Battle Picking

I have done a lot of thinking about what I want our Christmas holiday to look like. I reflected on my favorite years (the 2 years we lived in Colorado, for sure) and what I could do to recreate those parts. I also tried to figure out the things that have been increasingly bothering me about the way our Christmases have been. That list was long. From not going to church, to meaningless gifts, to rushing from place to place, to not enjoying my family enough, to not having our own traditions, and finally to the actual time and way we open gift with my parents. And this last one really gets me because there is so much more to it than meets the eye.

Because there is so much more to it, I have to decide if it is a battle I want to pick and what the repercussions might be. All of the problems will be from my mother. Bringing this up will hurt her feelings and make her defensive and maybe even go on the offense. Is it worth it? In trying to make Christmas for my family how I want it, I may ruin hers (on the extreme end of possibilities).

The issues at hand are that for many years now (the 5 since we’ve been back from Colorado and a few before we left) on Christmas Eve, we go to my parents house to open gifts from them AFTER the dinner and presents at my grandma’s house with my dad’s whole family. This means we start at 9pm or later. I have always hated this because it is just a shit-show with small children. The kids are hyped up from all the festivities at Grandma’s. They want to play with their new toys. They are excited about Santa. When I have babies (as I will again this year), they are cranky and waaaay over tired. It feels extremely rushed and disorganized. My parents are extremely generous to my kids and with all the stuff going on from the day, there is no way the kids can express proper and sincere gratitude. We leave their house well-after 10 pm. At which time we rush home, quickly scurry the kids to bed and then I do my last minute Christmas night preparations and go to bed well after midnight.

1. My ideal scenario would be my parents come over with their gifts to my house on Christmas morning and they are there to watch the kids open their Santa gifts and presents from us at the same time they open the gifts from my parents. (Ironically, this sounds a lot like how Christmas was when I was little, but that was because my Grandma (my mom’s mom) spent the night at our house Christmas eve.) But this scenario will NEVER happen because my parents hate being at my house and my mom will be unwilling to get up and get ready to be at my house by 7 am, which if you know small children, getting them to sleep till 7 on Christmas morning takes a Christmas miracle.

2. My next ideal scenario is the most realistic one to happen… eventually. It involves no longer going to Grandma’s so that we can do my parent’s presents at their house at a decent time on Christmas eve. But there are a couple things unpleasant about this scenario. First being, there is only one reason Grandma will no longer host Christmas eve (ahem, she is 90 now). Second, this will make my parents have to do back-to-back things, because my mom does a BIG Christmas dinner on Christmas day. And that just seems excessive for us and especially for my mom.

3. Another scenario I am very OK with is going over to my parents’ on Christmas morning AFTER our kids have opened their presents at our house. In fact, it just occurred to me that we did this a few years ago. Easton was almost two. I put my foot down that year, and my mom was irritated the whole time that Christmas morning. Because she hosts Christmas dinner, she has a ton of things to do to prepare that morning. In fact, that year she refused to even leave the kitchen to open presents and we brought them to her and she stood by the counter and opened them.

This is the best possibility for me this year and the one that will piss her off the most. And the thing that is irritating to me is that she goes ALL OUT on Christmas dinner for people who do not care in the least! So that is my argument every year: “Don’t do so much. No one cares.” But she preps and then stands of her feet all day to the point of collapsing after it is done. And for whom? My family of 6, my brother and his boyfriend, my Grandma and Grandpa (yes, from Christmas eve), and two of her uncles (my great uncles). Four of those people are in their late 80s or 90s– they don’t even notice the extra fancy things she does. The rest is my brother and me and our significant others and my 4 kids– we could care less either. But she wants it to “be nice.” But at what cost? This has strained our relationship because I know her deepest wish is for me to help her prep and cook and bond over this Christmas dinner and I refuse. To me it would feel like my help is encouraging and endorsing her insistence at making this dinner way nicer and fancier than it needs to be. I would like my mom to enjoy herself rather than going out of her way for other people who are mainly incapable of appreciating her work. 

So what about the issue at hand? Do I even bring it up? I feel like every year we think scenario #2 from above will surely happen next, because no way is grandma and/or grandpa going to make it another year… but they do! And my luck would dictate that if I make a deal about it this year, then #2 does happen next year, so I created all this drama and bad feelings for nothing!

But I want to start making Christmas eve and day how I want my children to remember it and ways that can be sustained when they are older with their own significant others and children. But I recognize that it is silly to be trying to morph current traditions to fit unknown future scenarios.

And I wonder now, after writing all this, if I can’t just suck it up for a couple more years and really focus on trying to enjoy it as much as I can and just see how the future shakes out in its own time. After all, how we do this now is the only thing my kids know and they are happy wih it. It is just me wanting some idealized Christmas that is more than likely unattainable and not worth causing drama. So I guess I have picked not to battle at all!



No one can make me feel rage like my mother. A therapist once told me that is a testament to how much I love her. Something about how you have to love and care about someone to feel intense anger. Blah, blah, blah.

Tonight, though, she has me seeing red. She and my dad took Macy to dinner, as they like to take the kids out one on one sometimes. She brought her inside to say hi to me. I was busy cleaning up dinner dishes, making chicken stock from the chicken bones, and making up some “Cream of Anything” soup mix. (In other words, I was cleaning up from cooking, COOKING, and preparing a recipe for cooking things later, hang on, that will be important later.)

First thing she notices is that we haven’t eaten the chocolate/caramel/candied apples she bought the kids for Halloween from a really expensive, fancy chocolate place at the mall. I immediately feel bad, because I know how expensive they were and it seems like we weren’t grateful or something. But I had been planning to cut them up and serve them as dessert since Sunday, but something happened every single night that prevented it. So here it is Friday, 8 days after she gave them to the kids, and I was absolutely planning on eating them tonight because we were having a family movie night. But she sees them first, not knowing my plans and starts in on me.

She thinks they are going to be ruined/spoiled. So I stop my cooking and cut into one immediately, to prove they were still ok. She then proceeds to tell me how to cut it. I look at her, politely roll my eyes, and say, “Mom, I got it.” I continue cutting the first apple and she continues to tell me how to cut out the core and that I’m not doing it right. I tell her again, that I know how to do it. She says, “Well, you’re not going to do it right and, you know, you’re not a.. well, a cook.” I was so pissed so I snapped, “What the f@&k do you think I’m doing right now?” So she gets all insulted and storms off. I follow her half way and say, “Sorry if you don’t like my language, but you are so insulting to me!.” She said something about how horrible I talk to her and I said, “I only talked like that after you insulted me!.” But she was gone.

So I’m left to stew. I know I can cook. I enjoy cooking. Heck, I was in the kitchen all night. I have cooked 10 out the past 12 nights. But it boils down to her never giving me credit for the things I do. If I don’t do things exactly the way she does, then I don’t know how to do them right. And it just got to me tonight. I didn’t tell her to eff-off, I controlled myself. But I just wanted to be seen. I wanted to get acknowledgement from her that I WAS cooking. But, nope. That was too much to ask. I will never get acknowledgement from her and I should stop seeking it.

The funny thing after all this was I was retelling it to Scott and he was cracking up… he could barely get words out. He finally stops laughing and says, “She actually Marie Baroned you: ‘You can’t cook, Debrah.'” (Scott has always loved Everybody Loves Raymond, because he sees a lot of similarities between my mom and Marie, and I guess this was exactly what he was talking about.)