Home for the Holidays

L and I had our first pseudo-date a few days before Christmas, so by the time the next holiday season rolled around we were, like typical lesbos, totally unable to imagine spending the time apart. To be fair, we were all but living together by then, and we were really, truly, fully a couple. We were so smitten, in fact, that although the original plan was for me to fly out later on a buddy pass while L drove out to Indiana, I made a last minute, late night decision to drive with her, even though it put me in the red with my vacation time at a newish job.

It was strange, that first Christmas away, to be with someone else’s family, to be away from the traditions I was used to and my own family dramas. But, it was nice, too. It felt special to be with this person I was in love with, in her home town, meeting her family, learning about her history. It felt strange, but not bad.

When the next holiday came, L and I were planning our wedding and we’d talked not only about the upcoming Christmas, but also about what Christmases would look like in our future in general. And the decision then was that while we lived in Colorado, we would go to Indiana for the holidays. This made sense to me, although I did have to grieve a little. We rarely saw L’s family any other time, and we spent every other holiday and special occasion with my family, so it was totally logical to go back for Christmas.

But my mom was bummed. She was sad the first year, and has grown steadily resentful every year since. Last year she started mentioning that she didn’t feel it was ‘fair’ and I told her our rationale, and that we would likely continue to go to Indy for Christmas while we were living in Colorado. It never really escalated into a full blown conversation, but I know it’s something that bugs her.

This past April, when I was less than a month post partum, coursing with hormones and generally kind of a mess, my mom effectively cornered me in the middle of modmarket during my first lunch outside my own house. “What are you doing about Christmas this year?” When I told her we were likely going back to Indiana, she started sobbing and talking about how unfair it was. Because I was holding an infant, had a giant gaping wound in my belly, and was leaking milk, I tried everything in my power to get her to stop crying, which included trying to negotiate without actually giving in. I said things like, “maybe we can talk about leaving on Christmas eve” and other non sense. By the time L got home from work, I was a mess.

So we knew the conversation was coming, but I was dreading it. Every once in a while, my mom would throw in, “I hope you’re talking about Christmas!” while we were on the phone, and I spent a LOT of time getting anxious about how the conversation would go, but manage to find excuses to not talk about Christmas plans whenever the subject got close.

But on Saturday, dressed in a gnome costume, at the end of a visit with my parents, I did it. Thanksgiving came up, L’s birthday came up, it was inevitable. So I just said it, “We are going to Indiana for Christmas.”

And the tears were immediate, as was the demand, “Well I expect you’ll be here NEXT Christmas, then?”

For the next half an hour, my mom came up with every reason she could muster why we needed to stay in Colorado – it wasn’t fair, we actually see L’s family “a lot”, other people in my family ‘think we’ve abandoned the family’, it’s not the same to celebrate on other days . . .on and on and on. I held my ground, which isn’t easy for me when it comes to my mom. Finally, we got to a point where she’d said what she needed to say, and I said what I needed to say, so we got up and left.

I’m hurt that my mom can’t have empathy for us, for L’s family. I worry that, at the heart of it, my mom doesn’t respect L’s family as Ansel’s family, that because of the lack of biology she doesn’t see them as connected (my feeling that this is at the heart of the issue comes from more than just this issue.) And that, for me, is what’s so heartbreaking. I’m hurt that she lied (about other people making comments) in order to emotionally manipulate me, and that she can’t just express her sadness and still be willing to move forward and create something meaningful for A and his cousin.

During the conversation, I asked her to help me create a celebration on a different day that would be meaningful. She said it just couldn’t happen, that we’d tried and it just didn’t feel the same. Plus, she said, the extended family wasn’t involved, so that felt bad. When I suggested we invite the extended family, she acted as though people would be horribly offended by this. I said I’d be happy to call folks and ask them. Which I did.

And I found that everyone else seems to understand the situation completely, and are more than happy to come to another event. When I called my mom and told her, she seemed more peeved that I’d proven her wrong than happy that we’d found an opportunity to create a new tradition. And so, I continue to feel hurt by her behavior.

This isn’t unusual, right? That people create new traditions when their families expand, on different days? (For the record, my mom isn’t into Jesus, so why Dec 25th means so much to her, I don’t know.) Creating opportunities for Ansel to have relationships with his family in Indiana is important to us, and that just can’t happen if we only go back to Indiana every other year. I think there are ways to make things meaningful, even when they don’t happen on Christmas day.

Mostly, I continue to grow more and more heartbroken that my relationship with my mom is so strained and has actually gotten harder since Ansel was born.

And just so as not to end on doom and gloom, here’s a couple of pictures from A’s first Halloween:

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He’s also just days away from fully crawling! And he’s SO BUSY! And he’s going to be 8 months old soon and OMG what is happening?! I love this baby so much!


18 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays

  1. Loving the Halloween pictures and feeling for you on the holiday front. It is hard to accommodate two families and even sometimes three when you have certain people who can’t be in the same room and blah blah blah. I want to love the holidays but they are stressful when you can’t get everyone to accept things. I love the idea of alternative days to celebrate and we tried that too. I’m sorry you are going through it and I have no words of wisdom but I can say you aren’t alone. We adopted my daughter but she is biologically my partner’s niece so I understand the biology drama too and it really sucks. I look forward to the holidays and then I get anxious thinking about how to keep everyone happy! Ugh. It’s time to get the plans out there so everyone can deal with it now. Good luck! Hope it all comes together!

  2. Pardon me while I give your mother a full body teenager eyeroll…
    My parents divorced when I was 7 because my dad cheated on my mom and then married the other woman. We had to sort out holidays and we all live in the same state. No one got butt-hurt over it. They came up with ways to see us. Christmas starts in early December when my dad’s step mom has their family gathering. It not only includes her family but ALSO the family of her predecessor’s children (my dad’s mom died when he was 9). She has also gone beyond her duty to include my dad’s mom’s side of the family in all big family events like weddings and 80th birthdays. Then there used to be a Christmas party for my dad’s mom’s side of the family but the uncle who used to host that estranged himself from the rest of us, so whatever. Next, my dad turned Christmas eve day for his Christmas morning despite being a manager for a big box retail store. He returned us to our mother’s for Christmas eve church service and the regularly scheduled Christmas morning and Christmas day with my mom’s family. Now, talking to my mom about what my dad and step mom got me was forbidden, but that stick is up my mom’s butt and no one else’s.

    Anyway, your mom is making a big deal out of something that isn’t that big of a deal. She gets to see you all every week! I bet your extended family will like doing Christmas a weekend before or whatever works out. It will mean that on Christmas, they won’t have to try to juggle multiple events or maybe they can just go out for Chinese food.

    And you all make adorable gnomes. Perfect costumes!!!

  3. The rule in my fiancée’s family: Odd numbered years: Siblings spend Thanksgiving at their parents’ and Christmas at their in-laws’. Even numbered years, Thanksgiving at in-laws’, Christmas at parents’. It apparently works well.

  4. My relationship with my mother is also worse since having my baby. This is mainly because my mom apparently thought she was going to be over constantly and visa versa and we’ve been fairly self sufficient. I’m also very private and because of my difficulties with my family growing up, I very much need my space. So I feel like I’m constantly being pressured and pushed into things I don’t want because my mom wants it, when really if she would just back off I’d probably come to her. The more you push me the less I want to do something.

    On the note of the holidays, Chiefs family is very difficult. We’ve always had this philosophy of they’re the ones who moved away, therefore they either need to come to us or be ok with us coming before or after holidays. His dad is always a huge jerk about it. We’re not going at all this year because I’m not taking C into a house or cigarettes. Also my entire extended family comes into town and so does my sister in laws (Chiefs brothers wife) so it seems crazy unreasonable for two people to expect literally almost 100 (my family is mostly catholic, so lots of procreating) people to have altered holiday plans for their benefit because they moved away and don’t want to come back for the holidays.

    Just no.

  5. We’ve been struggling with this too! My mom offered to take the day before thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, but I have a wife who works in retail & that doesn’t give us a lot of time to spend. Granted my mom is 1.5hrs away and we don’t yet have an adorable infant… It’s unfortunate that she can’t see why you’re making the choice to be with L’s famil

  6. Blimey! If L’s folks only get to see you guys at Christmas then your mum needs to count herself very very lucky!!

    If we were in that situation, S’s parents would so not be happy with only ever seeing us at Christmas (even if we did stay a few days) – so L’s parents are surprisingly relaxed. Maybe remind your mum that she is very lucky to see you guys every other time of the year!!

    We have a rule that every other year we do “something” whether it’s have people round ours, go round someone else’s house, whatever. This way, it means that every other year we’re on our own.

  7. You guys are ridiculously cute with your freaking pictures! I can just feel the love radiating. I love, love, love it!!! I hope you find a resolution to the holidays. We have our own christmas struggles, we even considered just having christmas with just us four this year. Obviously that won’t pan out well. I can only wish you good luck dear friend

  8. My immediate family is located a thousand miles away in a small town together. I haven’t had Christmas with them in 5 years due to jobs that don’t let you take vacation during end of year activities and general disinterest. Mom doesn’t even ask me to return for holidays but I do go down once a year to see everyone. C has no family besides his mom that lives with us so no conflict there.
    I think that you coordinating an alternate holiday celebration is a great idea. Your mom will see how great it is to have all of her family together regardless of the calendar date. She can’t complain when she’s seeing her grandkid all decked out in finest Christmas clothes. 🙂

  9. Your mom is out of control in this situation. We have the same situation here with living in two different countries and it’s just a fact… The place we live every day does not get us in the holidays. Your mom has him one day a week for crying out loud.

    Good job for standing your ground. It sounds like your mom is trying to manipulate your choices by saying things like “I hope you’re talking about Christmas”. It’s not okay. Stand your ground.

    What we did was state it matter of fact – we will be spending every Christmas in the states. If and when we decide to move to the U.s. We will spend it with you in canada. Could you tell her that? That when and if you move to La’s hometown you will come back to see her once a year at Christmas? She might be able to understand better.

  10. Oh my word, do our mothers have a lot in common. Your alternative gathering with extended family is perfect solution for now. We will be utilizing that technique as well, and I am hopeful that it will stretch the festivities out instead of trying to cram everything meaningful into one damn day.

    My mother has the same sense of entitlement and expectation that we “owe” her time at the holidays, and she begrudges my wife’s family when they have time with us. It’s so ridiculous and immature.

    On the other side, my in-laws REFUSE to consider traveling to see us on a holiday. So if we don’t go to them, we don’t see them.

    I will remember these times as lessons to myself as a future parent. I will never pressure or manipulate my children this way, and I KNOW that they will appreciate our flexibility and appreciation that we get to spend any time with them, and their kids.

  11. Why are parents so dramatic, selfish, and manipulative? Jesus, that’s why I hate the holidays. I truly don’t understand why it’s so much more meaningful to see people on a specific day than any other day.

    Goose and I have spent Christmas together, just us, every year we’ve been together except maybe 1 or 2. We’ve always made it clear to our other family members that it’s a special day to us and we like to spend it together. So far it’s not been an issue, but I’m not sure if this can still work now that we have a kid, but I’m hoping so. Having that day just be the 3 of us sounds so lovely to me.

    Also, Ansel Gnome has burned out all the cute receptors in my eyeballs.

  12. Wow, it sounds like your mom is being really difficult (and manipulative) about all of this. Accosting you in April (when you have a newborn) about your Xmas plans???!!!! And it sounds like you’re doing a fabulous job of standing your ground, and figuring out a plan that works for you, La and Ansel (who are really the only people you are obligated to please in all of this). The alternate celebration on a different day sounds like a great solution. And I agree that’s it’s not at all unusual. I know lots of folks who do things like this. When families live so far away, it’s just impossible to see everyone on the actual holiday, so we all end up coming up with alternatives.
    Oh, and the gnome pics are awesome!!!

  13. So hard. Sorry Mom isn’t helping. For me, it’s the tension between going to CO at Christmas to see family or stay in OR and create own traditions. Not to see family would feel weird but traveling at holidays is an expensive B and I hate being away from our tree and decorated home for a big chunk of the season. All but me and 1 sister live in CO, so it doesn’t make sense to take turns and have them come to us – plus we could no way host everyone (I’m one of seven and my Mom is still alive).

    One thing I do is At. Nicholas Day on Dec 6th. We put shoes out on 5th with our Christmas wish-list in them and wake up to treats and small gifts. My Mom did it and I’ve always enjoyed it. That would give your Mom a Santa character and gifts and since Jesus isn’t her thing, not being Dec 25 could be fine. I do it as a tradition here for us before the wind up to holiday travel a few weeks later.

    Hope your Mom finds her Christmas spirit. Enjoy the season for all that it is. 🙂

  14. Totally adorable. Totally.

    My mother-in-law had a terrible time with holidays once RR was born. She couldn’t conceive of a Christmas without being able to spoil a baby and other holidays could not substitute. For our family the solution was to spend Christmas with my family one year and my wife’s the next, etc. We eventually decided to hold Christmas and Christmas Eve exclusively for ourselves, given the amount of negotiating on the table. The constant nagging and bitterness were no longer tolerable. It seemed reasonable not to spend any one holiday always with one side of the family – as long as there was advance notice, extended family could rearrange their plans to see us as well.

    Since then, my mother-in-law has passed and my mother and father have moved closer so the story has changed again. I guess the most important part is that no situation is a constant. Given enough time, your mother will have a new thing to latch on to – hopefully one much more easily managed.

  15. My mom also struggles with the holidays, and my spouse’s family lives only 30 minutes away so we do both in one day. We didn’t have this issue growing up because my dad was orphaned and my mom’s mother would come mid-day on Christmas from the nursing home while she was still alive. So my mom can’t really understand the stress of sorting out how to spend time with two families, plus have your own celebration. For her it is that she still wants us to spend the whole day together from opening presents to playing board games after dinner the way we did growing up. My brother comes in from CA, so it’s “you have to spend time with your brother.” But it makes the spouse feel like her family is less important because we only spend maybe 2 hours with them. It sounds like with your mom it’s an emotional attachment too. What does spending time together on Christmas mean to her? (Sorry I can’t turn the therapist voice off!) Doesn’t mean you cave or loosen your boundaries, but maybe if you two can address what is going on at the emotional level without it devolving into childish or passive aggressive comments she might be able to work toward getting to a better place with it. Or maybe not lol, some people can’t move past that and you just have to keep on doing what you are doing and refuse to ride on the guilt trip.

  16. I really feel for you, my gnome friend. Every year, Christmas is an all-out BATTLE in my household. We had our Christmas war a few weeks ago and I am still angry. At least you and La are on the same page. That’s the most important thing.

  17. You and La agree on what is the best way to spend your Christmas. You’re mom is understandably upset (my mother would have a CONNIPTION if we didn’t see her for Christmas), but she also understands that I have my family and a whole OTHER family that wants to share the holidays with us. My mom gets it though because every other year they would fly my grandparents in from Colombia, and then from Puerto Rico to spend the holidays with us. It wasn’t feasible for them to fly all 4 of them out every year. Good on you for standing your ground, even though it was probably super hard given your relationship with your mom. It’s super important for Ansel to spend time with his family…both families. You should just throw a party with La and invite your entire family for a week before you leave. You’re mom can show up if she wants to…

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