Adulting and Holidays

The holidays can be tricky.  It’s a time when families gather and are supposed to be grateful for blessings.  Kids come home to see Mom and Dad, grandparents see grandkids, and we all have a hap, happy time.

You’ve all watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I presume.  More normal than we want to acknowledge.  A good reminder to laugh at ourselves this season.

Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacation

This time of year is fraught with difficulties.  Travel can be rough.  Shopping, cooking, hosting and meal preparations can be exhausting.  Packing lots of dysfunctional people into small areas is challenging.  Dealing with recent losses of parents, spouses, grandparents and even pets make holidays difficult.

While our kids have been in college, they’ve dutifully make the trip to their childhood home for the big gatherings.  As the years slipped by, fewer and fewer of their high school friends were coming home.  If they couldn’t meet up and socialize with old friends, there usually was a movie or shopping to fill in the long hours.  Naps sometimes happened.  Quite often, each kid would retreat to their old bedroom, doors shut, and family time was reduced to a tense few hours here and there during the duration of their holiday.  By the time everyone headed back to their own spaces, tensions were running high, patience thinning.

Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacationThis Thanksgiving we are in a small two bedroom, one bath apartment.  The childhood home is gone.  We all traveled Monday, and by the time the last rolled in near midnight we all just hit the sack.  One kid had to sleep in the corner of the living room, and the other two had a bedroom but were unwilling to share a double bed, so there was an air mattress crammed in there.  We miraculously managed the one bath situation.  Thank goodness for an outdoor patio.  By Wednesday one was off to meet an old friend for lunch; the other chose to spend her day at the Starbucks working on homework and other tasks.  If I do say so myself, it was a stroke of genius that I ordered our complete Thanksgiving meal and didn’t stress out preparing it in a small kitchen with limited equipment.  My other dinner offerings of top-your-own pizzas and tacos were met lukewarmly.  Three incredibly picky kids still, and one a vegetarian with a definite border-line eating disorder (her menu essentially consists of the same 5-6 foods, when she chooses to eat).  We all also managed to avoid hot topics like politics and religion (oh well, one thinks we were incredibly wrong to foist off our Christian beliefs on innocent minds… thank goodness, that conversation shut down quickly).

About an hour after Thanksgiving lunch yesterday, the two who were to have stayed until Saturday decided a Friday a.m. departure was in order.  Up until this point the politeness had stayed intact but was clearly getting strained.  There were more eye rolls and terse comments, and not a little bit of snapping and sarcasm.  Watching old home movies apparently didn’t help, as all of the “horrors” of childhood and teen years dredged up some deep-seated issues for a few.  It’s a wonder they survived our well-meaning but clearly failed attempts at parenting (that latter with dripping sarcasm).

SJ and I awoke this morning quite early to hear voices raised in anger in the next bedroom.  The one with the larger distance to travel had determined to move up the departure time at the last minute, thus depriving her sib/carpool mate of an extra hour of sleep.  Living room kid groaned and rolled over on his makeshift bed as the cacophony reached his ears.

It took me back to my young adult years, those years in between being a kid and adulting.  Our parents still sort of “owned” us, we were financially dependent but off at college some distance away.  We’d grown accustomed to our new independence of not being accountable Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacationto anyone.  With the sound of screeching brakes, you’re suddenly stalled in the time-warp of your childhood, and it can be horrifying.  Who are these old people?  Why is it so hot/so cold/so smelly/so weird here?  Why are they telling me the same story over and over?  Why the hell do they think I don’t know how to operate the toaster? Sure, I kinda love them, but I don’t want to necessarily spend time with them!  During the  indeterminable college breaks at my parents’ home, I recall fights, hard feelings, and frustrations.  I once said something about looking forward to going “home.”  My Mother was highly insulted, and chastised me that THIS was my home… not my college dorm room.

Well… not really.  Home was where my people were—my friends, my life, my new town.

Holidays rarely live up to our expectations of them.  Note to self: NO EXPECTATIONS!

I’m grateful I understand where my young adults are coming from.  Each has enjoyed their own very independent lifestyle, living on their own and making their own decisions and keeping their own schedules.  They make their home where they live most of the time.

With nary a tear, I kissed and hugged my younger babies as they departed this morning, and our other big baby promptly moved himself into the bedroom just vacated, and shut the door.  Aside from lunch with grandma, we’ve not spoken more than a few words all day.

And it’s all good and “normal.”  It’s kinda cool seeing them grown up and loving their lives.  I’m kinda OK that they don’t really “need” us (well aside for one more semester’s worth of tuition, LOL). Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacation sleep with brother

What perhaps is more abnormal is to think that just because a calendar claims there’s a holiday, we have to go packing a bunch of multigenerational and dysfunctional adults into small spaces and expect everyone to play well.  It’s sort of akin to opening the cages at the zoo and telling them all to get along. Truly, I’ve come to see that as one of the great dysfunctions of our holiday system.  An afternoon: that’s about right.  More than that is weird and dangerous. Truth be told, I have very few happy family holiday memories past the age of 12.

That said, kids, do your best to appreciate your parents, and endure the holidays.  Sure, they made mistakes.  They screwed up.  Hopefully you’ve forgiven them for… whatever.  Most parents really love their kids and truly don’t live to manipulate you until the end of time.  Most parents are very happy when you successfully make your way in life and get off the payroll.  Try adulting with them a little bit and stow the sarcasm and eye rolls. I know, it’s hard. And IF they truly are manipulating, selfish, mean-spirited and abusive people, drop in for the shortest visit ever and just don the armor for the duration. If necessary for your sanity, just make an excuse and send regrets.

Image result for national lampoon's christmas vacationWe still have Christmas ahead, and because it involves the kiddos flying to us in a different location, the time of  mandatory incarceration is 7 to 10 days.  SJ has told me all of the things he plans for US to do, together.  I have told SJ (and the kids), “Everyone has a subway pass and a house key; we’ll show you where the gym, local Starbucks, bars, and library are… and you’ll escape anytime you want!”  Adult to your hearts’ content!

And I hope to remind myself that there will be a future when not having some holidays together will be OK.

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3 Responses to Adulting and Holidays

  1. C for now says:

    I’ve had this open since right after it popped up. I’ve read it several times in an effort to figure out a proper response. I’ve pondered what I’ve read over the last couple of years and whether my last response was unduly harsh. This made me think over a lot of the college kids I’ve helped over the years. My reaction has mellowed since my first attempt to respond but possibly it is still hardened by my mood this weekend. Regardless the general sentiment remains.

    I once passed some graffiti. Unsure if it said what I thought, I backed up for another look. “If you don’t like the kids today, blame the generation that raised us.” Behavior such as you described was unimaginable in the world I grew up in. The lack of manners, respect and decorum would have lasted less than a second. Your commentary in the past isn’t lost on me in this moment. They lack a leader in the home. As long as they can behave this badly and still get the bed, the money and the food, they will continue to do so.

    Remember your house guests will soon be your caretakers.

    Good luck now and then.


    • OK, well given that you are a self-professed curmudgeon and NOT nice, I accept your response with that in mind. 🙂

      This post was an attempt to be tongue in cheek about the stresses of holidays, and invoking a little practical realism on human relations. I’m learning a lot of lessons here, particularly that we all really misplace the true meaning of these holidays. While I love to see people I love, it’s quite a bit more challenging to have to see people non-stop for days on end. It’s a false and forced setting and can set one up for a lot of disappointments when expectations are unrealistic. I am just trying to keep it real, and lighter.

      I look back and regret a little how sometimes in my college immaturity I was less than polite, even if it was mostly sighs and eye rolls (or an occasional snarky comment). But that’s where I was in my maturity, as are my young adults now.

      The world Is changing–always. I find many younger people intolerant, selfish, and impolite. Sometimes they are all these things right in your face. Often they just are like this quietly because their brains still haven’t fully formed. There are tons of proverbs to quote on fools and their mouths… however it’s wasted on fools. I don’t always like hearing what our kids say, we reserve the right to shut down disrespect, but at the end of the day we know they love us and appreciate all we did for them. They readily tell us so, as well as sharing anecdotes of those they’ve met with poor manners or with less advantages. And they also know that they can voice opinions that differ from ours, without getting shot down.

      Manners, respect, and decorum. All good things. These are better things when they are given freely rather than expected. These were EXPECTED of me when/where I grew up, in a largely “be seen and not heard” existence. Respect was expected solely on the merit of an age (and size) difference of 20-some years, even if nothing was done to earn it or deserve it. Stating my mind or my opinion, no matter how politely, was (is) not acceptable. Never mind impolite statements that might ooze out from the frustration of being with rigid people… if these didn’t earn a cuff across the mouth, it certainly earned you unforgiveness and scorn for an undetermined time in purgatory. So essentially around my elders, I just learned to shut up and listen, and never expected that I’d be respected or that they cared what I thought or had to say about anything. Can you tell that embittered me a bit? The “leadership” where I grew up was despotic and unforgiving, and humorless. SJ had some similar childhood experiences where it was made clear to him that his thoughts an opinions weren’t valued. And we are talking about the politest Boy Scout I know. From a background of poorly demonstrated two-way manners, respect and decorum, we wanted something different for our family/kids.

      Demanding our adult kids respect us really doesn’t achieve respect. Sometimes when they act churlish, it takes little more than Dad and Mom just raising an eyebrow and going silent for them to realize a line was crossed. We don’t chide them or embarrass them. We let them speak their mind, we speak ours, and try to model polite behavior. Disagreement is OK, as long as we don’t get mean. And we employ a lot of humor.

      The two who departed a day earlier than planned demonstrated wisdom. Of course the excuse was lots of homework and need to prepare for the final weeks of the semester. Their parents knew the underlying issue was that we were in each others’ hair a tad bit too long, and needed space. We enjoyed the hours we spent together, it was loving and with laughter and re-connection. And it was time for it to be over. The one who closes the door needs time to mellow alone– just as Mom sits here in her room doing the same. It’s OK.

      My post related the humorous side to bringing families together over the holidays. Sometimes it’s annoying, sometimes it’s inconvenient, and sometimes you just need to retreat to your own corner or hang at a Starbucks. It’s all good. It doesn’t preclude love and respect being part of the equation.

      (and as for caretakers… the man who raised me is perhaps very lucky that I don’t respond in kind… but nothing about growing up in that environment changed that I just know it’s my duty to take care of him).


      • C for now says:

        I think I read your reply completely. Saying that as WP kept scrolling up and down randomly as I was trying to read.

        It was a good post. Seeing as I watch that movie every year at Christmas, it made me laugh as I saw the pictures.

        You know even monks have to disagree at times so siblings have no chance of avoiding irking one another.

        That you were expected to show respect is sad. It is earned not awarded. It tells a lot of the expectant ones.


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