18 December 2013

On Holiday Traditions and In-Laws

Let me start this post by saying that I have fantastic in-laws. After hearing about other friends' MIL horror stories, I sometimes think I won the in-law lottery.

However, I now live near them. And not near my family. This is actually a really good thing, most of the time. They live 2 hours away, and B stays with them on his drill weekends. I sometimes come with him and have help with Cora. One time he even took Cora down there without me, and I had a whole weekend off! (Well, not really, I had stuff to do! But it was nice.) We have similar values, and I fully trust them with the care of my daughter.

The one big problem with being enmeshed in your in-laws' lives and nowhere near your own family of origin is losing your own traditions to theirs. My husband is no help in this--he seems not to care about traditions. My in-laws like to do a dinner when all their 5 kids and partners are actually in the same town. In the past years, it has been on Christmas Eve, and then we all exchange gifts with one another. I caved last year (it took some prodding), and we went down there after B got off of work on Christmas Eve, then we drove back here the next morning after attending Christmas morning mass (we didn't go to mass with them because it was when we were driving). The whole lot of us drove back up to our city of Fort Wayne to go to his aunt's house for Christmas. And THEN that evening, Cora finally got to open her presents from Santa/my family/us. And after all that, we got Cora into her pajamas and drove BACK to Indy so we could spend a few more days with the siblings. (I wanted to leave the following morning, but there was a blizzard in the forecast for that time, so we needed to outrun it.)

Cora with her gifts last year
So that was last year, and while it was mostly fine, I must say that Christmas morning itself was kind of . . . anti-climactic. I brought one toy from Santa for Cora to open. I don't even think we had stockings. It was also rushed because we had to get to mass on time and then leave immediately from there to go to Fort Wayne.

I really want Cora to eventually have the whole bounding-down-the-stairs kid-on-Christmas-morning experience I remember from my youth. My sister reminded me that I needed to start putting my foot down now so I don't get steamrolled and "stuck." My mom told me a story about my uncle (dad's brother) who used to take his family back to NY every Thanksgiving, but as the kids got older they had too much going on to do it, and it caused a big stink. My mom has always been very supportive of doing "whatever we need to do." I think it helps that I am a 3rd generation of spouses who are not from the same state and don't live nearby (if that makes sense--my mom is from FL and Dad from NY, and I grew up in GA, and I won't bore you with where my maternal grandparents are from). The general rule in our family was to stay put on Christmas; my first Christmas Day away from GA was the one immediately after I got married.
Our tree last year. 3 feet tall.
My one request this year was to wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning. I'll make some cinnamon rolls (from a can probably), the stockings will be full of fun stuff for all three of us, Cora will get to open and play with her gifts, and we won't be driving 2 hours back to our own town on Christmas morning. We'll definitely still go to his aunt's house later in the day for the festivities over there. Soon enough, our little girl will probably be singing in the choir at Christmas Eve mass, so I think it's good to just start this now.

After hashing out some options, the in-laws and I reached a compromise, and we will have the dinner two nights before. There will still be a bit of back-and-forth, but with a bigger gap this time.

I know that when you get married, you need to start your own traditions. Four years into this thing, and we're still working on it. I think some of the problem is that we haven't been given the chance for it for Christmas Day until now. (Okay, that's not completely true. We had our own small Christmas in FL when I was 35 weeks pregnant.) I think that traditions are important for kids (and their parents!), and I'm glad we're working this out, but sometimes I feel like such a jerk!


  1. I agree completely. Before my husband and I had children, we lived overseas (Germany), and we were very flexible about going along with both of our families traditions. We would fly from Germany to Chicago, spend one week in Milwaukee with my family, and then fly to Louisiana to spend another week with his family. It was exhausting, but fun-and much, much easier when it was just the two of us. Since having children, however, my husband and I told our families flat out that we will never be traveling again to "see" anyone at Christmas. Not only do we want to whole waking up in our own beds, running down the stairs to see the presents under the tree, Christmas breakfast at our house deal, but it's just too stressful dealing with high-priced plane tickets, possibly weather delays, trying to schlep presents for families (and of course, FROM families and Santa) across the country, etc. I think our families were a little hurt at first, and of course we felt badly. But when my parents and in-laws live in different parts of the country, and my husband and I don't live anywhere near them (we're military, and we move all the time!) it's just too difficult to do the getting-together thing at Christmas. We've come up with our own traditions as well, and we're happy with that. :)

    1. Yes, before we had children, we also went to their towns. It was fun, it was a vacation! (We were also military then.) I kinda wish that we didn't live near either family so we could just put our foot down like we would have done. But here we are, post-military and near his side.

  2. Ugh.... I hear ya! I eventually want to get into a rotation of Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other (and exchange Christmas gifts at Thanksgiving with that side of the family)....and then the next year switch. But we haven't gotten to that point yet. Thus far we've usually ended up in KY a few days before Christmas with my in-laws and then Christmas Day with my family....except for the year my dad died (we were supposed to be in KY ON Christmas, but my in-laws graciously came to us so I could be with my mom) and this year everyone is coming here...and then there was the year in CA when we were totally alone. I like having family here....but for now it's sooooo much easier for family to come to us instead of the other way around. There's no perfect answer....Christmas is stressful. We'll see how it goes in the future!

  3. Definitely important to have your own family unit with your own traditions! Don't feel bad!

  4. I agree! Stay in your own home, and wake up in your own bed. You want those memories to be relaxing and fun, and not full of the stress of being in someone else's house.

  5. I agree about having your own family Christmas traditions. I"m so glad that you and your in-laws were able to come to a compromise - that's great! :) I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Christmas! :D