Growing up, I always wanted to do something on Christmas. After we opened our gifts, the feeling of being let down hung in the air like a hangover. My mother had different plans, though. She stayed in her robe most of the day and would make a big breakfast. Then, she’d clean up the Christmas chaos with just enough time to start a big dinner which usually involved some type of candied ham.
She’d come out of her room after getting dressed as the smells swirled down our hallways and above the shag carpet. She always looked happy and content while getting out the lace table cloth and nice dishes.
Meanwhile, my siblings and I examined our new things over and over while It’s A Wonderful Life hummed in the background.
Back then, it seemed kind of boring to me and I didn’t appreciate it. I wanted to visit people, get more gifts, and keep the excitement and festivities going.
I get it now, Mom. There is nothing like staying home on Christmas.
When my kids were younger, we did the visiting thing. We’d open our gifts at home; I’d rush to clean up because of my anxiety. Next, we’d get the kids dressed and shove them in the car amid protests about leaving all their new things behind. We didn’t want them taking anything with them in case it got ruined or lost, and really, we already had enough crap we were taking. Like the casserole and dessert I’d have to make and transport, with three toddlers and all their gear.
By the time we got to wherever we were going, my kids were already tired. They’d soon get their second wind with another round of gifts, but this only made them crash faster. By that I mean they’d cry and tantrum, and I couldn’t eat the Christmas dinner I’d been looking forward to.
Trying to get them to leave the party and go home was even more of a nightmare.
The year my daughter and her cousin cried while opening gifts because they were so overwhelmed was the last straw for me.
I wasn’t having a good time, they weren’t having a good time, and it would take us the rest of Christmas break to recover.
I also felt like if we decided to go visit one family member, we had to go visit them all. Which we didn’t, but when you have a partner and lots of family, you feel the crushing obligation to be fair.
Now, it’s my rule that we stay at home. It’s Christmas, damn it, and I don’t want to be on a time schedule.
I don’t want to feel like I have to get dressed. I don’t want to make dishes that I have to transport (without spilling) in the car. I want to do our own thing.
That means pajamas all day, snacks all day — I don’t want to prepare a big meal, either — and lots of naps.
Between work, school, extracurricular activities, and life, there is no other day that belongs to only me and my kids. I want Christmas. That’s why I’ve made it an “only us” day.
My children know this is how we are going to spend our holiday, and they look forward to it. I think a big piece of them getting on board with a ‘“just us” holiday is because they noticed how much happier I am.
If someone wants to stop by, they have the other 364 days of the year to do that. I never feel like we are missing out if the rest of the family gets together. Instead, I feel like we are gaining a lot.
Christmas belongs to us now, and I am going to keep it that way as long as I can.
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