I think we can all agree that the holidays are fairly stressful. Maybe because we have this idea of how it all SHOULD be and yet, in all our planning and prep we fall short?
If you are anything like me and grew up in some type of dysfunctional family, you try your hardest to make the family you have now, different and as “normal” as possible.
We all have some type of weirdness in our families. Sometimes you may think it’s just your family, but nope you’d be wrong. I say this a lot because it’s true. It seems to be a thread that runs through my blog.
Because I want you to know you’re not the ONLY one, in a sea of Pinterest worthy holiday scenes, struggling to create “normal”. I know I will NEVER have the Norman Rockwell picture of a family and that’s ok, that would be way too much work, and for the record I am a sloth.
For me I realize it each time I go to some event at school, so many families I know have close family near by. These grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins show up at the sporting events, school concerts, First Communions, etc. I love that about our school and community. But it points out in glaring contrast that our extended family is NOT close.
My mother recently drove through Ohio on her way Arizona after spending several months in Maine. Where she never once called to let me know she had arrived safely but that’s another story.
Suddenly out of the blue my Aunt called and said your mom is coming through town in 2-3 days call her. WHAT?! Wait why hasn’t she called me? Oh her phone is malfunctioning (again) this from a woman who has yet to set up her voice mail on a phone she’s had for years.
My mom is not old for the record she is only 67. Based on the friends I have in my Knitting Group this is NOT old. OK
In the end she skipped visiting her ONLY grandkids, because I would not let her dog stay at our home. To be fair she is always welcome but the dog is not and she knows this. Last time the dog stayed it chewed up the footboard of my daughter’s bed and my mom never even mentioned it. Like it *poof* never even happened. That and my only request was that the dog PLEASE not sleep in my daughters bed. #RagingAllergies but even this simple request was disregarded.
So my husband said the dog is NOT allowed in our home. He is a pretty easy-going guy, he doesn’t complain or put his foot down often, but when he does speak up I try to respect his wishes.
I found a wonderful kennel that my best friend uses but my mom REFUSED to kennel the dog. Choosing instead to skip seeing her ONLY (did I mention this) grandchildren.
I can take this kind of rude behavior, but I don’t let anyone treat my kids this way. As a parent it’s my job to protect them and teach them to set boundaries for themselves and others.
I realize I won’t always be around to “shelter” them and life is full of “hard knocks” but your own family, should be a haven and a place were you always feel loved, safe, welcome and cared for.
I’m not alone in this phenomenon I have other friends that refuse to let their children interact with the abusive, alcoholic, absent grandparents. This to me makes total and complete sense, but my mom isn’t like that, she is just incapable of growing up I guess?
I realized this last interaction that she is like a Land Mine in my life that drops in unannounced and reeks havoc on my life. For years I sheltered my children and wouldn’t tell them grandma was coming until we actually saw her face or knew she was up the road.
For a time she lived a mile down the road and the kids LOVED it. She said the cold here was too much for her and moved back to Arizona to care my elderly grandma and yet she spent most of last winter in a shack in Maine. Cold much?
She skipped a visit last Christmas to buy a dog instead. As in flew to Colorado to pick it up from the breeder and fly home rather than fly to Ohio to visit us.
Growing up, my mom and dad would make promises that were never kept. Especially my dad (he meant well I’m sure) but kids crave consistency, structure and rules. My mother would say if you don’t expect anything from your dad you won’t be disappointed. I learned that she was right because she would do the same things, IOU’s for birthday gifts, not showing up on time when we expected her (being hours late), one year she invited me to Christmas at a friends in Temecula but gave me the vaguest directions.
I drove around for 2 hours (prior to cell phones) in the middle of the NO WHERE in such a rage, that when I finally did find her she just laughed it off. That’s her way you see to deny or deflect any criticism.
I didn’t realize these flaws until I had children of my own. Growing up my mom was my very best friend and I would have done anything for her.
She was my hero raising 2 kids as a single parent and being a police officer. She taught me many lessons about being self-sufficient, good manners, to look people in the eye and shake their hand with a firm grip, to love this country, to read, to clean, to negotiate with the utility companies when they wanted to shut off our power. Plus she always believed in me.
But things started to turn for us when she married her 3rd husband. No one in the family liked him, he was from Germany (I’m sure he was an anomaly) where he left behind his wife and 3 children (why my mom let this HUGE character flaw slide I’ll never understand) and would complain to anyone that would listen how everything was better in Germany.
Consequently my mother and I didn’t speak for about 5 years. That is bad habit of my family to carry a grudge for so long. Stubborn Mules.
Eventually things turned so bad with this man that she divorced him, but not before he alienated her from the entire family.
When I had my own children I saw first hand what an enormous responsibility it is to raise kids. All the things I thought were “normal” or “quirks” growing up I realized were completely unacceptable behavior, poor moral choices and ridiculous behavior (like planning a trip when we were scheduled to move and leaving me to beg friends to help move our 2 bedroom apartment to a new rental house). Who does that to their kids?
I think it is common among most generations to strive to make each generation better than before. We want our kids to have the things we missed out on in our childhood. Like providing more opportunities and to be better then our own parents if they were completely dysfunctional. This is what “normal” parents want.
I struggle with this because as a Catholic Christian, I want to honor my mother and father, I want to turn the other cheek, I want to forgive and be forgiven. But when is it too much? Where do we draw that line and refuse to submit ourselves and our children or spouses to this insanity? When do we need to share with our kids, why they don’t have a relationship with certain relatives?
Last year I received a devastating medical diagnosis regarding our family. My mother just brushed it off and said “I know everything will be fine” and NEVER not once brought it up again. Period the end, ostrich with its head in the sand.
This last episode was my tipping point and I had to tell my kids what was going on , why I was crying, why I was so angry and stressed out, because of my mom.
I had to explain to them that grandma is missing out on two awesome little kids who are such a joy to be around. They make me laugh, they drive me crazy, they show me what it means to be forgiven, they teach me about Gods love and I strive to live up to the awesome task of being their mama.
I kept this ugly secret from my children as long as I could but the damage was already done. They already disconnected. Out of sight out of mind for children. Children enjoy gifts but the time you spend with them is what they will always remember vividly. So I guess I can drop the charade.
But my heart hurts because these kids are my greatest accomplishment in my life outside my marriage. My mom once referred to them as her gift with purchase (if you ever worked in cosmetics you get that). My husbands parents are elderly (late 80’s) and live out of state but when they come into town they make an effort to see most of their 17 plus grandkids and 5 great grand children. So they make an effort but it’s not like my friend Bronne who tries to host a family dinner every Sunday. Or all my other Nana age friends who have weekly contact with their grandkids. Some even babysit their grandkids daily.
My oldest daughter said “Mom if you ever did this to me I would never speak to you again” meaning drive through town and not see her kids. I said “Honey, I want to live very close to you and your sister so I can see my grandkids (God willing) every single day!”
I can’t think of a more amazing way to spend my golden years. I want to be a help to my daughters and watch them raise their own families. My husband and I would like to travel, but I don’t want to ever be so far away that my grandkids don’t know who I am or how much I LOVE them!
So friends when you think everyone around you has it all figured out and their life is Pinterest Perfect, dig a little deeper and you will see we are all of us just treading water.
It is only with Gods Grace (plus my friends and family) that I have gotten this far in my life. Some days I’m everyone’s cheerleader but just beneath the surface I’m praying for constant intercession and help from all the Saints, Our Blessed Mother and God.
This Christmas season give yourself permission to relax, it’s ok if the cookies aren’t perfect, if cards aren’t finished, just breath. Look around at your friends that are like family or your family that hasn’t pushed you over the edge and be grateful. Give yourself permission to avoid those people who cause you great sadness or stress at every turn.
This isn’t to say you have to hate them , not at all but if they cause you such distress that you are breaking out in hives and your family is miserable, just say “No thank you, we’re skipping “The Circus of Crazy” this year”and stay home with your little tribe of people who love you and encourage you.
I promise the world will not end.
Your “Epic Pinterest Fail” Friend,
Pilar The Papist Squirrel