Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Tale of Two Christmas's





















Warning-this is a very long post filled with stupid holiday melodrama. Our Christmas felt a little like this picture by the end of day. This has been a completely joyful week with having my son home and being able to celebrate in our fairly low key way of doing so. We had a simple, if not loud due to the crowd in my large extended family of siblings and nieces and nephews, followed by a candle light service at church Christmas Eve. I wish I could have left Christmas there, stayed home yesterday, and enjoy the quiet. I knew yesterday was going to be difficult for my in-laws, the first Christmas after the loss of my father-in-law, but I was completely unprepared for the turn it went.  I've shared before in a post about last Easter, Beating of Drums, that I have about a four hour window before the stress gets to me, and a restrictive space like a Minnesota house in December, with people that have high levels of intensity, feels like captivity.

We were told to arrive at noon a week ago, and based on historical nature of his siblings that never arrive anywhere at the designated time, we planned to arrive at noon precisely, which we did. Apparently, unbeknownst to us, some secret  arrival time was really much earlier than that, and we were pounced on to hurry and get lined up for a family picture, because the other families had already taken theirs. My mother-in-law was understandably sad, but expressed it by snapping at my husband for any little motion or non motion he did. DS was pounced on with 60 questions, which he handled well, and then to DD#2 about leaving her job, which she did not.  She felt off kilter most of the day.

We got through lunch, and then DS, his gift to the family, quickly set up his lights, and took professional quality shots of anyone, and in whatever combinations they wanted.  All together, this maybe took 30 minutes, and was pretty much done while lunch was being cleaned up, and dishes and pans sorted. Throughout this, I hadn't realized how much DH's catty sister had been drinking.  Her level of bossy obnoxiousness was slowly building, to the point that by the time we stared doing  gifts, she was trying to dominant the actions and words of all of us. She was down right antagonistic with her mother, my husband and me at various points of the afternoon.  Four hours later, the ridiculously drawn out gift extravaganza was over, and she was barely coherent in her loud over the top ramblings.  This was a huge elephant in the room.  Her husband, tends to just pretend all is normal.  Her 18 year old son was visibly bothered, but both just stayed out of her light.

The proverbial  crap hit the fan though an hour later when after first cornering my daughter, about her mental state, her employment status, and her relationship status to the point where I could see tears welling in DD's eyes, she turned her attention on DS.  I was in the next room, but because of her loud voice, could hear her questioning  his absence from Christmas for three years.  Doesn't he understand family is important? How did he spend holidays anyway?  Wasn't he sad and missing everyone back home?  Does he have anyone in his life?  Why not?  How come he never calls home (meaning her)No matter his response on anything, she dug in deeper. Her daughter is at her boyfriend's family out of town,which apparently constitutes an approved absence, so I think that added to her zealousness in pointing out the error of my son's family ways.  Again, he just listened, understanding better than I what a complete nut job on liquor she was being, so took it in stride, finally getting away to use the bathroom.

 I on the other hand began packing things up, visibly shaken by the exchange.  She looked at me with a dopey face that said to me, "your family is messed up," and in return I glared at her and said out loud, "Unbelievable."  I was going to let it go, but after her  saying, "What's wrong?", I let it loose. "Unbelievable that you would attack my kid for not being home for Christmas. Unbelievable that you would lay crap on him for 30 minutes because he is trying to live his own life.  Unbelievable that this kind of stuff has been happening for decades with you being such a drunken hypocrite with your live and let live crap, while interrogating and judging my family." I am paraphrasing-the words just spewed uncontrollably.

Then DH stepped in, and said to to the effect to her, "Not very tactful.  Do you even understand why she is upset? If any of us spoke to your kids like that, you would have none of it."  This was all said in normal tone, in relative private, so it didn't disrupt the rest of the family.  We proceeded to continue to get things packed up and say our goodbyes to the rest of the family.  It was now 8:00-yes, eight hours in a house with 15 people.  The whole time we were packing up, she just stood there in the kitchen, with movement around her, like a statue. I did understand that it was a holiday with more stress than usual for her, and that her unfortunate way of coping was large amounts of alcohol.   I like to think I am a good person, and I could tell that some of what we said must have resonated at least a little bit.  Before we left, I went over and apologized if I hurt her feelings, but I was very bothered overhearing how she was treating my kids.  I know they can stand up for themselves, but they aren't going to-they'll just let it go, at least on the outside. I don't know if I feel relief that I spoke up instead of letting it stew, or rotten that I may have ruined Christmas.

This is the main gist of the story-there were so many other details that I can't go into without encroaching on others, or prolonging an already too long post. I'm not writing this to get people to jump on my side. I am sorry the exchange happened, but more sorry that  her behavior happened. Anyone else have any senseless and needless drama? So much for my simple and minimal Christmas. 

I read this comment a few weeks ago from Julie on Frugal Queen's Post Do it your way.  At the time I read it, I felt it was cynical, and not what I thought about Christmas at all. After yesterday, I fully understand and perhaps embrace her sentiments-at least for half my Christmas. 

"My opinion on what most people do at Christmas
Spend money they haven't got on presents that people don't want
Spend money they haven't got on food they don't even really like
Spend time with people that they don't much like and wouldn't dream of spending time with the rest of the year
Stuff their face with food and alcohol and then moan because they put on weight.
Doesn't seem a very sensible or even enjoyable thing to do."

12 comments:

  1. Aw... I'm sorry that it went so badly. I am lucky to have a fairly laid-back family so the big day was stress free, but I have a close friend who shares your experiences on an annual basis. Extremely unpleasant. I hope that you can put it behind you a little bit and enjoy the next few days of holiday with your close family. Sending big 'bloggy' hugs. Jx

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    1. The rest of the family just seems to let her have a pass card for her words and actions, so no doubt, I am the bad guy in the story, and perhaps I am. I'm probably biased, but on my side, it is just laid back simplicity, all be it loud. This was a heightened situation, fueled by grief and alcohol no doubt, which is partly why I feel so bad that I chose yesterday to stand up for my family. Thanks for the hug.

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  2. I am so sorry this happened. Sometimes those closest to us are the most difficult to be around.

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    1. This was an unfortunate combination of all the things that make family gatherings go sour. I'm not sure yet how I will approach any future gatherings.

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  3. Sadly, I can relate. I can really, REALLY, really relate! Like every single holiday since I've been married. It's over and done with :) And for the record, I'd probably have done the same as you. Enjoy the new year with your wonderful family and don't ever regret being the awesome mama bear that you are! What do they say, something about never messing with the cubs or... It's true!

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    1. Except these cubs are grown adults. I remember a similar incident that involved two different members of the family where one finally spoke up about the sidebar comments about the second persons adult daughters parenting style. Mama bears I guess protect their young regardless their age. We'll see where this goes. For my husband, childrens, and mother-in-laws sake, I hope to move past this.

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  4. Unfortunately, your sister-in-law was likely a lot like this well before your husband lost his Dad. It just got exaggerated this year. I would have been likely to go apeshit on her (excuse my language but it seems she was entirely inappropriate), and gone after her in a slightly less-quiet fashion. You did well. I am sorry you had to go through that. We have a very quiet Christmas and I love it. We used to have large family gatherings when my Father-in-law was alive where my husband had to pretend to talk to his brother whom he hasn't gotten along with in many years. Moving away has brought a lot of peace to our holidays.

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    1. No doubt if others in the family learn or discuss this, I'll be the oversensitive bad guy in the story. Her response is she talks with everyone like this and everyone just loves her. No one has ever said her style is off putting and invasive. She became the hurt party, and if genuine, I do feel bad for that. I believe people have subtly, and myself more than once not so subtly, said she needed to back off. I think she literally just has no boundaries when it comes to other peoples space, but will craftily deflect any questions or subjects she doesn't want to discuss.

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  5. I'm really sorry. I'm very lucky that my family generally gets along great. When challenges do arise, I'm the designated peacemaker, which can be very stressful. I think standing up for your kids is a very natural response. Maybe you two can go for coffee and have a chat in a less charged atmosphere to clear the air?

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    1. She actually called on Saturday, not that it really matters,as while apologetic, she didn't see that she had done anything I should be upset about. This is how she talks with everyone and everyone "loves her and her energy." No one has ever said anything remotely like this to her before(which I know while might be factual,is not quite accurate because I've witnessed people trying to get her to back off). She turned it into it being about me hating her (which I never said) and that every interaction with my family has apparently been fake (I never said that or even remotely implied that.) I apologized for how I handled it on Friday, and that I take ownership for letting things go over the years instead of pointing out at the time when I felt she was invading our families private space. So it is basically left that she will try and be more careful about reading how people are responding to her, and giving us more space. I left it with asking her not to put a wall between her and my husband and kids because I spoke up-not them.Time will tell.

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  6. I am so sorry. But I do understand. There have been many a times where I ground my teeth so bad I was concerned they would start popping out when dealing with family. The sad thing is I have found more peace and kind words from strangers in the blogging world than from kin.
    Make 2016 the year where you choose to put you first.

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    1. Yes-I already plan too. I think going forward, we stay out of any direct one to one conversation, at least until the rawness mellows. Actually, there is no reason for me to have to interact for months so that will help but I won't ever clench my mouth shut the next time she crosses a line.

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