Last year I wrote a post and called myself a Grinch. (Read the post. Its a goodie-promise) We are raised that we are supposed to revel in this time of year. We are taught that our entire society lives or dies based upon a few short hours on certain given days. That somehow if we do not participate in these celebrations, as prescribed by some holiday-deity (I'm talking Hallmark or Norman Rockwell here, not God Almighty), then we have forfeited our right to be happy at this time of year. Well, as the US commanding general at the Battle of the Bulge, once said to the Nazis when asked to surrender, I say "nuts" to anyone who thinks that we cannot stand up and be happy.
Honestly, I do love this time of year (Bit of a change for me from last year I know. Maybe my temperament is better- fewer menopause symptoms- or this post is up earlier than last year's Grinch post.) but I also hate this time of year (OK remembering what is to come). Oh I love the sights, the sounds and the smells. The boys love these things, not so much. When they were little it was the sensory overload that got to them. Too much of everything crammed into just a few short weeks that spills over into a hullabaloo of relatives, and an unknown and uncomfortable social reality. On Thanksgiving they used to hide in my sister-in-law's basement away from the crush of people and watch TV or play their video games. They sat quiet by themselves while everyone else "holidayed." We, of course, would check on them periodically and on most occasions their younger cousins would sit with them and watch their dvds as well. But it was not enjoyable for them. Their holiday experience was sorely lacking.
I know the theory behind the "get togethers" for them, has to do with getting to know your relatives and understanding that there are people in the world who are attached to you in some way. But that is not what the boys learned. What they learned is that whenever they see a relative they are uncomfortable, feel overwhelmed and quite frankly would rather be somewhere else. There is no connection to these people they see once a year. There is no attachment. They don't even remember people's names.
Honestly I have a passel of relatives who I never see or hear from. Genetic "family" connection in my book is over rated. What you need to do is develop a "family" that will be there for you when you need them. Biology doesn't mean a darn thing at times. You are lucky when the two "families" connect but in my expereince they very rarely do. At least that is what happened in my world. Sadly you don't need to be a special needs family to be distant from those that are supposed to have your back. It's hard and it hurts, when you come to realize just how alone you may truly be in this world. But you are better off creating your own support network "family" then accepting an inadequate one. Create the world you want to live in, I always say. You don't have to accept the one you are given if it is YOU always giving and not receiving. You don't have to accept the "family" you were born into if it makes you unhappy, unfulfilled, or feeling alone.
Looking back, which we tend to do when our children get older, I probably should not have made them go to SIL's. It was uncomfortable for them and for some reason we just thought that they would adjust. How wrong we were. They were not happy there among the throngs. We were nervous about how they would handle the get togethers.We were always on pins and needles waiting for a meltdown or and inappropriate interaction. I realize that no matter what anyone understood, and we come from an understanding extended family, they didn't get it. It truly wasn't their fault. I also know that if something did happen the extended family would be supportive. That was not the issue. It was the fact that quite frankly for us (parents and especially children), there was no joy, just alot of tension.
What I think we needed to do, quite frankly, is to give ourselves permission not to go to the SIL's.
Well that finally happened last year. Guess what? We had a nice day. I made a holiday meal. I set a holiday table. We enjoyed the quiet and the comfort of our own home with no crush of sensory stimuli. We watched what we wanted on television. The boys and hubby did their work and all went according to plan. It was nice. It was quiet. It was peaceful. I plan to do it again this year.
I modeled our Thanksgiving after how we celebrate the Jewish holidays. We tend to celebrate the Jewish holidays on our own. Family does not fly in for the celebrations. They do not make an effort to get together. So we have our own little rituals and our own little ways of doing things. This past Jewish New Year, CM1 actually asked if I had gotten certain celebratory foods. It's actually a fancy crudite platter that I buy from a local caterer every major holiday. It means something to him. It means holiday to him. It means a happy fun time, where he is not overwhelmed by noise, smell or sights. It means comfort and joy. It means calm. So I will buy that platter this year on Thanksgiving once again. I will make a small turkey breast, buy stuffing and a massive chocolate cake (we don't like pie).
I know catering sounds rather extravagant. (I admit it, it is) But my stuffing last year was a very sad affair. Heck, not even the dogs ate it. I have no idea what happened there and after three attempts I just gave up. You really don't even want to try my baking. It's truly noxious. I am the only one who ruins those pre-baked cookies from the supermarket. Honestly, it is not my forte. Listen one of the good side effects of getting older is that you can readily accept what you are good at and what you are not. I happily admit I can't bake, iron and I hate gardening or doing any outdoor work. Little House on the Prairie I am not. But cleaning a toilet doesn't bother me (Just give me cleaning gloves, Clorox clean-up and toilet bowl cleaner and I am ready and raring to go)...go figure.
So anyway...As I said one of the things you learn as you age is that you need to do what is best for you and those in your immediate family, i.e. your children. If people truly love and care about you they will understand. If they don't understand, well, then they are not really family, no matter what the genetics say.
Create your own holiday memories and traditions. Even if its only the fact that you buy a silly crudite platter. These are the things that YOUR child will learn to appreciate, understand and associate with love, family and happiness. It's OK. Really Its OK.
Until next time,