The two message boards I belong to both visit the same topic repeatedly: how parents expect their adult children & grandchildren to go “home” for Christmas.
With the result that the posters, the sandwich generation, end up traveling a few hours between houses, in-laws, stepfamilies, and so on. Or else they stay home and are treated to guilt trips.
(So between the car trip or the guilt trip, there’s travel involved.)
I thought about where this expectation arose that everyone must go to their parents’ houses for Christmas. I wish I could say it was Biblically based: Joseph had to travel to his ancestral home for the first Christmas, and therefore all of us need to get into our cars and sit in interminable traffic jams on I-95 for every Christmas since then.
Of course, that’s nonsense. What we have is a matter of expectations failing to change with changing times.
When I was growing up, it was understood that on Christmas, we’d visit with different family members. My Dad had Christmas Eve, and we’d visit my stepmom’s family. On Christmas Day, we were with my mom and my stepdad, and we’d see my mom’s mother and my stepdad’s family. At some point in there, probably on the 23rd or the 24th, we have visited with my father’s mother.
Do you know why this was possible? Because we all lived in New York City. Most of us, in fact, lived in Brooklyn. We were half an hour away from one another.
Why was my Aunt Rosie able to have sixty relatives in her house for New Year’s Eve? Because we lived so close to one another. When my grandmother was growing up, three of her family members lived around the block from one another.
Nowadays, I read on message boards about families getting guilt trips for not visiting their relatives in Wisconsin AND Michigan, and I wonder whether the parents and the in-laws have ever seen a map. Or travelled on Christmas day.
Changing times: our families have scattered. We simply can’t come home for Christmas the way we used to pop over to Grandma’s on Christmas for dessert.
Therefore, I would issue an impassioned plea to everyone doling out the guilt trips to their adult children: yes, you’d love to see the grandkids at Christmas. But for the love of Pete, look at a map. Realize your children have moved three hundred miles away. Accept that it cannot happen.
Easy to say, hard to do. I know. But for the sake of your grandchildren’s parents, please try. Just because the Wise Men travelled for two years following the Star of Christmas doesn’t make it a requirement for the rest of us.