The holidays are stressful for pretty much everyone and years when there are extenuating circumstances can make it all much, much worse. This year, for me, Christmas morning was practically an afterthought because of all the other things going on. That’s a horrible thing to say, I know, but I was so frantic, Christmas itself was the “break” from all the other craziness that was going on. I did manage to hide my husband’s present so well that I forgot it in Baltimore. That was not cool at all but thankfully, he seems to have forgiven me.
Meanwhile, our children’s grandparents have been unbelievably supportive and helpful during this time. They’ve ridden in on jets or Suburbans and made food, played Legos and gone on trips to the zoo and museums. They’ve reminded us to ask specific questions of doctors, to get some rest and not to worry if our kids eat a Happy Meal. Or three. I cannot thank all of them enough for their time and patience and willingness to help out.
This good family vibe doesn’t appear to the be washing over everyone, as I learned when I talked to some of our friends. Some folks I know have been having a rather nasty argument on Facebook over, it seems, a holiday party that raised long-standing issues. Other friends told me the story of going to an alcoholic relative’s home at some point last week with the expected result, yet they still felt they had to go. I also learned that a branch of my family had their Christmas Day marred by the predictably unpredictable behavior of someone they are supposed to be able to trust for stability and unconditional love but can’t.
I guess I just keep thinking that my personal stress this year wasn’t the result of some insult, whether real or perceived, nor was it the result of anything anyone was “trying” to do to me. There’s a good chance things won’t be this hard again, at least for a while. For other people though, there is a weird thing about the holiday season and using it to take stuff out on others. There’s also a strange guilt associated with a lot of the rituals between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that puts horrendous pressure on people. Those rituals aren’t beautiful things like getting out the handmade ornaments or lighting the antique Menorah. They are ugly and troubling things like shoveling a drunken uncle into his house or letting a sister-in-law insult your profession again.
Of course, I’m not even touching the issue of the Santa who shot his family to death or the child who was murdered by a trusted babysitter just three days before Christmas. Those go beyond basic holiday stress into some other, far too horrible realm.
I think what I realized tonight is that I don’t ever want my children to dread the holidays. When November rolls around, I want them to get excited for good food, playing with cousins, watching holiday movies, decorating the house and seeing the lighted star in church. I don’t want them to think of the holidays as a time when Mommy gets so crazy she’s not reasonable or enjoyable. Time will tell but this year was a good lesson in how I never want to do this season again.