My family is not unlike many families in America. When my dad married my mom in 1976, my two brothers and I gained two younger sisters and one younger brother. It was in December, very close to Christmas when they married. I don’t remember much about that first Christmas as a blended family, but over the years I noticed a pattern.
My mother was deceased, so there was no other parent for my brothers and me to visit over the holidays. By contrast, my stepmother was divorced, so my new siblings spent time with their dad and other family. They also got more presents, more candy, and more attention. I was presented with an interesting dilemma … one that I wish I could say I handled well over the years.
Unfortunately, one of my most frustrating vices is that I get jealous way too easily. As an adult, I’ve worked to overcome this flaw, with varying levels of success depending on the situation. But as a kid, I had to learn early on that I could make or break the joy of Christmas by my attitude. Thankfully, I don’t recall anyone making a big deal out of Christmas gifts when I was a child. The number or expense of the gifts wasn’t discussed. Instead we were taught to focus on the meaning of Christmas.
Still, it didn’t go without notice that my newly acquired siblings got more stuff. It was simply the way it was with them as a result of their situation. I was jealous of their stuff. I was jealous over the fact that they had the other parent with whom to spend time. I was frustrated that I had nowhere else to go to celebrate. As a child, that’s what I saw and how I felt.
They also got more presents, more candy, and more attention.
But as I grew older, I began to see another side of the coin. While two Christmases may seem like fun, what kind of stress was put on them because they had to split their time between two families instead of enjoying the holidays as one family? Did they wish their parents were still married? Were they jealous over the fact that some of their friends spent every holiday with their mom and dad together?
The holidays are times of busyness, buying, and blessing. While as parents and grandparents we focus on giving children the “perfect” Christmas with all the right toys, candy, visits to various Santas, and a festive home, we may forget that what children really want is us. They want to know that regardless of their family situation they are loved, safe, and wanted. As the adults, we need to help our children focus on Christmas as a special day in history where love became more real than ever before.
[Children] want to know that regardless of their family situation they are loved, safe, and wanted.
No family can create a perfect Christmas. It’s especially difficult in blended families for various reasons. Despite all of that, as moms, grandmothers, aunts, and women who love the children in our lives we can choose to acknowledge their emotions and teach them to channel their thoughts and feelings for good. They are young and need us to guide them. In some cases, we may even learn from them about how to slow down and truly savor all the moments of the season.
Whatever your situation may be, remember this is a season of love. Give yourself grace when you feel hurt or frustrated by difficult people or situations, and give others grace when they don’t understand your feelings. Focus on the good and have a truly merry Christmas.
For more on Christmas and family, read Being a Child of Divorce – at the Holidays, How to Enjoy the Holidays, When Heartbreak Tries to Steal Your Joy, Technology and Hands Free Holidays and Instagram Envy During the Holidays: Beware of the Pitfall