It’s the holidays and we’ve recently had a few of our younger friends ask us how we spent the holidays once the boys were born. I’m going to preface this with, yes, we are obviously still married. We don’t have the difficult decision facing families with kids where the parents are no longer together. My husband’s parents are divorced and that has led to a few sticky situations to navigate over the years. We have also moved a bunch so we have mostly lived away from family, or at least a considerable distance.
Here it goes…..from the age of two until they were nine, we spent Christmas at home. Our home. Each Christmas. The bottom line we told our family, is that our sons deserved to have the memory of Christmas mornings not spent somewhere else, not spent rushing around hither and yon. While grandparents all want to see the littles, the littles deserved their own Christmas memories. So too bad-so sad, if grandparents wanted to see those grandbabies, they needed to make it to our home.
I know what you are thinking, but I’ve been there. Yes, being with family is what the holidays are all about. Yes, we missed seeing everyone because we lived away from most of them. My folks, who lived in California, made it to our house in Oklahoma when my father was fighting cancer. My younger brother got on a plane after his Christmas services (he is a minister) to join us as well. If they can make it happen, your family probably can too. If they can’t afford to travel to you, make that their Christmas gift if you can.
I’m also not saying that we didn’t travel to local family later in the day. We put our foot down on the special moment for us and our boys and that was Christmas morning.
Traveling with Littles
We did travel when the boys were little little. They were 6-weeks old and we traveled eight hours in a blizzard to spend it with my husband’s grandparents in Wisconsin. Ok, I lied, it was two hours in perfect weather to see them, but it felt like more with 6-week old twins!
The next year they were just over 1-years old, my grandparents from California were going to my aunt’s house in St. Louis. We drove the 8 hours to be with them. Yes, we did an 8 hour drive with one-year old twins. And we survived!
I tell you this not for you to be amazed, but more that we worked hard traveling with littles to be with family. We traveled almost every year to California since they 3 months old for other holidays, weddings and vacations. We flew. We drove. We made those visits happen. From Wisconsin. From Oklahoma. From Iowa. From Washington.
We decided that the one holiday we weren’t traveling on was Christmas. Our sons deserved to be home for their Christmases and we deserved to have that time with them in our home.
Giving Grandma the OK to be Elsewhere
With a few exceptions, we have spent most of our Christmases at home with our sons in the years since. Once my father passed away, my mother has spent the holidays with my brothers families, since their kids all came after my dad passed away. We missed her, but those grandkids deserved to be home for their Christmases and she deserved to be with them watching the joy and amazement on Christmas morning. Our sons understood. We still talked on the phone or FaceTimed with our family.
A Friend Christmas
This year is the first year that one of our twins will not be with us. Yes, it’s hard. But he has a job on the East Coast and we live on the West Coast. He only has a couple of days off, not enough time to travel and too risky in Winter in the middle of his research. We will FaceTime with him. We are shipping him a box a week. First, a tree for his desk. Second, a box of my homemade Christmas cookies with frosting and sprinkles enclosed so he can keep the tradition going with his friends. It does make it easier knowing he will be having a Friend Christmas.
What’s a Friend Christmas? We’ve had a few of those over the years. Our sons remember them as well. It’s where you get together for Christmas dinner surrounded by friends who are like family. Living away from family doesn’t mean you have to be alone. You must know one or more of your friends who also don’t have family near that are also spending it without family joining them. Well, what a perfect time to join together!
We had our first Friend Christmas in Oklahoma City when the boys were five. Three families gathered together each providing a different part of the meal, the kids played, the adults laughed, and we ate the meal together. We’ve done it again here a few times as well. A single mom and her son. A couple whose kids from other marriages would be away. They all came to our home.
The holidays aren’t just for family. It’s meant to be a time of wonder. Yes, there will be stress. Yes, there will be tears. I’m sure there will be many of you who will be shocked that we were such heartless beings because we didn’t drag our kids through trains, planes and automobiles for every holiday. What-ever. They are our kids, this is our life. We had memorable Christmas’ no matter where we were and who we spent it with and that is what really matters in the end.
How are you spending your Christmas? What have yours looked like in the past?