Let’s just talk about the elephant in the room.  It’s the Christmas season of joy and hope and goodwill, but here we sit wondering if and when our kids will visit, how long they will stay, if everyone will get along, and whether or not they’ll like their gifts, and then the depression (or maybe joy) that occurs when they all leave again.

At Christmas time, my emotions are all over the place.  And I’m thinking yours might be, as well.  They might not be your exact experiences, but I’m betting you do have some to add…

I want the kids to do things with us for the season, like attend a play or go to an amusement event, or something.  However, their schedules are often full with friends and work parties and their own kids, so we are often told no. Maybe they can squeeze something in that one Saturday in the month, where they have a 2-hour window and that’s it.

I used to ask the kids to continue coming to trim our tree, but then I finally got it that they have their own trees to trim and traditions to create, without me.  Ouch, I thought they’d always want to show up for that family activity.  So we trim our tree, alone. 

Am I sounding pitiful, yet?

I was going to buy my kids matching pajamas if they wanted them, but realized that’s something their mom wants to do.  She wants to pick them out, and take the kids with her, and that’s a family thing they do.  Okay, so I won’t ask that question ever again.

There are lots more examples I could give of expectations, unfulfilled wishes, and things I thought were going to happen that don’t anymore, now that the kids are away from home and have been for a few years now.  Oh for sure, we have tons of fun when we get together, but I recall how the sting of the separation was so strong at first and even stings a little…still now.

I’ve also realized that I can wallow in my pity and start down the road of thought that they don’t care for me, don’t want to be with me, or have outgrown me and are becoming distant…which none of that is true.  Even if one of those thoughts IS true, and I have been as kind as I know to be, then I can ask HIM to heal that part of us and not worry about it.  But most often, our thoughts about our doom are NOT true and can cause us so much down time if we let them linger.

I’ve found that I have to set my mind to think the truth, set my heart to be happy and content when they’re here and content when they’re not, and set my eyes on my friends and my husband and others…and not so much on me all the time.

Here’s what I mean…

If the kids can go with us to some Christmas activity, I can enjoy every minute and dismiss every thought of why they couldn’t do it all with us.  If they can’t attend anything with us, I can invite friends and enjoy the company of those and be happy and joyful.  I can choose to be happy, and release my kids to find their traditions and joys and to navigate parenthood and adulthood on their own terms.

If the kids now have their own traditions started, I can pine in the corner that they’re not including me or not showing up for mine, or I can make new ones with him, or enjoy outings that are fun – and learn to enjoy the season of Christmas and give thanks instead of complaining.

If they want to buy their own pajamas, then I can buy some for me and him, or do something else altogether.  I can ask what pajamas they bought and ask for a picture, and compliment her on what she picked out, and make her feel good!  Giving is what Christmas is all about, after all.

Is any of the above easy?  Not really, at first.  I think our mom hearts always want our kids near and we always want to be their #1 thought.  But if we can remember, we were once young and we were once trying to set up house and home and kids and family and make our way in a wacky world, too.  We can give them the gift of grace and love, which has GREAT return.  

I’ve often taken my silly sorrows (because in the big world scope, I am very blessed) to Him and asked him to help me reconfigure my life sans kids and traditions with them.  And you know what?  He has, and he is, and he will.  He’s given me great friends, great times with others, and great satisfaction in the joy of Christmas with Him. 

Do I still miss the kids and the traditions and the constant presence of their chatter and mess?  Yes, I do.  But I also enjoy the quiet nights by the fire, the clean rooms, and the holding hands with him while we sit at home or leave, because we now have the freedom to do so.

I don’t know where your family fits in to the story above, but changes do occur when our kids get married, move away, or even stay.  They now have in-laws, they have demanding jobs, and they have homes to keep and kids to be with.  They can’t ALWAYS include us in all that they do, nor should they. But if we make them feel bad, then we will create a wedge, and that’s never a good thing.

Let’s go in our rooms and cry and get it out, but then let’s not carry a grudge or a disappointment, but rather be of good cheer and give thanks for another year of hope and grace and love for all. 

And when they show up to be with us, let’s hug them and smile and have a good time.  And let’s do the same when they return to their homes once again…

Pity Party
by Marcy Lytle

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