THE EARLY DAYSChristmas 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 SONFast 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 DAUGHTEROur 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.
GIVING UP THE FIGHTLetting 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.