I love the holidays. I love the food, the family, and the general festive atmosphere. The beginning of October typically marks the start of the Big Three to me, and each month is symbolic of its respective holiday (putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving is a special kind of blasphemy in my household).
I hate the stress, though.
Every year I start planning the holidays somewhere around the beginning of August. No one seems to understand or care why. But if they took a little time to look at my situation they’d realize that, between my husband and myself, we have four different pairs of parents, three siblings, and a battalion of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
When I last did the Christmas card count, our relatives alone accounted for 42 separate addresses. About half of those people live on the other side of the country and we see them maybe (MAYBE) every five years or so. A quarter of those people are so wrapped up in their own propriety that I feel like I have to put on my “server face” just to make it out alive when I see them. All of them are scattered so far and wide that it’s virtually impossible for us to see any of them on a regular basis.
Add to this that my career choice primarily involves dealing with difficult people and that the holiday season is THE busiest time of year for those kinds of jobs (read: retail and waiting tables), the stress of the holidays is almost more than I can handle.
For a while my husband and I had a nomadic approach to the holidays: we’d rotate between our four sets of parents for Thanksgiving and Christmas so that each set of our parents would get to see us every two years. That quickly turned into “let’s shove as many hours on the road as we can so we can see as many people as we can during the busiest travel periods of the year.” In 2012 it took us EIGHT HOURS to get from my dad’s house to my mother-in-law’s house, which during not-horrible traffic would be a three hour trip… and I was pregnant.
This year I wanted everyone to just come to us. After my in-laws bailed last minute, and my mother tried to convince us to spend it with her side of the family, my husband put his foot down. He told me he wanted to spend Thanksgiving at home, just us and our son, and that he wasn’t going to attend Thanksgiving with my mother’s side of the family.
At first I was upset — if I had to go, he had to go too, right? Then I started thinking about what the holidays meant when I was growing up. On the holidays I didn’t have to travel to my mother’s, my dad and I would typically spend them together, just us. Sure, there was the odd girlfriend here or there, and sometimes my friends would come over, or sometimes a close friend of the family would invite us to spend Thanksgiving with them. On two separate occasions we actually ended up spending a holiday camping. It all boiled down to the same thing though: we did what we wanted to do, together, instead of stressing out doing what we felt obligated to do.
That’s exactly what my husband wants — to spend the holidays with his family, stress-free. And you know something, that’s exactly how I want to spend the holidays too.
Simply acknowledging this desire has already lifted the weight off my soul. I’m not stressing it anymore. I want my holidays to mean more than stress and travel again, and this year is the year I’m going to honor that “just us” tradition my dad and I forged so many years ago — the tradition of stress-free, fun-filled, family-oriented holidays.