Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Angst

There are soooooo many stories. . .where shall I begin?

Let's start with Christmas, because it's nine shopping days away, and 'tis the season for family drama.

It is still my strong preference to spend Christmas in our own home, with our own traditions, but somehow things got away from me this year.  We are awash in our own Christmas traditions all season long no matter where we are--an advent calendar full of crafts, trinkets, and activities; a Christmas radio that broadcasts daily from the North Pole; the tree up in November, and Christmas music permeating the house for months.  But. . .but, the girls and T prefer to spend actual Christmas day with family in New England, vs. wherever in the world we happen to be living, and so I am rolling with it, even though it is utter chaos to get us to and fro with a holiday's worth of gifts, to say nothing of the actual day, which always involves lots of running around to different houses.

But let me back up about the decision about where to spend the holiday this year, or the lack thereof.  It is a much longer story, but we returned to the U.S. this fall very unexpectedly--like, with a couple of days notice.  Since our move was very unexpected, it was also quite chaotic, and we've spent all fall just getting the girls settled and trying to recreate some semblance of normal life for all of us.  As a result, we never really made a conscious Christmas plan, and I'm not sure T and I ever even discussed it.  It is just not where my focus was, for sure.  Almost all of our family is in New England, so there generally is not much debate about where to go if we are not spending Christmas at home, and since we are living in a temporary home until we can get better sorted out, no one really wants to spend Christmas here.  Somehow, it just came to pass that we WERE going to New England for Christmas, and that we'd stay with my husband's mother, who has plenty of room and a lovely home.  She is really our only comfortable option for an extended stay--there are lots of places where we are welcome, but not everyone has enough beds and/or can tolerate the chaos of a young, slightly unruly family.

Anyway, the notable exception to "all of our family lives in New England," is my mother, who lives closer to where we are living now. But apart from us, HER entire family is also in New England.  I didn't actually talk to my mother about our holiday plans, because a) I assumed she would go to New England as she generally does, and b) we never really made a conscious holiday plan, and I'm only now starting to focus on it, given that it is now imminently upon us.

You know where this is going, right?

My mother texted me a few nights ago, saying she wanted to talk about the holidays, because she wants to see us.  Now, I had heard recently that she did not plan to come to New England, and that she was going to spend Christmas alone with her husband.  I think that's depressing, but it's her choice.  I didn't have a chance to call her, and this morning she texted to say she wasn't coming, and she wanted to come up with a plan to see us. What she really means is that she wants me to figure out a way to come to her house to celebrate with her. . .before Christmas.  I probably would have cheerfully done so despite my reservations about making it work with our travel schedule, but she informed me via text that she was unable to join us for Christmas, because she has no one to feed her cats. 

I bristled. 

Her CATS? 

I would have taken anything plausible as an excuse for not spending Christmas with the rest of our family, but her CATS?  I very helpfully texted a link to an automatic catfeeder you can control with your phone.  (Let's pause for a moment to marvel at modern technology.  You can feed your cat from another state, using your phone!)  Also, her cats are very fat.  She could leave them for food and water in big bowls for two days, and they would be JUST FINE.

(It is probably not the cats.  But you can't choose cats over her only grandchildren and think that I am not going to take offense.  At least don't say it out loud.)

She demurred on buying the catfeeder, and accused me of not considering her when I made my plans.  It was a total drama queen moment, complete with a "no one will even miss me" line.  Then she implored me to rearrange our travel plans so that she can see the children before Christmas. . .by traveling to her house.  BEFORE Christmas.

I have three days off before Christmas, and it will take us a full day to get from here to New England.  While we COULD make a side trip, it will add another day to day and a half to our travels, and it will mean that we have to stop overnight somewhere along the way (we can't stay with my mother, because she has other guests for the time period we would be there--her husband's daughter).

On the one hand, I feel bad for my mother.  She is a very lonely person, married to a difficult man who doesn't allow her to do much.  He is probably the reason she is not traveling to New England.  On the other hand, she is a grown woman with choices, and she always casts herself as the victim.  I am ALWAYS the one who has to accommodate her "difficult situation."  She makes me feel sorry for her so that I do what she wants the vast majority of the time.  I should also note that my mother is not elderly--she is in her mid-60's and in good health.  She just retired last year, and she has no trouble getting around.

If it had been a normal year, I would just cave, as always--spending money and time and tying myself in knots to make it work.  But this year, I am really tired.  The move back to the U.S. was very unexpected and due to a potentially dangerous situation, so it was stressful.  We have managed to iron out a lot of wrinkles since then, and everyone is healthy and thriving.  I was looking forward to peaceful, happy holidays.  But my tank is low, and I know it.  I am not feeling as resilient as normal.  I am exhausted.  And this feels like a Dr. Phil episode.

My husband wants to invite her to come to visit us the week after New Year's, which happens to be Miss M's birthday.  He thinks we celebrate both at once.  When I step back, this strikes me as a very logical solution.  But I know that is not what my mother wants.  She wants to shower gifts on the girls BEFORE the holiday, when it is still exciting and new.  She wants to have celebrated FIRST (before my mother in law.  Sigh.). 

I haven't responded to my mother's last text, in which asked me to rearrange our travel plans and come to her house before Christmas.  I need some time to stop being frustrated, so that I don't snap at her and make things worse.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Long Time, No Post!

Why hello there!  It's good to be writing again.

I have been on a bit of an unintentional hiatus.  The fall was really busy with getting the girls settled in their brand new and utterly fantastic private schools, and then in January, we moved back overseas.

I know.  We are nuts.

The thing is, things were going smashingly well for the girls in the U.S., but lousy for us as a family.  The grownups were working crazy hours, and we were always rushing around, and it was no fun at all.  And then I got a pretty great job offer in a cool tropical place with terrible Internet service.  And we were off.

It's been really nice.  We have a lot more time together as a family, and our quality of life has gone way up.  I had a lot of angst over moving the girls again, but they've had an easy transition and are happy.  Their new school is decent.  They have friends and activities, and we have a big yard.  And we can go to the beach on the weekends.

All in all, things are really good.  Not perfect, because life isn't, but we are happy and well.  What's new with you?