Happy Dysfunctional Christmas

Greetings reader and I hope this finds you warm and well.  I’m sitting here by the fire with the Christmas tree up, the children in bed and trying to find the Christmas spirit.

I’ve heard myself say too often recently ‘I hate Christmas’ and I’ve been wondering if that’s true or if it’s just a story I’ve been telling myself.

So what is the truth about how I feel about Christmas? I don’t  know about you but it’s quite a complex set of feelings once I look closely at it. There is an element of Rebellious Child going on for me; ‘why should I do what other people do at Christmas?’, ‘It’s just another day, what’s all the fuss about?’. There is also some anti-consumerist rhetoric chuntering away about wasteful indulgence, unnecessary expenditure and a focus on materialism.  There is another part of me who is overwhelmed by all the preparations and organizing I ‘should’ be doing if I were to live up to what I think society expects of me: a great dinner, spotless house, beautifully wrapped presents and charming well behaved children who eat their dinner with the manners of princes.  The short fall between this idea and my reality is toe curling, I just end up feeling not quite up to par.

You’ll notice that all of the above are intellectual aversions to Christmas; thought based rebellions.  I also have emotional holes about Christmas. As the child of divorced parents it has felt, since the age of 11, that there is always someone missing and so there is a certain sadness about that. This was compounded when my mum died. She was brilliant at Christmas, she did turkey with all the trimmings and conjured more presents that she could ever have afforded, and frankly, Christmas without her is painful and sad. Christmas carols never fail to make me cry, not just the harmonies, but the memories.

My need to please others is also pulled in all direction…do we see my friends, the kids’ friends, family? No one? He likes to stay in, she likes to go out, the kids want to play, I want to read…aaarrggh!

I like Tom Hodgkinson’s book the Idle Parent where he recommends giving children cardboard boxes and bits of string, filling the house with lots of the children’s friends and ignore the mess they make while you drink wine with all your friends. I LIKE this approach…it’s a win-win…we all get to play with our friends.

And what of family in all this? Not the children who are still little, but parents, siblings, aunts and sixth cousins twice removed? ‘I don’t want to see my family over Christmas; they’re too dysfunctional’ I’ve heard at least twice in the last fortnight from different people. I know what they mean and at one level completely get it…and at another level I’m thinking that I don’t know anyone whose family isn’t just a tiny bit dysfunctional, whatever that means.  I wonder if today’s dysfunction was yesterday’s eccentric? If today’s dysfunction was previously accepted as ‘mad aunt Mabel’, or ‘uncle Cedric who always get’s drunk’, where our relatives were somehow transformed into cartoon characters and so bearable, amusing and loveable.

So the truth about Christmas is that which ever story I tell myself about Christmas will come true. If I believe it’s capitalist hogwash, it will be. If I believe I’m a failed hostess because I didn’t do pigs-in-blankets then I will be a failed hostess. If I think my family is dysfunctional, it is.

  • What stories do you tell yourself about Christmas? About what you should do? About what other people should do?

So instead I’m going to see Christmas as once again a chance to check out my Idle Parenting skills. I’m going to see it as an opportunity to hang out with neighbors and drink wine while the kids play. I’m going to notice all the songs the children are learning in school and how confident they feel about performing on stage. I’m going to marvel at their drawings, I’m going to relax into not needing to be up so early. I’m going to read while they play. I’m not going to try to make Christmas into anything…I’m just going to invite people, ask them to bring food to share and see what happens and when the dysfunction starts I’m going to find it amusing and loveable and all part of the madness that is Christmas.

  • Could you write a happier story for yourself this Christmas? What and who would you like it to include?
  • What do you want to do and how will you make that happen?

I hope you have a lovely time doing what you want to do

Love

Julie

 

 

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