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Ho-ho-ho, Merry Boundaries! (Some perspective needed please)

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ExposedNiblet posted 9/4/2013 17:23 PM

Hi everyone. I would really welcome your thoughts about something that's been bugging me for awhile now. It's Christmas-related.

(Yes, I realize it's only September, but the Sears Christmas catalogue came in and it got me thinking.)

(...and also, I love Christmas)

Ever since I was a little girl, Christmas Eve has been The Big Thing, more so than Christmas Day was. Christmas Eve was our nuclear family time, we'd have a big meal and open up presents, etc. Christmas Day was devoted to travelling to the grandparents' for the big extended family celebrations on the farms.

The years went by, the grandparents passed away, the extended families drifted apart, and life went on. We continued to gather on Christmas Eve at my parents' place. This continued right on through my marriage and subsequent divorce.

FWIW, my parents and I live 15 minutes apart in the same city. I see them once per week, we speak almost daily. We are close.

Lately, I find myself resenting these forced Yuletide gatherings more and more. I say forced, because to me they feel that way - Ma always says that "Christmas Eve will ALWAYS be (there)" and will not consider anything else.

On numerous occasions, I have offered/asked/bribed (begged?) to host at my house, and each time, I have been flatly refused. The reason given is that "Christmas Eve is to be held here." Granted, my home is not as large as theirs, but I have more than enough space for all of us. Having hosted all of XH's family dinners for the better part of our marriage, I am able to handle the cooking (I say this because for the last few years, Christmas Eve Dinner has been take-out. If that's what was wanted, I could do that too...I know the restaurants they order from).
In any case, what I mean to say is that there is no concrete, definite reason that Christmas Eve is still held there, other than my parents want it to be. I've gone along with it, but as I'm getting older, I'm wondering when my wishes get considered.

Now that I'm divorced, I get Christmas Eve with the boys and XH gets Christmas Day. He will pick them up around noon and will drop them off after 10 or so, unless they decide to stay the night.

I would like to start celebrating Christmas Eve at my home this year - not "just this once" but from now on. See, I started thinking, my boys have come to believe that going to their grandparents' is tradition on Christmas Eve and going to their Dad's is tradition on Christmas Day...but what is their Mom's (me) tradition? When do I get a chance to create my own traditions? After my parents die? That hardly seems fair. My boys will be 17 and 15 this year - it's only a matter of time before they want to spend their time with their friends at Christmas. My window of opportunity for creating my own traditions now with them is closing, so I have to admit, its creating a bit of anxiety for me.

A part of me really wants to simply tell Ma & Pa that the boys and I are spending Xmas Eve here, and they're welcome to join us. Period. But, I know that will hurt them, and, for all their issues, I know they mean well and they have been very good to us, particularly since the divorce. I don't want to hurt them, but I don't want to continue like this either.

Would you fight for Christmas Eve on your terms? Would this be your hill to die on? Or would you continue on as I've been, silently grumbling over my coffee & Baileys, eye on the clock, hoping we can get back home before midnight?

Please, SI, give me your thoughts.

Thank you, and happy holidays.

[This message edited by ExposedNiblet at 5:25 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

unfound posted 9/4/2013 17:42 PM

Can you come to a compromise? Maybe spend only the early part of Christmas Eve with your parents, then making your own new traditions with your boys the rest of the evening? Do you think they'd push up certain things to accommodate that?

It seems important to your folks, and probably a hard tradition to change for them, even if it's just in location.

Nature_Girl posted 9/4/2013 17:58 PM

It sounds like your boys only have a few years left at home. I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to continue going to Grandma's for Christmas Eve just for those few more years. I also like the idea of you showing up there later in the eve, or cutting out early. Or what if you added a new tradition to your traditional celebration at your folks? Still be there, but just tweak it ever so slightly to include something meaningful for you?

Honestly I wonder if you won't one day deeply regret discontinuing this family tradition. I say this having lost my father and my mother having moved far away to live with a relative. I'll never have a family Christmas again, not with my folks or siblings or even extended family.

StrongerOne posted 9/4/2013 18:04 PM

Half the day at your house, half the day at your parents' house. How about a brunch at your house for you and your boys? You could open the presents then -- or maybe open a special mom gift? Lounge around together, or go for a walk or bike ride, or watch a special kid Christmas movie (something goofy, like Elf, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Then over for dinner with the grandparents. Mom's celebration will thus be very relaxed and homey.

[This message edited by StrongerOne at 6:08 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

metamorphisis posted 9/4/2013 18:28 PM

I would say exactly what you said here. That you are worried that when your boys think back on Christmas memories that you won't be a part of that in the way that you want to be. I'd be kind but firm.
One thing I had to learn the hard way was that I could have what I wanted or I could make everyone else happy but I could rarely have both. I had to pick and be ready for people to be upset and deal with it. It helped me to not try to shape it in a way where I was getting approval, but rather, I was going to do this, but I'd like it if people came along.

For our Christmas stuff I finally declared we would be in our own home Christmas morning after years of sleeping somewhere else Christmas eve. It wasn't easy at first, but now my inlaws join us early for present opening, we have breakfast and head to my parents at lunch. The compromise came along after I made it known that the new rule wasn't negotiable. We'd be in our own home, but anyone could join us. It's tradition now and everyone seems fine with it.
Good Luck

ExposedNiblet posted 9/4/2013 19:44 PM

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Itís greatly appreciated.

As much as I love the come early/leave early idea, that wonít be possible. Iíve proposed it many times and itís been shut down just as often. They are steadfast on us being there for the evening supper part, because ďitís traditionĒ. Iím starting to develop a nervous tic whenever I hear those words.

Technically, yes, I could do my own thing with my sons in the morning, but letís face it, Christmas Eve Ė evening Ė is the special time. Itís not much fun to go for a walk in the daytime looking at lights, KWIM? Besides, theyíre teenagers Ė they sleep till the afternoon anyways. And, honestly, while the idea itself is good, I donít see why I should have to settle for the morning. Call me selfish, but I think my own enjoyment should play a part in this too.

Honestly I wonder if you won't one day deeply regret discontinuing this family tradition. I say this having lost my father and my mother having moved far away to live with a relative. I'll never have a family Christmas again, not with my folks or siblings or even extended family.

This is what I am afraid of. My folks are getting older, and their health is not the best. I know our time together is limited and that I should be thankful for what time we do have. Times like Christmas Eve are special, limited-time engagements. Lord help me, I get that. Believe me, I feel guilty as Hell for feeling as I do. This is why I'm wrestling with this.

On one hand, I know what's in the inevitable future and knowing me, I will regret altering anything about their tradition if I go that route. On the other hand, I cannot help but feel that they've had this with their kids for 46 years. Shouldn't I be able to have this with my kids too? Selfish, maybe, but it's what I feel, and I hate it, but if I donít do anything, what will my kids remember of their Christmases with their mom? If it's not much, then I'll regret that too.

The question is, which regret could I live more with?

[This message edited by ExposedNiblet at 8:10 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

Sad in AZ posted 9/4/2013 20:48 PM

What makes you think that they don't consider this Christmas Eve tradition 'Christmas with their mom'? You're there; you're part of the celebration.

It IS their tradition. If you alter in now, you may meet with resentment on their part. I loved Christmas Eve with my grandparents; if my parents had tried to change it, I would have been furious. My grandfather died when I was 15; Christmas Eve was never the same.

Weatherly posted 9/4/2013 20:49 PM

I tell this to everybody.

My kids were having to do ELEVEN Christmases in the span of 2 days (plus, my sons birthday is Christmas eve) for awhile, and we decided last year that enough was enough. We weren't doing it anymore. We decided since no one else could give up their traditions, we were changing ours.

My mother is a Christmas nut. It is the most important day of the year and everyone must be together and blah...

So, we invited my H's father and step mom to come up for the weekend (they live 11 hrs away). We had Christmas on the 22. We wrote a letter to Santa informing him of the change. Grandpa and Grandma got here super early. We did the whole Christmas thing. Then had breakfast at IHOP and spent the rest of the day go-kart racing, then that night went to the Festival of Lights drive. Christmas Eve was free to be a birthday celebration for my son. And, Christmas day, while they were with my XH, H and I watched the parade, drank hot chocolate and took down the decorations. It was awesome. The only problem was the tantrum my mom threw because she didn't get to come on the 22. The kids are really excited about doing it again this year.

If you want to make your own traditions, make your own. I know we are weird, but, completely moving holidays is completely normal for us. Dec. 24 is a date, it actually isn't any more special than any other day. So, why pick this hill to die on? Especially since it doesn't even sound like you want to change any tradition, just where it is. Why will having the same thing, at your house, on the same day, be a more special tradition than having it at your parents?

ExposedNiblet posted 9/4/2013 21:09 PM

ooops. Sorry folks. A case of premature enteritis (posted too soon)

[This message edited by ExposedNiblet at 9:20 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

ExposedNiblet posted 9/4/2013 21:09 PM

Holy crap. This:

Why will having the same thing, at your house, on the same day, be a more special tradition than having it at your parents?

just hit me like a ton of bricks.

It wouldn't be any more or less special than it already is.

At all.

It would just cause hard feelings with my folks. They don't deserve that.

So, now you've got me thinking...why NOT change the date for our celebration? The kids would likely love an opportunity to have their own feast and who doesn't love an excuse to open gifts early? This way, we could go look at lights and all the fun evening-stuff on our own and still please my parents by showing up the next day.

Why didn't I think of this???

Thanks so much everyone.

This is going to work out just fine.

[This message edited by ExposedNiblet at 9:18 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

positively4thst posted 9/4/2013 21:10 PM

Dear Exposed:

Good for you for thinking this through ahead of time. I totally agree with all of your reasonings. I think it is time your parents passed on the reigns of "Christmas" to you as it is no longer their child whose Christmas they are trying to control. You are the parent and are stuck in the middle of EH and parents. I feel you have every right to reclaim a holiday for you and your children!! You are now in the driver's seat! Invite your parents, I'm sure it isn't easy for them to relinquish traditions either, but it is time. Hope you can do so in peace. Merry early Christmas to you!

ExposedNiblet posted 9/4/2013 21:34 PM

hi positively4thst!

Yes, that's exactly how I've been feeling for a few years now, that it's only right that my folks hand over the torch at Christmas time. To tell you the truth, I STILL feel that way, however, they believe different, and I will give them that, for now.

You see, I'd rather not get into a big battle over it, and I can see it turning into one.

I'm going to do some brainstorming and figure out some wonderful ways for the boys and I to make our own Christmas traditions, one day early. It's not the perfect solution, but for now, it will do.

To be honest, I believe this issue will have to be dealt with in the near future eventually. In as much as I can accommodate everybody now by doing something early, there will come a time when I won't be able to, and my dear parents will have no choice but to understand.

Merry Christmas!

[This message edited by ExposedNiblet at 10:39 PM, September 4th (Wednesday)]

purplejacket4 posted 9/4/2013 22:51 PM

To me "Christmas" doesn't occur until we can all get together. As a physician I only get 1 out of 3 December 25 off. But my memories aren't of rounding Dcember 25 it's watching my nephews and nieces open up their gifts with delight whenever it is. And that can be anytime from Dec 17 to Jan 1 depending on everyone's schedule.

dontknowwhyme posted 9/5/2013 08:52 AM

I think spending Christmas eve at your parents is great for your children. Looking back at my childhood I wish was able to spend more time with my Grandparents. I'd let it be.

Here in the future you will more than likely become a Grandmother yourself and that is when you grab onto the tradition of it being "your" holiday. Just as your parents did.

Newlease posted 9/5/2013 09:40 AM

Good for you in finding the TRUE spirit of Christmas! It is not centered on a specific date.

My grown sons and their families have so many people to please that I have decided to become the cheerfully flexible one. When the D was final, I could have wrested Christmas Day away from my in-laws. But they are in their 70s and it wasn't as important for me to "win" as it was for them to spend their remaining Christmases celebrating as they always have, with my children & grandchildren.

Christmas Eve has been claimed by one of my sons' in-laws. So we do Christmas at my house whenever it is the least stressful for all involved. I want to enjoy the time - I don't want anyone stressed about who they are disappointing, or feel rushed because they have another engagement to attend.

I love the holiday season - but for me it is just that, a season, not a date on the calendar.


lost_in_toronto posted 9/5/2013 09:46 AM

We are choosing to make Winter Solstice our nuclear family's date of celebration. It just isn't worth rocking the boat with my MIL to try and change how the holiday is celebrated. And when we celebrate with our family, our daughter gets to see cousins and it's a lot of fun for her. So we have chosen Solstice to be our "Christmas."

ExposedNiblet posted 9/5/2013 10:40 AM

Good morning!

Thanks everyone for your replies.

I must say, reading these posts has been an eye-opener for me, in that the majority suggest that I leave things as they are and work around them.

This is in sharp contrast to another board I post on where the majority there say I should firmly stand my ground and claim that night for my own, regardless of how anyone feels about it.

Verrrrry interrrrresting (crazy eyebrow wiggle).

To be honest, SI friends, at the moment, I'm not sure how I will deal with this issue. While what you all say makes a lot of sense, I can't say that I agree with all of it either. That's just me.

For those of you who say that my boys may be upset by a change in the present traditions, I want to mention that they have wanted to move things here for awhile now as well. (That's primarily because of our dog, who is not allowed at the Xmas Eve celebrations.) They also spend a lot of time with my folks otherwise (did I mention we live close by?)

I definitely need time to think about everything - good thing I started in September, huh?

In any case, I just wanted to say thanks again for your input. It is appreciated and will definitely be considered.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Kajem posted 9/5/2013 12:48 PM

Have you asked your sons what new traditions they would like to have at your 'Christmas'? I wonder if that will help you to decide.

Good luck,

ExposedNiblet posted 9/9/2013 11:56 AM


Well, yesterday afternoon, my folks and I were discussing plans for Thanksgiving next month. Poor dears, they're still having difficulty dealing with "sharing" the kids with XH, but that's another story. I decided to take the bull by the horns and get it over with in one shot.

As kindly, but as firmly as possible, I stated my case for staying home on Christmas Eve night. They listened to me. Then they agreed it was time for me to do my own thing with the boys.

I explained that they were more than welcome to join us at our place. If it worked out better for them, we'd be willing to spend the early part of the day with them at their place, but on Christmas Eve, we would be in our home.

My boys are very, very happy. Last night, they were throwing ideas around as to what we should do for dinner and what activities should follow. As far as Christmas goes, it was the most animated I've seen them since they were little boys.

I guess it was time to make this our own after all.

In any case, I just wanted to say that The Discussion went very well, with very happy (and unexpected!) results.

Once more, I just wanted to thank you all for offering your opinions on this issue, and an especially big thanks for those who encouraged me to do what I felt was best. Although I didn't realize it, I guess that's what I needed the most. On the surface, it doesn't seem like a big issue, but for me it was. Lately, I've found it difficult to go against the grain with my parents, particularly now that they're older. It's so difficult to watch them age.

So now, the planning begins.

Merry Christmas!

nowiknow23 posted 9/9/2013 13:56 PM

YAY!!!!! I want to hit the like button on this update SO BADLY!!!

Merry Christmas, Exposed Niblet.

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