Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Hey! If You Pay Taxes And/Or Are Nurturing Another Human Life, I Think You Have The Right To Do This Too

Pressure Busting Tip #5

Once, when our family was young and Jared was the Only Kid, we were on vacation and had been driving for quite some time.  We were sneaking in a little sightseeing and got a little lost, I think.  From the depths of the backseat came a tiny but indignant two-year old voice.  "Hey!" it piped up, "am I gonna live in this carseat?"

Kids don't want to spend every holiday in carseats either.  Think about it.  Could it be said that your children could honestly and rightfully associate every Major Holiday with getting in the car?  Something is simply not right about that.  If your family's holiday traditions involve leaving your home, it's time to put your foot down.  It's a tough one, but Pressure Busting Tip #5 will be the gift to yourself that keeps on giving and giving and giving:  Gently but firmly announce to Everyone that it is time for your family to stay at home for The Holidays and begin making its Own Traditions.  Naturally, there will be the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth via telephone, email, and social media.  All you have to do is remain calm, cheerful, adult, and resolute.  Perhaps tossing "surprised" in there might be helpful as well, in some cases.  Remain lashed to the mast of confidence whilst being bombarded by the storms of guilt and accusation.  You are not killing anyone.  You are not being selfish or mean.  Everyone is welcome to come to your home in order to see your family and spread Holiday Cheer on the evenings of said Holidays, after your family has celebrated.  Visitors can come in their jammies!  They can bring comfy slippers!  You can serve pie and/or cookies!  IT WILL BE FINE.

Trust me on this.  I'm a recovering Catholic, raised on years of deep, sticky black guilt.  I did this.  I do this.  And it's been 22 years since I first shocked the world by daring to do it.  And still, there is Love. 



  1. I OH SO totally agree. That's how it was with my daughter's dad's family. Even when my parents visited from out of state. Every Christmas Eve evening, we piled in the car and went to one of three places, none of which were close.

    In the Hispanic culture, most of the Christmas celebrating is done on Christmas Eve, and you wait until midnight to open presents. By the time you eat dinner at 9 pm, wait around until midnight to open gifts, and then pack up the car with said gifts and dinner leftovers, we often didn't get home until 2 am. I always appreciated the sentiment behind it, but I was done by year three. It didn't end until just a few years ago when the other grandmother was out of the country for December. After that, I just made up feasible-sounding reasons why we couldn't be there and we haven't been back since. The first year we didn't go, the relief was wonderful. They're nice people, but we've barely seen any of them in last few years, so it was time to change. I haven't regretted it one bit.

  2. We spend holidays with Ted's family, which is only 15 or 20 minutes away. There were times early on when my mom lived in Sacramento that were more complicated, but she always had cats, to which Ted is deathly allergic, so we couldn't go there. We made it easier by having Christmas day with Ted's family, and my mom went to Grandma's for Christmas, and then she and my brother would come to San Francisco the day after, and we'd eat crab.

    My sisters have had some of what you're talking about, with divorces and remarriages and so on (not them, but the parents' generation), and when one sister lived 3 hours away, she put her foot down and said "You want to see us, come here", and no one expired prematurely.

  3. Oh Nance, how I love your stress busting tips! My family (the one I grew up in) has the exact same gift buying "rules" and it makes life so much easier. I've decided to be the auntie though that will always buy you a book - there are too many beautiful picture books not to give!- and I love "having" to spend hours in the book store looking for just the right one.
    As far as travelling at the holidays though, we alternate a travel year (where we spend it with my family) and a home year (where my mother-in-law comes to us at our house... Husband is an only child). It's a great compromise.... though I admit to enjoying the year the tummy bug felled our youngest on Dec 23 making us unable to travel, and our house under a self-imposed quarantine so no visitors allowed. Sad when gastro is a gift!! :)
    Looking forward to more tips!!

  4. For the last nearly 10 years we've been going to NC for Thanksgiving AND Christmas (dying mothers, dying aunts visiting from out of town, newly bereaved fathers...). But this year I declared "Enough!" & we're staying put for Thanksgiving. And I'm a bit sad because my nephew who's in the army will be in town then, but not at Christmas. But it's just bad timing every year - Mike is knee deep in school stuff & only gets two days off. Too much rush for not enough satisfaction.

    You know, if it weren't for the fact that he can't really take a week off at Thanksgiving I'd rather visit the family then & do Christmas in my own home and at my own church :)

  5. Bug--Enjoy your Thanksgiving at home. Maybe it will embolden you to make the choice you need to for Christmas this year.

    Rox--Welcome to the Dept. comments section! How lovely to have a new voice here! Thank you for the kind words. As a retired English teacher, I often am the Auntie Who Buys Books as well. And I think the compromise you worked out is a good transition thus far. "Half a loaf is better than none" as they say.

    J@jj--Thank you for proving my rule. I think a 15-20 minute drive is forgivable, especially if it is far later in the day, after children have had time to play with new things. But, oh, how I wish that any of my Holidays could end with "the day after...we'd eat crab," and not have it cost a zillion dollars. Sigh.

    LaFF--What a late night! Especially for kids, but I know it's a tradition. I have two nieces who are part Mexican, and now a grand-niece as well, so that custom is part of their Christmas planning. I have the Family Open House on Christmas Eve, which has been a tradition in my parents' family for decades. I always tell everyone, however, that it should never, ever become an obligation. If you want to come, please do! If you don't or can't, we will miss you, but it's not a big deal. I don't take attendance and I don't keep score. I mainly hold it for my mother, St. Patsy, who did it for eleventy hundred years. It became overwhelming, and then Dad died, so I took it on. I want it to be a pleasure only. I know you get it.

  6. Clearly, Jared was always wise beyond his years! We've always been "fortunate" that both our families are nearby, but even then the pressure to do Christmas morning/day/evening with hubby's family was enormous. We started skipping parts of it years ago. Even if my in-laws did just live down the road, we wanted to be home relaxing as a family for at least part of Christmas Day. We were looked down upon for doing that and I find that pretty criminal. So I applaud all who stay home because "sandwiching" in time at home during the events of the day or not being there at all is really not much fun.


  7. Shirley--Exactly. Your allegiance is to your own family unit: you, your husband, and your child(ren). That's what getting married and starting your own family was all about in the first place. This shouldn't be a Rebellion. It's a natural progression. I could never imagine forcing my boys to spend time here. Ever. Do I want to see them? Sure. But they come because they want to. I detest Obligation in any form. And there's more than enough Guilt in the world. I don't need to stuff any more in.

  8. Hi Nance. It's me. Don't fall over. But this post hits the right mark. My childhood involved THREE DAYS of nonstop trips to various family members. Never long trips, never long visits, but constant moving. When the kids were born I made it crystal clear. I am making a wonderful dinner, in my jammies. You are all welcome to drop by and say hi or camp for the whole day, but I'm not budging our the door for anything. Best decision ever.

  9. J.--Bless your heart, there you are! I had been worried that being the mom of two college freshmen was a bit more Reality than you could bear.

    I, too, spend all of Christmas and most of Thanksgiving in my jammies. At first, to make The Transition easier for St. Patsy, we'd go over for Thanksgiving dessert in the evenings. Then, after a couple of years, we stopped that, too. Like you, I found it to be the best decision ever.

    Well, that and switching from margarine to real butter, all the time. Both of those have have been fantastic choices which I've never regretted.


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