I feel numb. I don’t feel festive. I feel like a failure for my children. I don’t feel like a family. I feel alone and secluded.
I am Scrooge.
The ghosts of Christmases past haunt me. There was a time when the holiday was all about traditions. We would celebrate the Eve with a feast (I prepared and we invited at least one other family, if not multiple, to join us); we attended church service with a candlelit caroling element, we would open one “Eve” gift (holiday PJs to wear for the first time to wake for Santa in the morning); we put out special cookies; I would write notes back to the kids from Santa in special handwriting, their special gifts from him were always wrapped in white tissue with a special bow (everything else in colorful wrap); they would each get one special gift from Santa and one present from each other member of the family (around 6 main gifts each, plus other odds and ends); we wouldn’t allow the kids to come downstairs until the crack of first light; stockings always came first, then presents, afterward we would prepare some delicious breakfast; the rest of the day was spent relaxing and playing games and just spending time with one another.
Fast forward just a bit…the previous 4 Christmases…2011 was mere months after the split and only a couple short weeks after my ex decided once and for all that yes, he truly was finished with me (of course after leading me down a road of false hope for four weeks prior). I had the kids, but honestly, that year is a blur. The following year, 2012, my ex had the kids and I allowed the holiday to come and go, celebrating with the kids when I finally did have them with little fanfare as they had already ‘had’ Christmas. The 2013 year was the most difficult, with the kids having just moved in with the paramour a few months prior and they were struggling. I had the official holiday, but the new ‘family’ was doing their best to buy the kids’ affections and the shit hit the fan with disagreed gift giving (iPhones, push-up bras from Victoria’s Secret for a 12 year old, etc-actually the events that caused me to create this blog to begin with) as well as the kids feeling weirded out by the new ‘family’ inclusion. I didn’t have them again last year…each year that happens is a bit less painful, but still anti-holiday spirit inducing.
Now to the ghost of Christmas present. I don’t have family close. Honestly, my family isn’t really close, as I don’t keep contact with my sister. I don’t have funds to travel to be close to my parents. They don’t go out of their way to make holiday’s special themselves to begin with, which is why I always wanted the family traditions I created that much more. After the previous four years of turmoil, it is difficult to carve out the traditions. The melancholy lingers from years in a row of emotional rawness. The kids are older now. Less inclined to ‘Santa’ and more needy for a feeling of extended family-which I don’t have to provide. We seem to go through the motions, yet don’t embody the spirit. We have started attending a new church this fall, but it is far from ‘home’ feeling (the previous church was just not ‘home’ either after five years, it was time to move on for us all). We baked our cookies, but neglected to leave any ‘out’. Honestly, I don’t know if they are too old, or I just forgot and they are harboring some secret sadness of my oversight. I didn’t go to exorbitant lengths to prepare a meal, as it is just the four of us and so much food ultimately gets wasted. I got a turkey breast from my favorite Honey Baked Ham store and we have had nibbles on it over the past couple days. Money is tight so gifts are limited this year. I feel the guilt and shame that accompany that fact, completely opposite of my early desires to make Christmas less about the gifts and more about the giving…I think it probably has something to do with the ‘competition’ feeling I have gotten over the past few years with my ex…he likes to get extravagant gifts whether he can afford them or not (all the while placing the financial blame on me if he can’t do fully what he wants).
I feel that all the groundwork that was laid those many years past has all gone to waste. The kids were not old enough to have imprinted the traditions and memories in a meaningful way that would negate the influence of the more prominent recent memories. To them, I am lackadaisical and uninvolved. I have failed them. My ex is much better at the disjointed family. He seems to take it all in stride. I have thrown in the towel in many respects…hoping for the Christmases future to come through in a big way.
With the ghost of Christmas future I see such promise…such possibility. I often tell them how I hope to have a full house as ‘grandma’ and how I desire that ‘big family’ feeling that is lacking for us currently. I assure them that we will be able to make it for ourselves…that we can begin and create that life that we all desire. Their children can be close and have their cousins to connect with – the energy coursing through a full house of love and connection. They CAN feel like a connected family with traditions. I want to be a part of that and will help them create it for their own children in a way that I wasn’t able to create it for them. They will always have each other and they will always be able to count on me.
So Merry Christmas cyberspace…but forgive me I’m a bit Bah-Humbug.
You go right ahead and have your moment. Lord knows that I have had plenty of mine. I can only tell you with total assurance, that things will get better with time. I can totally promise it!!! I thought I would be gloomy each year, and today, I was happy to send my girls off because I know that it’s ok. And that I took the time that I needed to get to this way of thinking and feeling. And let that fool buy the whole store up! It is in no way a reflection of how good a mother you are. In fact, I want my ex to buy all the luxury items, because it saves more money in my pocket and my girls will know which “bank” to harass when they get older. LOL! They left my house fully satisfied with what “Santa” brought them and that’s all that matters. Next year, I’m just giving them each one big gift and then that’s it! And guess what?! They will love it! Cause I love on them all year long and that’s all that matters!
Aye…you’ve pretty well summed up everything I am going through too. I was such a better mother before the divorce (in some ways) and I am afraid they won’t remember that because they were to young. The only thing I can come back to is that we are still making memories, just different ones. And maybe our outside situation has changed but the love we feel for them hasn’t. I know it’s hard, the competition aspect, but we just have to keep a stiff upper chin and be confident in the sweet, amazing human beings we are raising. And if they do decide they like it with the narcissistic ex, then we slap them upside the back of the head. That’s all.
Last Christmas I spent with my extended family (mother, sister, brothers and families) and then a few weeks later a get-together with my uncle and some cousins. This year, with my mother having passed away, it was just the nuclear family. However, we did treasure it and began new traditions. Sometimes the smaller Christmas gatherings allow more intimate conversations (as the children get older) with the focus on having each other, no matter how small the group happens to be.
At this point, when we’re all together on a regular basis typically, the holiday merely provides more of the same togetherness, with a few ‘extra’ activities thrown in…I know that once they are grown and we come back together, even just a small intimate gathering, it will hold much love and warmth for me, as I hope it will for them. Thank you for reading and responding. Much love to you in this new year!