have to share our kids with their significant other's families. Sometimes, we have our holidays on a completely different day than the actual holiday. I am ok with this........as all I care about is that we are together as a family celebrating and making new memories each year.

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    1. I'm the same Ellen - I just want one meal where we're all at the same table at the same time. I love these few moments we get each year - and I know it's an excuse to bask in my kids for a couple of days and I hold onto that way too tight at times.

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  13. I have the same thing going on. Both my kids spend the holidays with the families of their sig others. Ours is too spread out. Although it's way less work and less expensive for me.

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    1. There is the little voice in my head that enjoys not having a full blown Christmas every year too Rebecca - but I do love seeing my kids and spending time together - it looks like Boxing Day is our Christmas Day for the foreseeable future - and that's not a bad thing.

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  14. Our tradition is Christmas Eve. It is smaller now since Randy had his double lung transplant (immune issues), but close friends and family still gather every Christmas Eve, now and forever. My son and his wife will do "every other" with her family, but my daughter will always be with us. Compromise is the name of the game.

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    1. Compromise certainly seems to be the word for Christmas once the kids get married doesn't it Tam. I'm happy if I get some time allocated without having to arrange it like some kind of military operation!

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  15. I've managed to reinvent Thanksgiving, but have a much harder time at Christmas. I have a feeling that as parents age and kids go their own way, reinvention will happen with or without my consent. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I agree Lois - it takes on a life of its own and we just have to keep adjusting to the changes. I miss the simplicity of Christmas Past - but I guess we move forward or get left behind.

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  16. Leanne, You're mature and your kids are lucky for that. Some people would put up a fuss and make an already stressful holiday, even more tense. You have the graciousness to let them do what they want.

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    1. Thanks so much Laurie - I don't want to be the person who puts pressure on my kids - they have enough of that already. I know my daughter would probably say I still "guilt trip" her about Christmas, but there has to be some give and take or we all end up unhappy. There are no winners if you get too pushy.

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  17. That saying about expectation being the thief of joy is so true. Over time, we have to be flexible enough to create new traditions -- sometimes they turn out to be even better than the old ones!

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    1. That's so true Lois - trying to hold on to the old ways and pressuring our kids to make choices that they're not comfortable with means we all lose out.

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  18. You're a smart and gracious mother and mother-in-law. Christmas was never a big deal in my family and I've gone for years without even acknowledging it. Sometimes I do wonder what a very Brady Christmas would be like.

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    1. Brenda - my Very Brady Christmas sounds great but is probably more trouble than it's worth! There is no such thing (except in my head) and I'm not really sure what I'd do with it if I ever achieved it! I'd probably set myself up for failure for future Christmases. I just want a day where we're all happy and together :)

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  19. I think it's great to create new traditions as the children get older, the family expands, and as we grow weary. The once stay at home all day, playing with toys, and eating of 40 years ago is long gone. Rock it the way you want to. We do. :)

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    1. I think that's the thing Bren isn't it? Finding what works in today's day and age and not fantasize about Christmases Past (that probably weren't as fabulous as we remember them being!)

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  20. It's harder than it sounds to give up lifelong traditions, whatever they are. Every parent who gets the Christmas short straw feels better dealed" but you said something important in that we can create expectations that can wind up letting us down. I thought about that one a lot.

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    1. Me too Susan - it's about reminding myself that "enough" is enough - it's not fair on the kids (and their in-laws) to demand first place each year. Although being first occasionally would be nice - see there I go again......

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  21. Life and the Festive Season became so much easier and enjoyable when I changed our family get-togethers to a week before. As our children grow and become adults we have to realise that when they meet someone, they too have a family and they all have to divide their time. You can start new traditions anytime as nothing is carved in stone is it Leanne. Do what you feel is right.

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    1. I know what you mean Sue - it's all about creating a gathering that works for everyone and still has some festive meaning to it. I totally get it intellectually but my heart still hurts a bit at times x

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  22. I totally get it. As a matter of fact, I almost decided not to put a tree this year. I have one daughter and she has two children, but one is a teen and of course has plans of her own, or would like to have and we also have to share her with my daughter's ex's family as well. The youngest loves to be with me, but I have to understand that there are other grandparents who love him as well. I am just not as excited about Christmas as I was when my daughter was a child and I think I am okay with that. Thank you for sharing with #blogginggrandmothers.

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