It is the day after Christmas. It’s 12:30 and I am still in my PJs. Why? I survived Christmas and I’m celebrating. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great Christmas. Both of my boys are home and even my Dad spent the night. While we didn’t do a lot of the things we normally do because of my broken leg, we still enjoyed the day. I even survived listening to how great Fox news is, the war on Christmas (that doesn’t really exist), and sentences that started with “not that I’m racists but…” and get this..
My youngest son did interject a random, “How about them Jets?” at one point which of course made everyone laugh.
Let’s face it, Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Alcoholism, divorce, death, illness, singleness, and a myriad of familial dysfunction can make the day beyond stressful for many people.
My parents got divorced when I was four. Between the ages of nine and twelve, the day after Christmas was spent on an airplane on my way to visit my father and his new family in New York. My mother hated the fact that she had to share me with him and we would invariably argue the week leading up to these visits. Honestly, I was really too young to understand what was going on, I just wanted to see my Dad. She didn’t think he deserved it. I only saw my father three times between the ages of four and nine for various reasons.
He made lots of plans to see me after the divorce, but 90% of them fell through and she was the one left to pick up the pieces of a broken-hearted kid. I would stress so badly over the tension that by the time the trip arrived, I’d be sick and still insist on going anyway. It would be at that point that she would threaten to pack my bags and send me off to live with him for good if I was so insistent on seeing him.
Instead of anticipation, family and joy, Christmas for me, came with fear and trepidation as a kid. Forget Santa. All I wanted for Christmas was parents who knew how to behave.
Would he cancel the visit last-minute? Again.
Would she really send me away for good? (She never did)
It’s not like the trips were all that great anyway – I left one drunk household for another. One set of problems for another.
Neither of them were sober back then, I had learned how to be the adult for all of us and I was really bad at it. But that didn’t keep me from trying. There are some things kids just aren’t supposed to be able to fix.
Then Mom got sober and the trips back and forth stopped. Instead of NY, Dad now lived in Chicago and even though it was only four hours away, he was too busy to see me. While I was hurt by that, I was also relieved by no longer being stuck in the middle.
Flash forward ten years or so, now married with my own children and fueled by my own painful memories of Christmas past, this broken child turned into the Queen of Christmas. We were going to have the PERFECT Christmas come hell or high water even if it killed me and everyone around me.
We did Christmas on our own in Oklahoma. We did it all, lights, Church pageants, decorations, presents and food galore. There was no Christmas at Grandma’s house because both sets of parents had downsized and there wasn’t room for us and neither set wanted to travel. Only my Dad came. He was harmless enough, drinking himself into a quiet stupor in the recliner. Besides he had nowhere else to go and I picked up my old hat of saving the world.
Did everyone have a perfect Christmas? I don’t know. By the time the holiday actually arrived my martyr hat was glued on so tightly that I’m pretty sure it impacted the blood flow to my brain and affected my judgement. Fortunately for me, (and thankful for my own 12 step program) I did eventually learn how to give up the ghost and stop trying so hard and believe it or not, my boys (now grown) actually have good memories about Christmas.
I have a broken leg this year – I could not have been the queen of Christmas even if I wanted. My husband had to take over the decorating, shopping, cleaning and a good part of the cooking and you know what? It was great! He did a wonderful job and I learned Christmas doesn’t have to rest completely on my shoulders.
I don’t know what your Christmas was like. Maybe it was spectacular. Maybe you had to sit through dinner with a Republican. Or a Democrat. Maybe you lost a parent or loved one. Maybe it was your spouse’s turn to have the kids and you were alone. The bottom line is, not matter how Christmas went, today is a new day.
You got through it, no matter what it was, therefore I suggest we celebrate. Stay in your jammies if you want. Call a friend and tell them “I did it!” I did this hard thing – let the kids see their dad, missed my Mom, survived the family dinner, stayed sober — what ever it is you did. Celebrate it. Take a bubble bath – go for a run, ride a bike. Do what ever it is you do when you celebrate. Give yourself a pat on the back. It’s okay — I give you permission.