Well, it’s another holiday season, and another Christmas and Hanukah for this blended family of religions and ethnicities, step-mom and boys, Felix and Oscar (characters from Neil Simon’s classic “The Odd Couple”), and so many other differences it makes this dad’s mind boggle. But, there will be no holiday blues in this family; maybe some black-and-blues, but no “blues.”
We’ve made peace with all these differences, truly, so that the holiday season by now is truly joyful though often a logistical challenge as it is for so many other families. This is the first year where we are unable, due to these logistics, to spend some of the holidays with my wife’s parents and her family. Those details are the same as for so many other families of “he wants, she wants, his turn, your turn,” etc. However, we will be going on a lovely vacation, the four adults, early next year so we’ll have plenty of time together then.
Even our own immediate family will be slightly apart as three of us love to ski while my older son abhors it. And, no, that was not a hyperbolic choice of word! In fact, it may have been an understatement after he broke his arm on the first run of two seasons ago, “showing off” for his ex-girlfriend. On the ride to the emergency room, he didn’t have to say a word, as we all knew the meaning of the look on his face–never again!
So, I will actually go skiing a few days alone, three of us will go a few days together, we will spend a few days around Christmas all together, and this will constitute our holiday plans. Oh, we’ll all light the Hanukah lights together at least one night together also. Yes, we’re a modern American family.
I am a lover of clichés–both the ones I create and the well established ones. So, let’s begin with a well-known one, “It was meant to be,” which is how I feel things have worked out for us this year and is the best way to view many things in life. I don’t believe that cliché applies when you get very sick or lose a loved one as that is just too “new age” for me since I have a hard time seeing the good when a parent loses a child or an adult develops a disabling illness. But, for me it does apply to the day-to-day hassles of life and may provide a learning and growth experience. For me, I choose to take that approach to those inevitable smaller life ups and downs.
“The only thing I control is what I eat for breakfast,” is one of my own clichés. I know how often I can’t influence things to be the way I want them, whether as a parent or a husband, and having control of anything really except maybe what I eat for breakfast is just my reality. So, when it comes to the holiday season that is certainly way beyond my control. The upshot is to “go with the flow” to use yet another cliché! What is the alternative? Get upset? Fight it? Make everyone around me upset? Yes, those are the alternatives and they don’t work, do they?
Another choice when faced with the fun of the holidays is to cry–or to laugh. There are so many jokes about relatives. Johnny Carson famously said of Thanksgiving, “People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” So, what’s your choice? Cry or laugh? I’d rather laugh.
Yet another cliché is “We choose our friends, not our relatives.” Therefore, the lesson from that cliché may be that we should value our good friends as much or more than our relatives. What do you think? I think a lousy relative, over time, is just that, a lousy relative. If that “lousy relative” happens to be a parent, I think all you owe a parent is a modicum of respect. You don’t have to like him or her, you don’t even have to love him or her, but as the Fifth Commandment says, “Honor Your Father and Mother.”
Without going into Bible study, it doesn’t say love them, it just says, “Honor” them. You can discuss this with the clergy of your choice, but I say it doesn’t obligate you to do anything more than treat your parents with a certain degree of respect. Good friends, on the other hand, may deserve more and, of course, good parents and relatives deserve the best you can give.
I was blessed with amazing parents and they did get the best I had to give and while I miss them terribly, I have no regrets whatsoever.
So, this holiday season, I will not have any holiday blues. My family will celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, and the New Year. We will be apart, together, with friends, and we will exchange gifts and reflect on the past year’s highs and lows. All with gratitude and love. I wish the same for all of you.