Christmas Kerbobble

I wish I could say the season had my eyes all aglow. I truly envy friends who love Christmas and are full of joy this time of year. Complicated by the parenting special needs adoptees thing, a child who is not coping well this season, and haunting feelings that my aim has fallen short, I must admit the whole christmas thing has me a bit kerbobbled. It has been evolving for me over the years and now that the bustle has quieted a kind of sadness is seeping in.

I spend the entire holiday season engaged in internal battle. I’m torn between my desire to abandon the entire thing and take a cruise and my desire for my children to experience the magic. There is never enough time and there is always compromise. I try to convince myself that I’m doing it all my way only to emerge on the other side feeling a little dirty.

My older children were all homeschooled through the “Santa years,” their television viewing was pretty limited, and we were far removed from family leaving them mostly free from outside influences. Their desires were few and their joy contagious. It was so much simpler then. Now, that seems like something that happened in another universe.

My younger children attend public school and have been submerged in the cultural madness that has turned a single religious holiday into an all encompassing national seasonal phenomenon of over indulgence. My youngest recently informed me that it is Santa Clause’s job to bring him presents with an air of entitlement that I’m still coming to terms with. His demands for an “elf on the shelf” pushed my patience to the brink. Although we chose to eliminate Santa visits after wish lists began to sound more like ransom notes, the school provided a spin on the jolly elf’s lap without my consent.

imageMaybe we didn’t venture out as much back then, or maybe it’s the in your face nature of the Internet, or maybe I’m just more raw now, but I find the intensity and duration of the season overwhelming and a bit soul crushing. I don’t have the endurance to maintain the enthusiasm for months on end and wouldn’t want to even if I could.

Everywhere we go someone asks, “Are you ready for Christmas?” The children are asked what Santa is going to bring them. I’m bothered by the assumption that we participate and my heart aches for those who don’t. Not because I think they should, but rather because I find it annoying and it is my cultural tradition. I can only imagine how horrible it would be to have this all crammed down your throat when it is not. I’m tortured by my attempt to find a balance between showing those I love how much they mean to me and waking December 26th with my integrity intact.

I despise the idea that I “should” do anything the last six weeks of the year and have been working to define our own practices. I stopped sending Christmas cards years ago and pledged to express my gratitude to those who impact my life every day of the year. Courtesy of Hallmark, I’m fully aware that this choice may be perceived as a slight by some. I remember years ago a friend telling me that if someone went two years without sending her a Christmas card then they were off her list. Ouch. Beware the Christmas wrath.

Ugly Sweater party --one of the season's highlights.

Ugly Sweater party –one of the season’s highlights.

We’ve scaled back gift giving, limiting it to small doses for immediate family, choosing to host a party for our friends, and focus more on doing and being together. Again, there is the danger of hurt feelings in this choice and that is the core of my unease.

I completely reject the practice of enabling entitlement and have forbidden my children from making lists or writing to Santa. This became necessary after I heard Little Guy complaining about the one request that wasn’t granted last year–a skateboard because he was 5 and lacked the coordination for it–but couldn’t name a single item that he had received which among others included a new bike.

As the month of December wore on this year, I became increasingly disgusted with the thinly veiled and escalating requests for handouts on my community’s Facebook page by mothers lamenting that they couldn’t give their children the Christmas they “deserve.”

I’ve heard everything from grief to panic expressed by friends and strangers. And from those parenting special needs children whose wires are already crossed and often suffer complete meltdown under the holiday stress, I’ve heard outright hatred spoken. The existence of the phrase “holiday stress” should be an easy indication that we’re not doing it right.

Even as I write this I know that I may be misunderstood and receive one of those monikers reserved for nasties with no holiday spirit. There in lies the kerbobble. Anyone who knows me will testify that my nature is generous and I care deeply for my fellow travelers. My discomfort is not with giving, or sharing, or a lost spiritual meaning. No “reason for the season” bit here–that’s not my shtick. I’m not even suggesting that anyone should stop doing anything that brings them joy.

It’s just too much for me. I’m perplexed as to why we are all expected to buy in. Why do we year after year participate in this colossal merchandizing scheme when, for so many of us, it is downright painful or financially impossible. Why is opting out risking becoming a social pariah or crushing guilt? You’ve seen “Christmas with the Kranks,” right? Not so far from the truth.

I wish I could wrap this up with a final tidy sentiment, but I’m afraid I don’t have it quite figured out. I usually wait until my emotions are more settled before I put it in ink, but I need to get this funk out and move on.

I wish that I could rewrite the script to go something like “Hey, you do you and yours however you see fit and I’ll do the same. I will accept and appreciate any way you choose to or not to include me and mine and you do the same. Oh, and let’s cut it down to a couple of weeks next time and see how that goes.”

Maybe next year I’ll get it right.

Don’t Be a Richard

The subject of Internet anonymity and resulting hatefulness it seems to inspire has been heavy in my world lately and yesterday the weight became unbearable.  Recently, Big Sister created an Instagram profile @rethinkfeminism_  to explore feminist topics inviting polite debate with the goal of growing and learning.

Yesterday this debate took a terrifying turn after she shared a meme calling for the halt of verbal abuse toward women who had procured an abortion. One follower believed this to be a death worthy action and under the cloak of cyberspace was not afraid to tell her.  Here’s what I have to say to him.

Dear Captian [sic] Richard,
You don’t know me, but we need to talk. Seems yesterday you called my daughter a monster and wished a violent death upon her, assuring her that no one would care that she had been murdered, because she voiced a political opinion that differed from yours.

I’ve posted a screen shot of your public posts below just in case your memory is hazy.

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If you were looking to land a stinger, congratulations Dick–we can drop the formalities right, given your death wish and all?–you were successful. I admit I was wounded. In my defense, I never expected anyone to hasten the death of my beautiful, brilliant, precious, loving, generous 15-year-old child so I haven’t had opportunity to prepare–to still my mind and face this event without emotion.

My first response was defensive and protective. I’m a fierce mama bear and an attack on my children is an attack on me. I would protect them to my last dying breath. But I’m working on my zen so I took some deep breaths and a step back from myself to look at you.

But I can’t see you, Richard. You are hiding in the shadows of anonymity veiled by a screenname spewing hatred. I have to wonder if you would be so brave if I knew your real name? What if I knew your address? Could you be so vicious in front of her father? In front of your Mother? What if you had to own your words before all who can see you–would you have chosen more carefully? If you are not willing to attach your identity to your words then you are not brave, lost soul, you are a coward. A coward who hurts others is nothing but a bully.

You see, Richard, I’ve been at the business of parenting hurt kids for a very long time and though I claim to be an expert on nothing, I do know a thing or two about trauma. I know that such a rageful hate could only fester in a deep dark place of sorrow and fear. Anyone who would need to lash out in such a vengeful way must be in a lot of pain. For that I’m sorry. Really, truly sorry. My wish is for us all to always and only know love. Clearly, you’ve met something else.

I don’t know how old you are, but I want to believe that you are young. Firstly, because it means that you have lots of time to have other experiences that open your mind and grow your heart and secondly, because I would feel better knowing your words are born of immaturity rather than bitterness.

Lest there be no confusion, I want you to know that I have no problem with you disagreeing with my daughter. I would fight for your right to  express your opinions even though they are very different than hers (and mine), but we need to talk about your tactics. Apparently you have strong feelings on the subject, as so many do, but you are not doing your camp any favors with the name calling and death wishes. In fact, you may just get yourself labeled a maniacal loon and then nobody will want to play with you.

And could we take a last look at the contradiction that you are. You are vehemently pro-life, but hope for the death of someone who is pro-choice. So where exactly do you jump ship? Are you only pro-life situationally, like when everyone is agreeing with you? Is there an age limit? Are their racial or cultural criteria? Is it only my daughter’s life that has no value to you? C’mon Richard I’m afraid your behavior has left me confused and I’m not exactly sure what it is you stand for.

But I don’t need to understand. My mighty daughter was unmoved by you and has already handled your transgression (and improper word use) with a grace and maturity that you might want to take note of. Peace to you, Richard. I couldn’t tell it any better than she already has.

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