There’s No Place like Not Home for the Holidays

It’s that time of year, friends. When Starbucks red cups abound, and people shriek in terror that we’re declaring a war on Christmas because they can’t find anything else better to do.

If you’re me, it’s also that time of year when impatient relatives start asking where you are spending the holidays, with the implicit expectation that you’ll be spending it with them. (Obviously.)

This year we have the added pressure of “Where are you spending Chick’s first Christmas?!”

Answer? Not with any of you motherf*ckers.

Strangely, my family has been pretty okay with this answer. Maybe it is because I’ve been living so far away from them for so long that they’ve gotten used to not seeing me around the Christmas table. Maybe it is because they pragmatically understand that I burned through every last second of vacation time while I was trying to make up for the 4 week gap between when my leave ended and daycare started. (One of the many complications of having your baby show up waaaaay ahead of schedule.)

No, no…this particular episode of crazy is brought to us by the following sponsors: Mr. O’s dad and Mr. O’s mom. (Seperately. Because let us remember that they dislike each other so much I’m sure they would be appalled I just lumped them into one sentence with nary a comma between them.)

Christmas was always difficult for Mr. O as a kid. In fact, he hated Christmas when I first met him. I couldn’t understand why. Christmas is filled with presents, singing, long lazy days in your pj’s by the fire! Not his. His were filled with being shuttled from one house to the next, waking up before dawn to spend hours in the car, typically culminating with a fight between his two parents.

After a few years of witnessing this first hand, I got it. Christmas as he knew it did suck. Does suck. Because it is December 25th or nothing. If we don’t spend December 25th with his mother or father, they both believe that it’s like we didn’t see them at all. If we manage to squeeze them both in? It’s a question of who we saw first. Or for the longest time. There is always a yardstick that we are not measuring up to.

As I’ve mentioned before, Mr. O is determined that this won’t happen to Chick. There will not be two Christmases or two Thanksgivings. We’ll have ONE, and if people want to come and act civil, that’s wonderful. But as I saw first hand in the Baby Shower Skirmish, civil is too much to ask for.

Feuding parents? Scarier than the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog!

Feuding parents? Scarier than the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog!

So how do two grown ups deal with a situation like this? Run away! RUN AWAY!

If all goes well, we’ll be spending Christmas in a cabin on a farm. Just the three of us. I’m planning on naps, hot cocoa, and watching Chick play with wrapping paper.

The thing is I know that this decision will not go over well. And you know what? I kinda don’t care. No, wait… I ACTUALLY DON’T CARE.

Mr. O is all about fleeing for the holidays. In fact, he wants this to be our tradition– we always go some place else. Maybe it is a way for him to separate our family from the clear dysfunction of his. We’ll be our own unit, with our own traditions. In theory, I’m okay with this. I really don’t like Christmas with his family because there is so much tension and so little joy. Where this solution starts to break down is when I think back on my family Christmases. I remember the excitement of being the first person up in the morning so I could open the advent calendar my mom made by hand. I have such great memories of listening to Bing on the turntable and singing “Mele Kalikimaka” loudly (and poorly.) And later, I love the tradition my parents introduced of letting the grandchildren pick one ornament off their tree for the kids to take home for keeps.

But, as Mr. O points out, it’s hard to sell his family on not being home for the holidays when that really means pointedly not being with his parents. It almost would make the matter worse.

This year, we’re sticking to our guns and running for the hills. Next year? Not quite sure how that’s going to shake out. Maybe by that time, everyone will have stopped talking to us. One can only hope!

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16 comments

  1. My Perfect Breakdown · November 13, 2015

    Wishing you the best with the Christmas drama! My family has already started being crazy and I’m already dreading it. I love you cabin away idea!!

    • thecommonostrich · November 16, 2015

      When does this happen? Like, I’m sure our families were normal people once, but then over time they became irrational weirdos? Maybe I’ll go and where big “I’m with Stupid” t-shirts.

  2. g2the4thpower · November 13, 2015

    Good luck! We were always going back and forth or hosting two dinners in a row (one always got the leftovers), then last year we decided to do one big dinner and let them play chicken. Both dws parents and the babysitter turn step mom came. There were some awkward moments, as our place was TINY last year, but it worked out. The best part was that DW and DD got to spend time with their family as one. I wish you the best in figuring out what works for you.

    • thecommonostrich · November 16, 2015

      Thanks. A part of me would love to invite them both over and just see what happens. But then I remember all the crap that happened with the baby shower, and realize that would likely have pretty dire consequences.

      I’m taking the “Can’t please everyone so I might as well please myself” approach. Cabin in the woods, here I come!

      • g2the4thpower · November 16, 2015

        Yeah totally, good call. That idea sounds wonderful.

  3. thebarrenlibrarian · November 13, 2015

    We’re sort of dealing with this with Chief’s family. We’re not going to Tulsa where his parents live because I don’t want my baby around the cigarette smoke that comes from being in their house. I also refuse to miss my family holidays because they chose to move away when they could come back and spend christmas here where they’re from. I have literally 80 relatives coming into town to meet this baby. But we know it’s going to be drama drama drama.

    • thecommonostrich · November 16, 2015

      Oh guuuurl… that’s a whole other topic/blog post. I’m not letting Chick go over to some relatives’ houses because the state of them is just not healthy. He is tiny and has a tiny immune system. It isn’t ready of ebola or whatever else is they’ve got incubating.

      But it’s a hard thing to say… “I’m not taking my child over to your house because it’s like walking into an ash tray.” Or “I’m not bringing my baby over because I’m pretty sure he’ll leave with a fungus.”

      (This is making me sound OCD, and I’m really not. Really.)

  4. labmonkeyftw · November 14, 2015

    Oh divorced drama! I never had to do both houses for any one day, but with one parent’s birthday on Christmas Eve, and an alternating schedule of who gets Christmas Day, it got tricky. And ended in a ditch once because the snow was so awful but there was no avoiding doing the drive.
    My sister and her husband and their son have started a tradition where they do Christmas together, with their own nuclear family, every year. At their own house, which is not particularly close to any of the grandparents. They then do a circuit of the grandparents after Christmas, the 26th through New Years Eve usually. Everyone took it well, but my parents seem slightly better adjusted to the idea of us being adults than Mr. O’s seem to be.
    This year Pea and I are doing a full circuit of all eight houses. I know I ruffled a few feathers already, so we’ll see how it all turns out (egad).

    • labmonkeyftw · November 14, 2015

      four houses, not eight! Eight parents, though.

    • thecommonostrich · November 16, 2015

      There is a part of me that gets why this happens. Holidays are high stakes, even in the happiest of families. I just wish that people (and here I address all humans, not just the ones in my immediate life) would realize that they do more harm than good when they act this way. Be a grown up. Don’t put your baggage on your kids every Christmas/Easter/Passover/Eid.

      Good luck with the house hopping this year! If all else fails, may I suggest a cabin hours from civilization?

  5. spiteorflight · November 14, 2015

    I really struggle with this too. My parents are divorced, so my Christmases were always hectic and over-scheduled. Once I got married we had to add my husband’s family into the mix, obviously.

    I’ve always been soooo envious of people who just stayed home and played with toys in their PJs before (maybe!) going to family dinner. That’s what I want for my kids, but it’s hard to say no to all those other stops. It’s not like you can easily go to some, and not all, you know? I’ve tried laying the groundwork to just rotate Christmas dinners every other year (while seeing my mom’s family on the 24th). Last year my MIL pretended to be ok with it, and then tricked/guilted us into coming over anyway. I haven’t even tried to talk about the plans for this year.

    • thecommonostrich · November 16, 2015

      As if divorce isn’t hard enough on a family, it just keeps reverberating through out every holiday. What gets me is that Mr. O’s parents have been divorced DECADES longer than they were ever married, and yet they still feud about this. Even with their grown up children, they’re trying to fight this petty little fight. At what point do you just say “It’s over. I’m not going to be a jerkface any more.”

  6. InfertileGirl · November 14, 2015

    Ugh, sharing Christmas is such a pain in the ass. Having grown up as the child of a single mom we never had to worry about doing Christmas with anyone but my mom’s family so when hubby and I got together we started alternating years with family for Christmas Day and I hate it.

    Especially because hub’s family goes to the mountains at Christmas, so we have to go with them, out of town for multiple days (not really what I’d like to be doing) and even if we don’t spend Christmas Day with them we still go to the mountains. His nuclear family is the only family in the province, whereas my family is much larger so if I don’t see them on Christmas, I don’t see them at the holidays at all because we all get together just the one day.

    I’m just being selfish really but seeing as his whole family is together for several days around Christmas, maybe they can just give me the actual day? I like the idea of running away, that seems easier…

    • thecommonostrich · November 18, 2015

      There is a part of me that feels like I’m just taking my toys and going home, so to speak. Like, if you can’t play nice with me, I’m just going to peace out, b!tches. It’s easier, but ideally not how I’d like this to resolve.

      But then I remember that we are human beings and not, in fact, robots. Maybe if everyone could exercise a little empathy, we could have the flexibility we all want. Like perhaps you wouldn’t have to be mountain-bound for days. Or I could schlep my family to just one location without there being heaps of guilt and tears.

      And then I remember… we’re human beings.

  7. bionicbrooklynite · November 14, 2015

    Look, poetic license is a thing, I realize, but were you REALLY ever the first one up? You’re the only person I know who liked sleeping in more than I did. I distinctly remember punching toy awake on one occasion.

    We’re having our first just-us Christmas this year. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about that. Take good notes.

    • thecommonostrich · November 18, 2015

      I should have said “when I was the first to wake up…” It did happen. Twice. And they were such beautiful rare occasions that they dance in my memory like semi precious stones. I still do love sleeping in, btw. Only now that looks like 7:00 am rather than, say, noon.

      I’m not sure how I feel about it myself. It feels a little bitter sweet because we’ve made these plans in reaction to bad behavior, not as a conscious decision to do something fun. And we’ll swap notes in January, promise.

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