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“So, Are You Going Stick With Your Blog, Anna?”

“So, Are You Going Stick With Your Blog, Anna?”

Man, I fucking hate the holidays.

I realize this is so tired to say this, but sometimes life requires that you be tired. Because the only thing you can write is just so damn tired.

Every year, after the holidays, I am faced with an annual quandary: do I go ahead let loose — use this forum as a means of verbally shitting upon the members of my extended family for the things they have said/done to me that have hurt my feelings (this year)? Or do I, once again, try to be the bigger person, and just wax philosophical in vague terms about the nature of families of origin and how they reconfigure as we age, and how we must endeavor to move beyond the limitations they may project upon us, often against our will?

One of the surprises of parenthood for me has been discovering a heretofore nonexistent joy in Christmas through Mini. As usual, I can, through Mini, get a shot at enjoying things that were for some reason not accessible to me as a child (or else, that I don’t remember being enjoyable to me now). I do believe that, if I could isolate the time that I spend at Christmas with just Mr. Right-Click and Mini, and his excitement for leaving a cookies and milk out for Santa, and his wonder the next morning when the cookies are gone, and the cup of milk is mostly empty, I think maybe I could start to feel less homicidal about the concept of The Holidays in general.

(Because, yes, we are among those parents who still do “lie” to our child about the existence of Santa Claus, and magic robots, and pirates who are not terrorists, and mice who can talk and run successful amusement park franchises, and all of the other magic woven into the fabric of childhood. We do! And my guess is that we will keep on lying to him as long as he wants us to, probably long after he knows we are just big stinking liars who lie, if he’s anything like I was — long after he’s seen gifts “from Santa” in the back of my car, or figured out that Santa cannot possibly have the same wrapping paper as Mommy and Daddy, or that Santa does not insist on all of the packages being wrapped in either black and white or hot pink wrapping paper so that all of the packages match when they are under the tree. Because he is a smart kid. He will figure it out — I give him maybe two, three years tops. But he won’t want to let it go. Because Santa is a cool concept, and why would you want to give that gig up?)

But instead, after you get over the awesome, life-affirming, kid-related parts of The Holidays, you are stuck with The Bullshit part of The Holidays wherein all of the adults who are not drinking themselves into a numb oblivion seem dead-set on torturing each other. Why do we do it, year after year, I wonder? Why do we all go and visit these families, and then come home and say, “Oh, I’m so glad to be home. I barely made it.”

Lately, I’ve been wondering which is worse: is it worse to be estranged from a family member, or to be in contact with a family member but to treat them badly? So often people stay in touch with family members because they feel it is the right thing to do, and this is an impulse I understand. However, if the interactions between family members become increasingly detrimental to all parties, at what point do you decide that it’s better to cut your losses and walk away? Is it ever better to do this? I don’t know the answer to this question.

I spend my life oscillating between guilt over not doing enough and pain as a result of the little that I do. Both outcomes kind of suck.

The Holidays fucking suck.

Comments (14)

  1. Dec 28, 2010

    I could write volumes…but not in public.

    But yes, the holidays suck hard. Very very hard.

  2. drhoctor2
    Dec 28, 2010

    I’m completely estranged from my family of origin and have had to be for years. Most of them are lovely people , really, whom I continue to miss. The pain of missing them, however is nowhere near as agonizing as the pain of being in contact with them. I love them and I miss them and I will mostly likely never see or communicate with any of them again, It sucks BUT I have kids I had/have to be mentally stable and present for and I cut the cord because I couldn’t be there for them and interact with all the crazy.
    On that note, I would never reccommend for anyone to cut ties barring the most extreme of abuses. However, I don’t see any reason that you could not start planning now to avoid this next year. Cut down the hours you spend with them. For Mini’s sake. He will grow up watching this and he WILL think that it is the only way to “celebrate” holidays. You can change up anything you want because HE is your family and your priority now and EFF anybody who doesn’t like it. Seriously,life is too long to let anyone else make you miserable on a yearly basis.
    People come to my house for holidays. I don’t hesitate to toss anyone who attempts to dampen the joyful. It’s been years since anyone crapped on my holiday. Everybody knows better now. I really would much rather be alone than with people who get a charge out of messing with my emotional health.
    Write down everything that sucked about this year and think about how to make sure that doesn’t happen again next year. Be kind to yourself. And..ya know..Happy Holidays to you and your husband and Mini …who is almost the cutest little boy I’ve ever seen , my own three taking that honor, of course !! 🙂

  3. Dec 28, 2010

    There’s one branch of my family I love spending the holidays with. The other branches? Well, the most stressful part of any holiday is the inevitable Christmas phone call. I try to get it over as soon as possible so that I can actually enjoy the rest of my day. I don’t know what I’d do if I “had” to spend the holidays actually WITH them.
    Years and years ago, back when I went to church, a pastor said one of my favorite things ever, which has stayed with me every day since then, which is (badly paraphrased after 15 years)–you may have blood ties to your family, but if they don’t make you a better person, then you aren’t obligated to any other ties to them. If they make you feel bad about yourself, or your life, or your world, then they aren’t worth your time. Man, that was huge for me then, as it is now. I haven’t cut family out of my life, but I’ve *significantly* dialed back how much interaction I allow them to have. We’re basically down to that call on Christmas (and birthdays, etc.). It’s all I can handle giving them of my life. Because why give those people what joy I’m able to create, you know?

  4. Dec 28, 2010

    For us, we loosely define the word “family”. Years ago, I walked away from many of the more toxic of my family members and I didn’t miss a thing. When I married Himself and discovered how toxic his family was, we both patted each other on the back and thought we’d solved it all. And then….. came the Eggroll. And suddenly people in both families became interested… and it got complicated. My solution now? One day a year. Period. That’s it. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas or Festivus, or Whatever. ONE DAY A YEAR! And the one day event takes place at my house so that I can control the length of time and Himself can toss folks to the curb when needed. (yes, it can be that bad) So far, it’s worked. Dinner has been short and sweet, the Eggroll gets to see her “relatives”, Flipper can pretend we all get along, Himself is guaranteed to get an edible meal and I get to assuage any guilt I may have about keeping my kid from the “crazy” that is my family. Win, win!

  5. Dec 28, 2010

    I’m not sure there’s one right answer, but I’ve found that I am a far saner person if I limit contact with some of the more toxic family members. I leave room in my life for them in the event that they mature and see how their actions have hurt others, but for now, I don’t expend any energy on them. I don’t have any extra energy, quite frankly. I wish my husband would be better about limiting our interactions with his crazy family, but apparently I do not have superpowers and my bitching has yet to do any good!!

  6. Dec 28, 2010

    Only three more years till he figures it out?! My son is 12, he said to me on x-mas eve, “Mom I know you and dad would never lie to me, but this is the one time I’d make an exception because it’s magical. ” I never said a thing as I put the cookies out on the plate for Santa.It was his way to say, “I know he isn’t real, but I don’t want the magic to die”.

    I am very close to my family, minus one sister. I deal with her as little as possible. It’s made my life easier. My husbands family is non-existent. I used to be hurt that I had such fucked up in= laws who never called or acknowledge our marriage or my son. Now I’m grateful as hell I don’t have to interact with them (minus seeing them this weekend at my Stepsons wedding). We are good people. People who love people, and frankly life is too fucking short to waste it pissed on people who will not matter in the end.

    I say, esponge the toxic people, it’s your life.

  7. Dec 28, 2010

    We lie to our kids too. And my daughter who is 8 actually knows the truth but still continues to believe. I think it’s awesome.

    We have had a perfect holiday this year, and I can tell you what’s different. We made the decision to stay home, and everyone adapted. My parents visit, and it’s nice, but not too long. My sister and her family come later in the week after a break and time to enjoy our toys. We stopped trying with the other people and that part while it sucks sometimes feels amazing on Christmas morning.

  8. Dec 28, 2010

    I know, dude. I know. It’s hard. Families are hard. I know.

    I know.

    I’m sorry you know, too. Much love.

  9. We have complicated relationships with certain family members, but the true sadness this year is that we have three parents between us, and two will probably be dead by this time next year. This is very depressing and I felt like I was on the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg. I have always hated the holidays and have a Grinch on my car antenna…Mr. Clueless loves the holidays and the girls had a good Christmas. Eh, I guess I’ll hold on to the moment when I unwrapped the “Mom” and “Dad” ornaments purchased by my 10 year old when I feel sad.

  10. Dec 29, 2010

    I’m not a fan of passive aggressiveness and have a tendency to be pretty confrontational about it. Luckily, all members of my family have been in some form of therapy, AA, or other programs that aid us in being authentic and genuine with one another.

    My in-laws? Not the same. Father, Mother and Step Mother in law are all wonderful, but the Aunts and Uncles are crazy assholes. Since I am not the mother of the children, I figure they are as interested in me as I am in them, so I usually skip out on those festivities, as to avoid any unpleasant confrontations that may result of me being all “WTF is your issue?”

    That being said, I love the holidays.

  11. Dec 29, 2010

    Both sides of my family are Bat Shit Crazy, but one side is less dramatic about it and totally owns (and laughs and jokes about) the Crazy. That is the side with whom I love seeing and hanging out. There are no headgames, no guilt trips. Just goofyness as we laugh about our crazy family.

    My dad cut off his mother when I was 14. This is the grandmother who I am extremely close to, the grandmother who I talk with throughout the week, the grandmother who will leave a huge, gaping hole in my life when she dies. I was angry with my dad for a long time when he cut her off, but then I grew up, became an adult and a parent myself and came to understand why he did it. I still wish he had NOT done it, but I have made peace with it. So, this estrangement has totally affected my sister and I, it changed our lives in many ways. However, the two additional, youngest siblings were born AFTER this estrangement, so it does not really affect them. I guess all I am saying is that if you worry about Mini, don’t. You could cut these folks off now and really, he would be relatively unaffected.

    While I am not a huge fan of estrangements, I am ALL for distancing and laying down firm boundaries. The crazy family I mentioned that specializes in on head games and guilt trips? I don’t let them in anymore. If I can make their scheduled gatherings, then I attend. If it doesn’t work for me, then I brace myself for the Ice and decline. This just happened in December when they scheduled something I could not, would not fit into our busy schedule. I am definitely getting some Ice and guilt trips, but I could give a shit less. Seriously.My husband and my kids are my #1 Priority. End of story.

  12. Michelle
    Dec 30, 2010

    My husband was torn about the ‘lying’ aspect of the holiday until I logic-ed him into it. See, Santa Claus is the spirit of the season, which does exist as long as there is happiness, love and giving involved. Santa is real, and you can leave or take the red suit.

    We have problems only with my husband’s parents (who I managed not to physically or verbally abuse, this year, go me!), but it’s worth it to make the trip because somehow these utterly ridiculous people spawned a great bunch of kids. Limited consumption of the elders and as much patience as we can muster (Not much, for me, but I’m pregnant and am excused) and then laughing and venting about it with the siblings-in-law is a good recipe for not going batty.

  13. Dec 30, 2010

    I wish I had chosen the estrangement path years ago. It’s much more peaceful.

  14. Elizabeth
    Dec 31, 2010

    IWhile I don’t really have anything useful go contribute, it makes me feel better I’m not the only one dealing with this. I really don’t think of myself as being “the type of person” who would voluntarily estrange myself (and especially my kids) from my family. But I did, more than 3 years ago. Over one incident, in which I was really only peripherally involved, involving my now 30+ yo (but still no job & living w/ mommy & daddy) brother’s drug, social, perhaps mental problems and my parents’ inability to deal with it, or at least keep my kids away from him. My answer? Immediately cut off all contact except the occasional phone call. I think that may have been an overreaction, but I can’t figure out a good compromise. Wish I could–holidays really do suck. And like the poster whose dad did this when she was 14, kids don’t get it. I have no clue how to explain this to mine–I know soon enough they’ll think I’m the one who’s at fault, and they’ll be partially correct.

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