Monday, December 30, 2013

The Christmas That Wasn't

Well, I'm not trying to be all dramatic, but that title sure sounded that way, didn't it?

This is a tale of a family who, for all intents and purposes, just does not give a shit.

Let me 'splain.

A week or so before Christmas, I spoke to my Dad regarding Christmas Eve, which we have here because hello, the only children in the family need not be gallivanting around at night time before a major holiday.  So, my family comes here.

In the past, we have had dinner, the kids open their gifts from Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt and Uncle.  Then, overtired and overstimulated children are forced to go to bed. 

This hasn't worked out well, especially for my daughter.

You know, the one who attends Special Ed and has a type of therapy session EVERY SINGLE DAY of the week?  Yeah, that one.  The one with a sleep disorder that makes Mommy adhere to a VERY strict sleep schedule so that everyone, including her, is not miserable?  Yup, her.

So, in speaking with my father, I try to relay that the focus of Christmas should really be her.  She is the youngest in the family, and Christmas should be about KIDS.  I mean, my children are the only grandchildren my parents have, so wouldn't you think they would WANT to spend time with them?

I tell my Dad that I really think we should have more of a Christmas lunch, so that everyone can be relaxed and nothing is rushed, and my daughter does not get too overstimulated and become somewhat of a nightmare.  Which is not Christmas-y at all, if you ask me.  And that way, the maximum time can be spent hanging out with her and actually playing with her and her new toys.  Because that is why they buy them, right? So that they can see her happy and laughing and all that.

That, apparently, is for normal families.

Well, my Dad supposedly got everything squared away with my mother and my sister, neither of whom I willingly call on my own.  And I was glad they were cool with it, and if they had said that they weren't then they just would not have come over.

Turns out the days preceding Christmas Eve were busy, busy and I realize that I have no idea when my guests are actually arriving.  So at about 10am on the morning of Christmas Eve, I call my Dad to ask when we can expect them, which should technically be fairly imminently. 

"Oh, uh, yes, your mother and I won't be there until about 2:30." OK, a little bit later than I wanted, but I can deal with that.  But then, the kicker. "Oh, and your sister and your brother in law won't be there until about 4 o'clock because he is working."

Wait, what?

That's fine that he is working, I know he has no control over that.  But I want to know two things: why did everyone go along with the plan when they knew he was working, and why did they not even call me to tell me this?  Until the morning of, I had no idea.

So of course everyone gets here way late, my mother insists that we must wait for my sister and brother in law before we eat anything.  My sister, who could have come earlier by herself, but didn't want to bother because taking two cars was too much of a hassle.  We wind up having a completely rushed dinner and gift opening and yet my daughter still gets to bed an hour later than normal. An hour late is bad.  She was overhyped and not in a good way.

Which is exactly the situation I was trying to avoid, because it is my husband and me who has to deal with the fallout, not them.

So of course she wakes up at 5:20am the next morning, after weeks of sleeping beautifully until 6:30, minimum.  And it wasn't because she wanted to open presents, she had no idea they were going to be under the tree upon her awakening.  And she was just a mess for the rest of that day, Christmas, which is kinda sorta an important day. Only YESTERDAY did she finally get back to her normal sleeping pattern.

But seriously, I am this close to just shutting these people out entirely.  I love my Dad, and he is a good guy, but it grieves me that my sister and my mother just sort of mow over him because he has chosen to take the path of less resistance when it comes to their machinations.  I get that, but when am I allowed to take their actions and tell them to shove it?  That if they don't care about me, fine, but at least pretend to care about my daughter.  And if you can't even pretend, then maybe you should just stay away from us.

Speak to me, internet friends.


Awesome Mom said...

I would not blame you at all for severely limiting contact with them. My 2 year old is not even special needs and I make sure she keeps a strict bed time because I hate paying the next day when monster kid comes out, I can only imagine it is a billion times worse for you. You need to concentrate on your immediate family. They are the ones that are looking to you to keep things together and running smoothly. Your extended family are all adults (on paper) and should not be so needy of your time or energy.

Nance said...

It sounds like your mom and sister don't have a full grasp of what exactly your daughter's special needs/condition are/is. Maybe they think you are simply overreacting, and they think that all of your scheduling, structuring, therapy, etc. are just you being overly concerned and protective of an "energetic child."

If you have had a serious discussion with them regarding your daughter's special needs, or you have had them in the room with the therapist/doctor, and they are simply in denial, then it's time to regretfully restructure your family interaction with them.

Maybe on Christmas, you and your immediate family should plan on being at home. Later, maybe on the following weekend, you could go to your mom and dad's with the kids and get their gifts and have that be the focus, not necessarily a meal. It's way less pressure. Is it traditional? No. But neither are the needs of your family at this point.

I'm at a loss as to why your mom and sister don't seem to understand the situation with your daughter. But I'm sure it's not out of indifference or a lack of love for her.

Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

We skipped family Christmas for the exact same reason. My European immigrant family celebrates Christmas Eve with no presents until after dinner. And they think 6 p.m. is a reasonable STARTING TIME for dinner. I was like, yo, mom, Bo goes to bed at 6:30! Do you not give a fig about seeing him enjoy Christmas? As it was, as much as we tried to get things going earlier on second Christmas it was still a late, overtired, kind of crabby night at the end. That's why we did Christmas morning at our house, just the four of us - that was *real* Christmas.

And I'm always of the opinion that if you always have to accommodate other people when you're the one who needs the accommodation, you don't need them in your life.

marvel said...

You should just do what you need to do and let them show up and participate or not. Have you read a book called "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend? Don't let the fact that it's out of Christian publishing company turn you off; it's an excellent explanation of how to set limits in your life. For instance, I would not have waited for your sister to show up to eat; I would have gone ahead and had the meal with my kids and husband as planned. If your mom complains, then she is free to wait for your sister. If she gets mad, then so be it. She is free to leave your house at any time. Your sister would be free to turn around and leave, should she be upset that you ate without her. Your daughter gets to open her presents at your intended time, whether your sister and brother-in-law are there are not. It was their choice to arrive late, you do not have to be limited by their choices. If they get mad at you, that is their decision and beyond your control, you do not have to worry about their reactions. If what I am saying sounds crazy, you need the book!

It's not a matter of caring or not caring, it's just a matter of setting limits on what you will and will not do, and recognizing that whether your mother and sister are "happy" is entirely up to them, not you.

J at said...

My aunt was clueless, albeit without any of the very real issues you are dealing with. But she would keep us all waiting for hours for her to arrive for holiday meals. I think both Nance and Mervel have good suggestions. Try to make sure they understand the issues. If they do, then go for less trational celebrations. If that doesn't work, then go for Marvel's suggestion and remove the power from your mom and sister.

Anvilcloud said...

Gina, at the very least, I think this is one tradition that you need to alter. Our traditions have changed over time, but sometimes we get back to something like the original versions when the tides of time shift again.

Seana said...

I say opt out of family on Christmas Eve next year. Just tell them you'd like to get together at another time. Have a lunch/dinner on Christmas Eve with your immediate family that works on your time schedule. They have proven that they don't respect your reasoning (because I KNOW this isn't the only instance of this kind of behavior). Since Grandma/Grandpa gifts don't have to do with Santa, you really can do it any time before or even after Christmas. Then you remove the "holiday" stress. Book the big family event on a day that works for everyone that isn't tied to December 24th.

Gina said...

@awesome mom- Yeah, the contact is definitely being limited, although not in an explicit way. I'm too tired to deal with them at all!

@Nance- It isn't that I haven't attempted to explain her issues to them, it's that they don't WANT to understand them, if you know what I mean. These are people with Master's Degrees in Education and Nursing, so it isn't as if I'm dealing with people unfamiliar with medical terminology and/or children's issues. When I was first getting my daughter tested, my mother protested "putting labels on her" and actually told me to my face that I "wanted something to be wrong with her." Yeah, kiss my ass, lady.

@Christa- Yes, that side of the family is German, and that is exactly why we do Christmas Eve, complete with German food. I think my next year's holiday is going to be more like yours!

@marvel- Thank you for the suggestion! The thing is, if they had told me BEFORE the morning of that things were changing, I would not have had them come over at all. Nor did I think that my mother would insist on waiting for a 50+ year old man who I assume could get over us having lunch without him.

@Jellyjules- Yes, those two are definitely big on "power."

@AC- Exactly, it's not like she will be 4 forever!

@Seana- Yes, I think Christmas Eve will look very different next year. The sad part is that my husband predicted they would do exactly what they did, and I didn't believe him.