Friends, Family, and Functional Chaos
I was taught to share at a young age, but it wasn't always easy or even natural. We humans are a selfish lot. We demand for ourselves. Mine! Mine! We want all of mommy’s time and energy. We want OUR toys. We want the first cookie. The act of sharing evolves as we get older. The toys in the baby pool are fair game. The play kitchen at kindergarten is not just for us. Our siblings, cousins, and friends will use and often break our stuff. We all are forced to share. As adults, we share the road, our food, our love. The thing is, though, some of us are better at it than others, especially when it comes to our children. We hold tight, but as they grow older, we grudgingly let them have new attachments with friends, teachers, coaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, and eventually, husbands and wives.
When our children marry, we are required to share them with in-laws, their “other” families. We share holidays and vacations and family dinners. Sometimes we just want to stomp our feet and demand they come to our house. Mine! You have to come to our house! You can’t break our family tradition of dressing up in matching PJ’s on Christmas morning! How dare you choose them over us! And just like when we were in grade school, the teacher comes along and makes us share our toys. It is an act of letting go. Letting go of certain traditions. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of this perfect picture in our heads.
Sharing is something I was forced to learn immediately as a single mom. The boys had a dad, a dad who wanted to be in their lives, a dad who demanded time. We divvied up weekends, summers, and holidays. At first it was as if my heart was being physically wrenched from my body. How could I share my babies? But I slowly learned to accept and even embrace the time they spent with their father. They needed him, and I soon discovered to enjoy my alone time. I still ached for them on Christmas morning. I cried when they got older and chose to be up there instead of here. I never said it was easy, but I have grown to acknowledge the reality of it all. My boys have both a mom and a dad who love them.
I know what it is like to sit down at Thanksgiving and have my boys missing from the table. I spent many Christmas mornings alone while they opened presents up at their dad’s. You ask any divorced parent and they will tell you similar stories. It’s never fun, but it’s necessary for the happiness of your children. So this is my advice for all parents of newly married children. You must share your time. Everyone wants a piece; yours is just part of the puzzle. The more demanding you are, the more stressed and bruised your children will feel. Christmas doesn’t have to be on the 25th. Maybe the 27th works out better. If one of your children is missing, don’t brood. Love the time you have with the rest of your tribe. Maybe it’s time to let go of the usual traditions and make new ones. Have fun.
My husband and I have four children between us, and it is a rare occurrence when they are all together. They have scattered, found new allegiances, and stepped away from the family nest. This past Thanksgiving just one of them, with husband in tow, sat at our Thanksgiving table. It was joyous and lovely to spend time with this young couple. We didn’t dwell on the fact that three, plus husbands, wives, and grandchildren were sitting at other Thanksgiving tables with their other families. These children of ours are gifts. We learn to celebrate the precious time we have with them instead of focusing on what may be missing. Is it easy? No. Did this zen-like calm happen overnight? Um….a big, giant, massive no. I had a few holidays when I dissolved into a hot mess of borderline psychotic crazy. I’m not perfect, and to be honest, this whole letting go thing is still a tremendous work in progress, but I’m trying.
Take it from someone who has been there for the past twenty years. Your children will appreciate a little slack on the familia rope. And those matching Christmas PJ’s? Well…..that might require a family vote.
“Oh oh letting go
There’s nothing in the way now,
Oh letting go, there’s room enough to fly
And even though, she’s spent her whole life waiting,
It’s never easy letting go.”
Artist: Suzy Bogguss
Songwriters: Mathew Charles Rollings and Doug Crider