Stepfamily Holiday Blues: Learning to Celebrate a Season for Two by Claudette Chenevert
IT’S CHRISTMAS MORNING. You wake up all excited but soon realize that this year is different. This Christmas will not be spent opening presents with your stepkids or even your own kids.
This Christmas it’s going to be just you and your spouse. A lump forms in your throat, as you think about it. You know it’s just another day, right? So what if you don’t have a houseful of squealing kids shouting “YES! I got my new phone!” or “Thanks for this gift. I really like it!”
Last year—for the first time, as we’re now parents of adult children—Bernard and I experienced Christmas without any of our kids.
None of them. Sure, there’ve been times when one or two were away visiting family. But there was always someone around at some point. Since they all have families of their own now, everything is different.
We were both caught by surprise at the level of sadness that engulfed us on Christmas morning. We simply looked at each over breakfast. There was nothing else to do: no meals to prepare, no grandkids rushing to jump in our arms or run around the house, no piles of gifts to distribute. There weren’t even any stockings to unhook and root through.
No one was coming over. Not on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or the day after.
Our family was growing, in many directions, and now included in-laws with their own traditions. Bernard and I have always been flexible and not put pressure on our kids. They lived through the craziness of hurrying to open Christmas gifts, rushing from one parent’s home to the other’s and taking detours to each of their grandparents’ homes, in order to make everyone happy.
All for the sake of keeping existing traditions going. Everyone was exhausted by the time Christmas was over and no one really had much fun. We simply refused to impose our own wishes and have them indulge us by spending time with us on Christmas Day, so we never insisted on them coming over.
We understand their need to spend time at home with their kids and enjoy the day with their families and encourage them to do so. You might think, “What’s the big deal? Just enjoy your time together as a couple!” I’ve dished out that holiday advice to many of my clients, in the past, as well as wrote about it. It felt like sound advice. Until it was time for me to eat my own words.
Pour a glass of eggnog and join me, as we explore what not having the kids around is really like. …To read the rest of this article about stepfamily holiday blues, log in to your account and download the December 2016 issue. Don’t have an account? Click here to subscribe.