Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Conflict

     I'm not sure if this problem is a function of our stage in life -- with the kids now living on their own and wanting to come home for Christmas. Or if it's a function of a second family -- her family and my family coming for Christmas, and not having enough room for everybody. And so ... what do we do?!?

     The irony is, of course, that as of yesterday -- just yesterday -- B and I are living alone, just the two of us. Her older son has finally moved out, after 2 1/2 sometimes-stressful post-college years.

Christmas will be stressful, but I hope not explosive.
     But as of right now, we have 9 people scheduled to be sleeping at our house for the three days after Christmas. And we only have 5 beds -- accommodating 6 people, assuming B and I are still sleeping together after this is all over.

     My daughter, who's in graduate school, is scheduled to arrive at our house on Christmas night. She said she's staying for three or four days. She'd arranged this a while ago. My son, who lives in New York City, said he'd like to come out to visit while his sister is here.

     B's older son now has his own apartment. But her younger son is coming home from college, and he'll be here for two weeks. And then B invited her sister to come for Christmas. B and her sister and their mother have always gotten together for a few days sometime around Christmas. This year B wanted her sister to make the trip to visit us, since B has to work the week between Christmas and New Year's.

     B's sister just emailed us this morning to say, great, she'll be arriving on Christmas night, and they'll stay for three days. And the good news is that, this time, her husband will come with her (he usually doesn't). And also their brother decided to come as well. And then -- icing on the cake -- their other brother in Boston decided he and his wife should come down to join the party, although they'll only stay one day and they'll spend the night in a hotel.

    I had suggested to B that maybe she should call her sister, and tell her the situation -- that if they come for the three days after Christmas, the house will be very crowded and someone will have to sleep on the floor. (No, B's sister and her husband do not stay at a hotel ... don't ask.) Maybe, instead, they could come for a couple of days before Christmas, or sometime the next weekend, for New Year's, after my kids had left.

     For some reason, B does not want to do that. But even assuming we figure out the sleeping arrangements, I'm not happy that my kids are going to be here, trying to visit with me, when the house is overrun with B's family. Won't that be awkward? Won't that make my kids feel as like it's not their home at all -- but this other family's home where their dad just happens to share a room?

     To be fair, B's family is very nice. I've met them all, and they are friendly and accommodating (which is why I thought they'd accommodate a slight change in their plans). But I'm afraid they'll just engulf the house, overrun the place, and make it their family Christmas, and my own kids and I will be pushed aside -- footnotes to the festivities. And I don't want my kids to be footnotes to the family. They are just as important as her kids, even if they don't spend nearly as much time here.

     I dunno, I keep telling myself to be fair; to be considerate of B, to welcome her family and we can all have fun together. But, honestly, I'm a little pissed off that she won't even try to reschedule things. She cannot bear the thought of asking her sister to change any plans, of inconveniencing her family. My family just has to fit in around her schedule.

     But I'm still trying to look at the bright side. Maybe we can all play table tennis. We have a Ping Pong table in the basement, and all the guys play. (Why is it girls don't like table tennis -- or is it just in my family?) The two best players in the crowd are my son, and B's brother in law. They've never met, and I wouldn't mind seeing them go head-to-head. See who would win.


rosaria said...

Oh yes, I'd be in a major quandary as well. Frankly, tell everyone, everyone, that you and B will host dinners with them, on this and that date, but they each have to make arrangement to stay someplace else, as the house can't accommodate all of them. Offer to reserve space for them at a local...
This is no advice at all, is it?
Just let it all come together.
It will.
You will all manage, somehow.
Even if people have to sleep on the floor.

jazz angel said...

It's true that the holidays are a stressful time, even if everyone gets along. If I were in your situation, I'd send a group e-mail out to everyone who is coming, so that they all know exactly what to expect. Tell them all who is coming and going and when. Invest in a couple of good quality aerobeds and tell the younger folks that they'll be sleeping on those (which I've heard are quite comfortable and come with a pump to inflate them easily). Make it into a sleep-over slumber party for your kids, who might get a kick out of all being together as in the old days. Anyone who really doesn't want to do that is welcome to book a room at the nearest motel. You are providing what you can, and very graciously.

Try to let your anxiety and resentment drift away, and focus on how lucky you are that your grown children want to be with you for Christmas, and that your spouse has a close-knit family that values the holiday as much as you do
Make sure you delegate jobs to your company. Have lots sandwich breads and fixings for lunches, and assign each couple of guests to be responsible for the main meal for one day. They can take everyone out, or prepare a favorite recipe to share with the rest of you. The mixing of generations, especially when everyone is so nice (as you have said), will probably be fun for all.

Be grateful that you are healthy, happy, and not alone for the holidays. Your life is full and rich beyond words.
Merry Christmas!

Stephen Hayes said...

I wouldn't trade your situation for being alone, but I do hope these relatives are helping with the financial burden in different ways. I'm sure you can rent beds or put people in sleeping bags on the floor. If they don't like it, you'll be spared having this problem next year. Try and relax; most of the things we worry about never happen. But if they do, just think of all the juice you'll have to blog about.

Anonymous said...

Think: air beds. If you run right now to Wal Mart or Target, there might be some leftover. I needed one for Thanksgiving and just barely made it.

Don't even think of buying them and bringing them back when done. Stores have BIG signs everywhere-unreturnable if opened.

Listen, I know you're upset, but as long as everyone pitches in, make sure you delegate and yes, have tons of sandwich fixings, you'll be OK. This is what the holiday is all about. As long as you have your own bed and bathroom, who really cares, right?

Have fun. Merry Christmas. I go through this at Thanksgiving. Eventually, we had to add in 2 more bedrooms and a bathroom. I was always the sucker who gave up my bed and slept on the floor. With the dog.

Linda Myers said...

I like what jazz angel suggested. That way, everyone will know what's going on and they can make their own choices about where to sleep - or maybe even whether to come at a different time!

#1Nana said...

Who do you know who has a motor home? That would be a great way to accommodate more people.

Plan an activity with just your children. That was one thing that I missed when my father married his third wife...I never had time with just him. Now he's on wife number four and we usually carve out some time when I visit.

Good luck. Go with the flow and cherish that everyone wanted to be with you on this holiday. You are blessed.

Rubye Jack said...

Oh gosh, I wouldn't want to be in your place for anything. One thing is that the kids are probably quite malleable and will make it work as long as they feel they are wanted by both of you. Actually, it could turn into a great time had by all. I hope so.
Merry Christmas? :)

Workingboomer said...

Great blog! I am a single boomer so I will not be dealing with all those issues. Actually though, it sounds fun and interesting!

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Almost sounds like the war of the roses at your house. Good luck and keep us posted. But for what do we exist, except to amuse others.

Dianne (who is spending one day at her daughter's house and then coming home to sleep in her own bed.)

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh,my! What a holiday you're having, Tom! Actually, the college age and young adult kids may be fine with sleeping on the floor, sleeping bags, air mattresses, etc. And with everyone there, your kids may feel very much a part of a large extended family rather than marginalized. I like your parting image: the ping-pong competition with the best of both sides of the family going head to head. If you relax and just go with it, this could be a wonderful holiday with both families of the blend get to know each other. At the very least, after it's all over, you and B can celebrate your solitude!

Olga said...

Oh, boy do I hear you on this one. Broken and blended families do add a layer of stress to a traditional family holiday like Christmas. We alternate, but it is still hard not to feel like it doesn't work out all that equitably. I am here reading your commenters for good advice because I have none to offer myself. But do your best to enjoy the time with family.

Terry said...

We have a similar situation, although thankfully everyone in DH and my family live locally except one sister and her family (she lives about 4 hours away) and my son who lives in LA.

Sister is never a problem as her kids are small and she prefers to come for Thanksgiving and stay home for Xmas and celebrate with her husbands family who also live there.

Because of (many, many ) issues DH and I have with our combined kids, I actually have 2 huge parties back to back. Being Cuban American our big thing is Xmas Eve, we have my entire family over for that, my kids, siblings and their families over for that. All told, we're about 15-20 people. This leaves DHs kids free to celebrate Noche Buena with their mom and her huge family.

On Xmas Day, we host another huge party with DHs kids, siblings and their families, again about 15-20 people. It's exhausting for me, but easier for everyone in that none of our kids or familiesfeel excluded or left out because they each get a day to themselves! Good luck to you!