This will be my third Christmas as a parent.
Our first Christmas as parents was a tricky one. Our eldest son, Ethan, was less than four weeks old. I don’t think we even put up a Christmas tree that year! I was breastfeeding, sleep-deprived and still getting to grips with being responsible for a baby so wanted the comfort of my own parents’ home for Christmas dinner and the majority of the day. I wouldn’t dream of my inlaws missing out on seeing their first grandchild on Christmas day though, so we visited them on Christmas morning for a couple of hours.
Our second Christmas as parents… my eldest brother had invited all of my family to his for Christmas dinner. I felt that we should start as we mean to go on taking year about in an effort to be fair to my husband’s family, despite the lack of any invite for Christmas dinner, and asked my husband to check if his family wanted to get together for Christmas dinner or if they had other plans before deciding what we would do. Unfortunately, my husband’s family called a family meeting early November. We were newlyweds, had just announced we were expecting our second child, my husband (the teacher who is yet to find a permanent contract) had just secured a full-time temporary contract for the rest of the school year, we were on a high. I don’t think there was any coincidence in the timing – one of my husband’s brothers wanted to bring him down a peg or two. The family meeting is a whole other blog but suffice to say my husband returned home (the family meeting was “no wives allowed”!) and said we’d be accepting my family’s invitation to Christmas dinner on Christmas day.
So this year, in fact around a month ago, my husband had a spinal injury which resulted in emergency surgery to remove a disc. His injury wasn’t too serious but the outcome of the surgery could have been very serious indeed. I was quite shocked to be the recipient of some advice from my mother in law on the day of my husband’s surgery, stating that my husband should make more of an effort with his family as he needs them at times like this and I told her in no uncertain terms that he was still hurt and upset by the family meeting of last year, which was extremely unfair and upsetting for him. I was also the recipient of some blinkered and ridiculously lengthy emails from my brother in law, trying to persuade me that he was right about my husband and my husband was a bit of an arse, the entire family agreed (aunts, uncles, cousins – even old school teachers!!) and my husband needed to change and try harder. All of this took place on the day of my husband’s surgery or the day following. Brother in law even phoned my husband on the night of his surgery and told him that I was being upset by my husband’s behaviour towards his family. WTF?! I wanted to wait until he was home and well before talking to him about those emails, which would be another source of upset for him.
Anyway, this is going off the christmas theme somewhat but none of this has been discussed or resolved and with all this tension amongst my inlaws, I am very reluctant to spend what is a very special day in my family’s calendar, with them. For the first time, an invitation has been extended for everyone to spend Christmas dinner at my mother in law’s. My husband said at first that he wanted to discuss it with me before deciding. When he confirmed that we were going, my mother in law’s reaction was “Good! I would have been upset if you didn’t!” Yet another attempt to force relationships to improve which I suspect won’t work.
Reluctantly, I’m allowing my husband to decide and should he wish to spend Christmas with his family, I will do my utmost to make sure the four of us enjoy it. I owe it to him. I might have to give myself a pep talk on Christmas morning, but I can’t be responsible for any tension or arguments on the day. I need to support my husband in this and allow him to decide what type of relationship he wants to maintain with them, if any.
So yes, we have started making plans for Christmas, and I genuinely hope that my family of four have an absolute ball but in my heart of hearts I think it is going to be tense, awkward, full of put downs and not much fun for us at all. I’m consoling myself with the thought that my children are too young to realise or remember and in the future, as they start to understand more of what Christmas is about, we can put them first in our plans for Christmas and avoid any bad feeling on Christmas day, for their benefit.