Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas without kids: fantasy vs. reality



I was blow-drying my hair this morning when my mind conjured up a fantasy: My doorbell rings. I open the door to my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren saying, “Hi, Mom” and “Merry Christmas, Grandma.” Their arms are full of gifts and contributions to the dinner I will be serving at my dining room table on the good china. I can smell the turkey baking, the meat and butter mingling with sage and rosemary. The Christmas tree lights glow red, green, yellow and blue, and Bing Crosby sings “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the stereo. Soon my son will arrive with his kids.

Nice, huh? Oh well. I had a taste of this when my husband was alive, and we still lived close to his kids. Of course, we had to share the kids and grandkids with Fred’s ex-wife, but it was something. Now it’s just me and my dog Annie. Nobody is coming.

Am I trying to make you all feel bad? No. I’m saying we all have fantasies, fed by what we see other people doing as well as what we see on TV. And yes, it's hard to be alone. It hurts to see everybody else with their children and know we might never have any of our own. It takes a major act of will to set those aside and enjoy the holidays that we have, however we celebrate them. But we can do it.

I got a major wake-up call this last week after several days of moping. I wrote about it at my Unleashed in Oregon blog, which begins:

“I was going to write a whiny post about not having any Christmas presents. It would start, “The only gifts for me under my Christmas tree are the ones I bought and wrapped for myself.” I would explain that the main gift-givers in my family have all died, my remaining family lives far away, I have no kids, the younger folks in my family don’t seem moved to send presents to good old Aunt Sue, my friends are all traveling this Christmas, etc. Woe is me. While that’s all true, I have realized I’m an idiot.” [click here to read the rest]

The idea is that I don’t have the traditional Christmas, but I do have a LOT to be thankful for, so I need to quit whining and enjoy what I have.

A Facebook friend suggested something we can do for the new year. Find a big jar. Decorate it if you want to. Every day write on a slip of paper something good that happened that day and put it in the jar. When you’re feeling bad, you can go back to that jar and remember the things that made you happy. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shaking, maybe just something that you made you smile, a hug, a cookie, a joke, a special moment, a new pair of shoes, the moon, a walk on the beach, a cuddle with the dog . . . I’m going to do it. Will you join me?

This Christmas, I wish you all a holiday full of peace, love, and acceptance. I love you all for sticking with me here at Childless by Marriage and look forward to visiting with you in 2015 (next week!).

How are you doing this holiday? Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Are you hurting during the holidays?



At least once every holiday season, I have a meltdown. I sit between the Christmas movies on TV and the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and cry. It seems like everywhere I go everybody is celebrating Christmas with their kids, whether it’s the school holiday pageant, my friends all heading out to be with their children and grandchildren, or those TV shows where everybody is gathered together, young and old, from babies to great-grandparents. Here, it’s just me and the dog. I will be spending Christmas afternoon with a childless friend at his senior citizen mobile home park potluck. That will be nice, but it’s not exactly a Hallmark holiday.

Last week I wrote about getting off our pity pots and joining up with our friends and family with kids to help them and to ease our own grief. I still think it’s a good idea. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re just hurting too much to do that sort of thing. We just want to hide under the covers until the holidays are over. Watching other people with their kids is the last thing we want to do.

“It’s just another day,” says my Scrooge-y father, who does no Christmas decorations or other festivities. He just writes a few checks for his kids and calls it Christmas. He never was big on holidays and since Mom died, forget about it. He has children and grandchildren, but he doesn’t do warm, fuzzy relationships.

It’s all about attitude. I plan to make the best of my holidays. I will enjoy the food and friends, the music and colored lights. I will enjoy giving and receiving presents. I will be working my church music job Christmas Eve and Christmas morning—my choice—to keep myself busy. I plan to have fun at that potluck. Will I shed a few tears? Probably.

Dad also likes to say, “It is what it is.”

I don’t want to alienate anyone by getting all religious, but think about what we are celebrating this time of year, whether you’re welcoming the birth of Jesus, celebrating Hanukkah, or enjoying the winter solstice. Whether or not you have children has very little to do with it. Try to see the blessings that you have, even if you’re looking at them through tears. To paraphrase the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Love the ones you’re with.”

And turn off the TV if it makes you cry.

How are you doing this week? Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ease your grief by helping parents at Christmas



It’s the Christmas season. Our friends and relatives with children are going nuts with everything they have to do: buying presents, decorating, baking, attending Christmas concerts, getting their little ones ready for holiday gatherings and maybe arranging visitations with ex-wives and ex-husbands. Soon the kids will be home from school all day on Christmas vacation/winter break/whatever-the-politically correct term is. They’ll need full-time care along with entertainment when they get bored. Moms and Dads may be wishing they could clone themselves or at least grow a couple extra hands.

That’s where we come in. I know some of us want to run away from everything child-related because it reminds us of what we don’t have. Been there, done that. But maybe we should stick around and offer to help.

Instead of whining and resenting, pitch in. It will help you to feel included instead of left out. It will give you a chance to connect with children, if not as a mom or dad as least as a favorite aunt or uncle. Offer to spend time with the kids, to babysit, to help with presents or cards or baking. Take them shopping for gifts for their parents or help them to make them. Read them a Christmas story or watch a movie together. They may not be your own biological children, but there is nothing to stop you from loving them--with their parents' permission, of course.

I still remember when my childless step-grandmother sat at the piano with me and taught me her favorite Christmas carols. I have no idea where my parents were at that time. I just remember how fun it was and how special to have that time together. Decades later, I had a similar experience with my own step-granddaughters. It was my favorite Christmas. Kids love the grownups who love them and pay attention to them. You can be one of those grownups, and it will help ease your pain.

If you don’t have any friends or family with children nearby, volunteer for a children’s charity or buy gifts for needy kids.

I know it’s hard. You may be worried sick about how or if you’re ever going to be a mom or dad, but right now, this holiday season, you don’t have kids, so love someone else’s. It’s the next best thing and their parents will be grateful.

Take a deep breath. Make a phone call or send a text. Make a connection. 

Do you have suggestions for surviving the holiday season? Please share them in the comments.

Peace, my friends.