Growing up is so very hard to do!

Christmas once the kids are grown up is tough in some new ways that I am still trying to figure out.

When I was growing up, my dad was in the Army so we almost never got to be with family at Christmas. My brothers were both grown and gone by the time I was 7, which meant that most years, it was just me and my parents. The last time my family had a big extended family get-together was in 1954 -- and even then, neither of my brothers were there though my grandparents and some of my aunts and uncles and cousins were. When I was in high school, one year both of my brothers came to our house for Christmas and there was a year or two like that when I was in college. And that background created in me a yearning for family on the holidays.

When my first husband and I got married, we went to visit our parents that first year but after that we decided we would stay home. And we began our own traditions which multiplied after the kids came along. Like the year, when David was 3, that we started going to the movies late afternoon on Christmas Eve as a way to help keep him from jumping out of his skin with excitement. And the Christmas Eve package with pajamas every year. And a special Christmas breakfast to eat after all the gifts were opened. And a big prime rib roast for dinner. I loved it all and love it still.

After the divorce we made some adjustments. The kids went to their dad's Christmas Eve and then came back to my house to spend the night and we would have our Christmas on Christmas Day. It wasn't the same. I missed going to the movies, which became an activity with their dad. But enough remained that I was happy and I built some new things for myself around the day they were not with me.

Then I moved to Michigan. That first year, both kids came out to be with us. It was a great time for us, though maybe not so much for them as there was a lot of new family and friends for them to meet. The next 3 years they came to see us, but not at Christmas. I missed them fiercely. Neal and I melded our traditions together -- to his friend's house Christmas Eve -- after we went to a movie -- and then Christmas at home before going out to visit his family.

Now we are back in Maine. And my daughter has married. Though both of my kids live within a couple of hours of here, we don't see them all that often -- and any ideas I had of casual Sunday dinners together are long gone. The first year they both came and all spent the night here and we had a Christmas a lot like the ones we used to have. Last year they came up Christmas afternoon. 

In June my daughter moved in to their new house. And she waned to have Christmas there. So she invited us. Initially it was to include her dad also, which would have been odd but okay with me, but he is unlikely to come. So we will go there Christmas Day for dinner. I understand her desire to have Christmas in her house, I really do. And I am more than willing to go this year. And we will have fun, I know.

But I am realizing that after being home for 35 of the last 37 years, I am really not wanting to do it this way again. I am finding it really hard to get into the holiday. We have had our tree up for 5 days now but still haven't put lights on it. And I keep putting off doing other holiday stuff. Because it just doesn't feel like Christmas to me knowing we won't be home that day. Silly, I know. But there it is. I like being the mom and gathering my family around me.

I think I have found a new sense of common ground with my mother, who must have felt much the way I do when I, her last child, decided not to come for Christmas. But what I want to do is find a way to make something new, that recognizes the changes that have occurred, that preserves the parts of what was that have a place in what will be, and that opens the way for what can be meaningful and delightful in a way similar to what was. I don't know yet what that will be. Maybe we will start a tradition of an open house for our friends around the holidays. The door here will always be open to my kids, but they must also know that they are free to develop their own traditions; we will work it all out. And in that mix, we will all find a way to celebrate our lives, together and separately.

This growing up business is very hard sometimes.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.