When you’re a family that has relocated, away from extended family and friends, it becomes a bit of conundrum on how you will spend which holiday. Who is coming where and when, packing and traveling around work and school schedules, what to bring for meals and how to entertain three kids on the long car rides. I hate it. I truly love and adore our families but I hate what packing up three young kids and traveling hours away from our own family home does to my well being. I’m not a joyful mother or spouse during it all and I don’t typically find time to enjoy the holiday until it’s over and I can put my feet up on the dashboard as we are driving back home.
This is the year I decided I’m not going to spend the last few days before Christmas barking out commands, packing suitcases, worrying about delayed shipments or frantically wrapping gifts. I’m not going to worry about hiding gifts away in suitcases and puzzling every inch of our vehicle just right to make it all fit. I’m not going to feel the stress that comes with packing up Christmas for a family of five and driving it down the road for hours. Instead we are going to keep the celebration in our own home. We will make our own traditions and keep our own schedule. We will focus our holiday on what we feel is important and not have to feel guilty if we don’t want to keep to someone else’s schedule or plans.
Now don’t get me wrong, my spouse and I come from wonderful families who have always made the holidays a very special time and have always been flexible and supportive. We have enjoyed immensely spending the last ten years of our marriage going back and forth between the two families, trading off Christmases. Our kids got to embrace their grandparents each Christmas morning and that will always be such a special memory. But I always felt something was missing. The warmth and comfort our own home offers us, the rest our own beds bring. The quiet evening hours and the chance to reconnect as our own family unit were not there.
I began cultivating the idea of staying home for the holidays. I knew it would be difficult to persuade my spouse. I knew it would be difficult to persuade my own heart. But I also knew that ultimately it would better serve our family and that I could be a better mother during, what is supposed to be, the most jolly time of year. By giving up the stresses of travel, I imagined what it could be like to make up our own traditions with our meals and activities. Would we do fondue? Lasagna dinner? Would I serve the lutefisk and lefse or homemade pizza? I imagined serving our Christmas meal on my Spode dinnerware I’ve collected since I was a teen, envisioning even then, hosting a Christmas for my own family. I imagined our children finding their gifts wrapped under their own Christmas Tree. Enjoying an evening snuggle with my husband in the privacy of our own home and watching our favorite holiday movies without asking permission to change the channel. I imagined how it could be and realized that I could make it happen.
And no, of course the holidays aren’t about showcasing your entire collection of Spode dinnerware. One of the special things about this season IS celebrating and spending time with family and reconnecting with those across the miles. But that can be done on other days, on other weekends, throughout the stretch of the holiday season. Growing up, nearly my entire family lived within walking distance from my home. Some were so far as to be “across town.” I had the luxury of visiting all of my extended family members during one day for feasting, gifting and celebrating. At the end of the day however, I got the privilege of returning to my center. My home, my bed, and my comfort. I got to draw into my parents and siblings as we came together to enjoy each other and the reasons for the season. And it’s these feelings of pure comfort, joy, and peace that I remember feeling now as an adult. When I was warm, snug in my bed, knowing that the morning would bring Christmas Day. I felt safe, secure, and happy. I want my children to make those same emotional connections with the holidays. Heck, I want to feel those sentiments again!
And perhaps this was written entirely as a piece to convince myself that we are making the right decision by staying home this Christmas. Because sometimes, it’s hard to let go of “the way you’ve always done it.” And it’s of course hard to make a decision you know others might not like. But then you realize you’re an adult now and you can choose how you will spend your time, your holidays, and you need to make good decisions that will benefit you and your own family. That your priority is to your own children and sometimes doing what’s best for you is also doing what’s best for them. This mama needs more jolly this holiday season. So while I will carry on the traditions of my childhood, I will get to make some new ones with my own family. And I find I’m already singing the carols a bit louder this December. My step is lighter, my mind and spirit more joyful, and I know I am focusing on the right things. It was a heart wrenching decision, but one that I think will only build our family bond even stronger. We will be celebrating with a bit more peace, a bit more calm and quiet, and lots more sanity. We will be home for the holidays!