This morning, I was behind someone’s grandma (you’ll see why I call her that in a minute) at Panera Bread, and she knew the cashier personally. As they were wrapping up the order, Grandma says to Cashier, “So, are you going to spend Christmas with that grandson of yours?”
Cashier says, “Well, they’re with his mom’s side of the family this year.”
Grandma says, “Oh yes, I know that well. It’s not OUR year. We have to share and alternate.” (BTW, you might not be able to tell, but Grandma is not happy about this.)
Cashier says, “I understand though. I did the same thing when I was young and married.”
This got me thinking about setting boundaries and being fair to everyone, including yourself, in a family around the holidays when you get married and have young kids.
First, I should share that Christmas, as in December 25, is just a day. You don’t have to celebrate CHRISTMAS on this day. You can celebrate Christmas on ANY DAY. That’s my opinion anyway. Second, no one likes to miss the grandkids or cousins or any children on Christmas Day, but let’s be realistic–and I have to tell myself this too, believe me–the last thing little kids and teenagers are thinking about on Christmas Day is spending quality time with their parents, grandparents, and other relatives. They are mostly thinking about toys or money or their girlfriend/boyfriend, depending on the age. This is okay. This is normal. Don’t take offense.
That said, how do you set those boundaries for making Christmas Eve and Christmas Day special and not so crazy, running everywhere with young children and dreading the day that is supposed to be magical? Oh, you are looking here for answers? Okay, let me try.
Again, I have it easy. I have a small family, and my husband’s family is not in town–we usually see them twice a year. But the way, we work it out to do what is best for my 4-year-old daughter and my 14-year-old stepson. . .
1. We go to early Christmas eve service (5:00 pm) and then an open house and get home early to go to bed for Santa. No more midnight mass.
2. My stepson spends Thanksgiving with us and Christmas Day with his mom–every year. It just works out better with his school schedule and consistency. My husband usually picks him up the day after Christmas, so he can spend the second part of his break with us.
3. I host Christmas at my house, where my daughter can relax and play with her toys all day.
4. We do cousin Christmas on a different day around Christmas. This is the best idea ever! Everyone can go to their respective in-laws houses on the 25th, and then we can all get together and relax on a different day. We’ve done this 3 years in a row now.
This is what works for us. (What also would work for me is to go on a Disney Cruise every year, but I digress.) It might not work for you. But if you are running yourself ragged and dreading a magical day because of the 5 houses you have to go to, consider setting boundaries for next year. You have an entire year to work on it!
Margo Dill, also known as the Sandwich Lady because she has a 4-year-old daughter and 70-something-year-old parents, is the author of three books: Caught Between Two Curses (YA), Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (MG), and Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies. These are available at all major retailers! Find out more about Margo’s books, speaking, and teaching at http://www.margodill.com