I was standing in the kitchen with three of the kids last night and we were talking about our favorite holidays. My son’s (not surprisingly) is Halloween – loads of candy, dressing up, staying up late and an annual party with his friends – what’s not to like? My 17-year old bonus daughter said she knew what mine was. I asked her what she thought it was, and she said, “Duh! Christmas!” I had to think about it a minute, but I finally told her it is actually Thanksgiving. “How can anyone like Thanksgiving more than Christmas?” she asked. I was able to tell her that Thanksgiving gave me a wonderful chance to reflect on those things for which I am grateful, a chance to have a four-day weekend, one day to be surrounded by family and one day to shop til I drop.
You may still be thinking, but how can that possibly be better than Christmas?! It is true that as a child, and even as a young adult, Christmas was far and away my favorite holiday. There was simply no comparison. It was like Christmas was all that was good and magical and the others were merely junior holidays. However, as soon as I got married (and became a mom) Christmas became more a time of anxiety and stress, less about the magic and more about seeing the machinations behind the curtain.
I had always dreamed that I would grow up and start my own holiday traditions with my own family, or in some cases carry over those I was raised with. But I never once considered the fact that I would inherit someone else’s traditions. When the kids come before the marriage, many expectations and traditions are already in place. Then there is the pressure of gift buying and giving – will I get just the right thing? We don’t want to buy too much and look commercial, but we don’t want to buy too little and have them disappointed. And of course in our house, there is a whole separate issue related to gift equity. With six kids it takes a rubric to make sure that they feel that treatment is equal – do we consider number of gifts or value of gifts?
Finally, there is the challenge once you have kids with two homes. When will my son be able to be with his bio-dad and will that line up or conflict with when my bonus kids are planning to be with their bio-mom. Can we find a time when all eight of us will be together or are we celebrating in shifts? I am trying not to let the stress and tension consume me as I look ahead to Christmas, but my heart goes out to all those in blended families as we near the holidays.
So, when J asked me “How can Christmas not be your favorite holiday?” I had to keep my cool and refrain from reminding her that last year, as she left our house on her way to her mom’s, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she was screaming at her father, “Why can’t you and mom be together on Christmas? You have RUINED my holiday, ruined it!” So, yeah, I think for the moment I’ll hang my hat on Thanksgiving.