Christmas in a step family sometimes feels like walking through a room of scattered Legos – blindfolded. Yes, Christmas with lots of kids can be exciting and busy and magical, but it can also be filled with landmines.
Even decorations can be the cause of much stress. We used to put a star on top of the tree. My husband and his kids use an angel. Lego – ouch. We liked white lights. They liked colored. Don’t even get me started on blinking versus non-blinking. As we unpack our stored boxes, we each come across ornament after ornament loaded with meaning – ornaments from trips taken with our first spouse, ornaments that for years hung on a tree in a different house, shared with a different partner, ornaments that the kids made in earlier years. Heaven forbid one of those ornaments drops and breaks on our watch. Another Lego! Then there are always the ornaments that we can’t find that we have to wonder if perhaps they ended up with the ex spouse.
Food is another area that can unearth hidden landmines. We always had turkey for Christmas. My bonus kids hate step kids. They want that special jell-o dish with Dream Whip that grandma makes. I’ve never even heard of Dream Whip.
A host of traditions come with meaning for part of our family and mere confusion for the others. My husband and bonus kids have always read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. while my son and I traditionally attended a Christmas Eve church service. There we tried to blend traditions and adopt both. Believe me getting my son to read a story was a much easier sell than getting my bonus teenagers to attend a church service. So we decided to only do that one on the Christmas Eves when the kids are with their mom. Lego – ouch!
I think that most new married couples encounter some of this as they try to blend their traditions from their families of origin, but when it is only a husband and wife, they are on an even playing field. Once you add children, things become a bit more complicated. So for now, we are still juggling. We do a little of this and a little of that and some alternating of one year with an angel topper and the next year with a star.
This was our third Christmas together in this house. It is getting easier. It’s not like the landmines aren’t there, but it is a bit more like I am able to take off the blindfold and see some of them coming. They still hurt, but it tends to be the smaller ones that we don’t see coming.
I even said to my husband, “We finally made it through a Christmas without someone in tears.” To which, he lovingly reminded me that while playing Catch Phrase as a family on Christmas Eve (just after being warned to settle down and be more careful) my son hurled the apparatus at his oldest bonus sister, knocking her in the head and causing a flood of tears. Well, I suppose there is always next year.