On dueling christmases

Last minute Christmas conundrum, so if you manage to answer this in time, you’ll be my personal Jesus this year.

Like a lot of American twentysomethings, I have a nontraditional family.  I have my mom and my stepdad on one hand, and then I have my best friend and her parents who let me live with them when my mom took a long ride down the bipolar express lane in high school.  Since my mom and I reconciled, it’s been a hard balancing act finding a way to manage my time between the two families, and it’s never harder than during the holidays.

My mom thinks that Christmas needs to be spent with biological family and that my best friend’s parents are good friends at best.  My best friend’s mom thinks that mine gave up the right to the term “family” when she kicked me out.

My current plan is to spend Christmas morning and afternoon with my mom and stepfather and then go to my second family’s for a late dinner.  Second family is putting off eating until I get there because they’re sweet like that.  Even though I feel like this sort of scheduling and juggling is exactly what married couples do to fit in everyone, there are still hurt feelings all around because both families think they are the only ones with a “claim” to my time.  There’s lots of passive aggressive comments being made, and I guess I’m just looking for the straight-forward words to say to let them both know that I care about them and I’m doing the best I can.  Heads up, I’ve tried what I just said to you and it got me nowhere.

Merry Christmas, coketalk.

Despite the fact that you have reconciled, your mother is dreading the hour when you leave to visit your second family. Her passive aggressive behavior is a manifestation of her own personal shame, because your absence will be a conspicuous reminder of her failures as a mother during your teen years.

On the other hand, your second family is bending over backwards to include you, and your best friend’s mom no doubt has a bit of a possessive, judgmental streak. She’s a good person, but controlling in her own way.

You’re stuck between dueling maternal wills, and you’re under the unfortunate impression that somehow you’re the one responsible for their emotional state.

Well, you’re not.

Once again, you are not responsible for either family’s emotional state. Your obligation is to be a part of each family’s traditions. That’s it. That’s all. Quit looking for the magic words that will make everyone happy. Those don’t exist.

Show them love and respect. Tell them as much, and do what you know to be right. After that, the trick is knowing when to let the passive aggressive comments roll right off your back, because their hurt feelings aren’t on you.

I’m serious. Smile big, hug big, and let the rest of that shit go. Don’t rise to the bait or feel any obligation to attack, defend, or entertain anyone else’s opinion on the matter.

It really is that simple. On Christmas morning, you don’t need a personal Jesus. You just need the strength of your convictions.

Merry Christmas, sweetheart.


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