It is Thanksgiving week and all I can think about is Christmas. It is really hard not to when for weeks now the stores have been aglow with holiday lights, red and green wrapping, and all the bells and whistles that come with the predominant December holiday. My inbox is full of emails from retailers giddy with Black Friday promotions. And while most everyone I know is busy planning their turkey dinners, I can’t stop obsessing about Christmas.
My obsession with the holiday isn’t necessarily a fun one as it comes in the form of a dilemma: Whether or not to skip Christmas with my family this year. The past three Christmases have not been the easiest for us by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve battled the stomach flu, crammed quarters, sleeping on old mattresses, grouchy family members (myself included), too many cooks in the kitchen (literally), rowdy dogs, screeching birds (my mom’s bird Paco), restless children, an absent father, and many other challenges. With a list like that it has been hard for my husband and I to look at the bright side and enjoy the positive aspects of the holiday, which admittedly, have also been many.
By the time Christmas gets here this year, I will be over eight months pregnant. The last time I took a road trip to Southern California and was very pregnant it was the most uncomfortable car ride that ever was. I’m certain that this ride will be challenging in a very similar way.
Additionally, this year, there will be more family staying in close quarters and it is rumored that my brother and his wife are bringing their new puppy, Nola. Take the list above add two more adults sleeping in close quarters and a puppy. It makes thinking about coming down even more unnerving.
Our dilemma doesn’t boil down to my siblings, their dog, or additional adults, it’s the difficulty we have experienced managing our children on little rest in an environment that hasn’t been the most kid-friendly. When we arrive we are tired from a long drive and the excitement that the children are experiencing is more than they (read we) can handle. They refuse to nap giving us little to no opportunity to catch up on rest ourselves, which ultimately has proven difficult to keep us positive and enjoy the festivities. We spend the duration of our trip keeping little hands away from breakables and keeping them from annoying or worrying my 95-year-old grandmother. Meanwhile the other adults take off for leisurely strolls to Starbucks or go take in the Christmas blockbuster movie.
But skipping Christmas also means missing out on the good things that I know are present during the holidays with family. We’ll miss experiencing the joy on our children’s faces when they see the lights on Nana’s tree, we will miss making Christmas cookies with Grandma Betty, and the chaos of Christmas morning’s present unwrapping extravaganza.
In my head I have rationalized that perhaps the challenges we have experienced are par for the course and ones that families are expected to endure as a byproduct of being with family for the holidays. But since historically enduring and enjoying have not coexisted, it makes the decision to go even more challenging to make.
I would like this holiday season to be as stress-free as possible and skipping Christmas may ultimately be a way to achieve that. For my immediate little family, Hanukkah overlaps this year with Christmas, leaving us an opportunity to really embrace our own tradition and in lieu of participating in Christmas, make it really special in our home. We have talked about having a Hanukkah party, making Hanukkah cookies, sharing gifts with each other, playing dreidel, and decorating. I have thought about how perhaps skipping Christmas will help my children see how important Hanukkah can be in our home and to share in the wonder of this holiday without it being dwarfed by Christmas’ larger than life status.
Ultimately, I know how I will make the decision: I will have to let go of the fear behind making it. I will have to let go of the fear that I will be disappointing my family and worry that I will be letting them down. I know that they will have a wonderful time even if we are not there. Dare I say perhaps they may have an even better time? If it is decided that we will not go, I will also have to let go of my fear of Olivia’s reaction when she hears that we are not going to Nana’s for Christmas. Which honestly may be the biggest fear I have at the moment (Great, I’m scared of my five-year-old).
Yes, we will be missing out, our family will be missing out on having the kids at Christmas, and our kids will be missing out too. But thankfully, Thanksgiving reminds me that we will always be family and whether we are together at Christmas or not, we can enjoy knowing that our love for each other is bigger than anything that can be wrapped in green, topped with a big red bow, or celebrated in December.