I am the Grinch. Yep, that one family member that stole Christmas and ruined it for one and all….or at least that is how some of my family would like to make me out to be. But it’s been four years since I made the shocking announcement that I would not be leaving my home on Christmas Day and I refuse to feel guilty about it anymore.
I am a born and raised people pleaser, oldest of seven kids in a blended family with a type A personality. To say that I have always felt that it was my duty to uphold the family traditions would be an understatement at best, and boy, did we ever have a lot of them! Church service on Christmas eve with my dad, step-mom and all my siblings, followed by family skating at Gage Park after which we would drive around to look at all the Christmas lights. Sleep. Wake up. Open presents. Go to grandparents. Have brunch with aunts, uncles and cousins. Open more presents. Have Dinner. Go home to my mom and step-dad. Repeat the above on the other side of the family now, oh and don’t forget to smile!
When I got married and had to add my husband’s family traditions to mine I began to become more than a little overwhelmed. Three kids later and I began to look like that other bunny from the battery commercial. You know, the one who flakes out halfway through the advertisement? And even worse than that was the fact that I began to dread Christmas and my children could tell. I would stress over it for weeks beforehand trying to figure out how to juggle getting the kids up early to go to my in-laws, then drive an hour to visit one half of my parents, then drive 20 minutes to my grandparents for a big dinner and then turn around and drive an hour home to visit the other half of my parents. Not to mention fitting in extended family and close friends on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. I was mentally exhausted just thinking about it and oftentimes found myself and the kids catching colds and getting sick around this time of year.
The final straw came when my oldest daughter fell asleep just sitting on the stairs halfway through taking off her shoes after a particularly exhausting Christmas day and it was my husband who turned to me and said, “Enough is enough. I refuse to do this. It’s not even about the kids anymore.”
And it all just clicked. Why in the world was I doing this? Why was I trying so hard to please everyone else at the expense of my own family? We weren’t even enjoying the time spent with our loved ones, it didn’t make any sense, my children were paying the price of it and all the sudden I no longer wanted to do it.
So I decided that it was time to make some new traditions by breaking away from some old ones. It would be like navigating a minefield to pick and choose what to keep and what to throw away so we did away with it all.
We called all of our family and said we weren’t leaving the house on Christmas day. There would be no skating, no brunch, no Christmas dinners at Grandparents, no rushing around….nothing. Instead we were starting our own family tradition and had decided to have a Christmas Day open house and everyone who wanted to and could do so without adding any stress to their day was more than welcome to stop by have a bite to eat, have a drink and see our three girls. No pressure if they couldn’t stop by but absolutely everyone was welcome to do so.
In the four years that have passed since our inaugural Christmas Open House we have had lots of family and friends come over and some very close ones that haven’t been able to do so. Both my husband and I have heard grumblings, some quiet, some loud from both sides of our family about how selfish it was of us but when we see how settled, happy and excited our children are in their own home on Christmas morning and throughout the day it just reinforces to me what a great decision this was for our family. One that I don’t regret in the slightest and one that I refuse to feel guilty for.
And one day when my children break away from this tradition to start their own, I hope that I will remember that really, that’s exactly what I would want them to do.