Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christmas in March (and January, and . . .)

Right after the insanity of the Christmas season was over (as in, the very morning after Christmas), Jason and I made the tough decision that we are no longer going to make the big effort to see our extended families at the holidays.  In spite of all our attempts to pare the holiday down to its most important pieces, it was still all Too Much of some things (driving; large gatherings where there is almost no quality interaction with anyone; bringing food all over the west side of the state; wrangling overtired, overstimulated children; scrambling to see all sides of our extended families; tearful breakdowns on Christmas evening) and Not Enough of other things (quiet, meaningful, cozy time with our family of four; special time with our parents and siblings; time to attend church; time to build our own traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

We told our parents, who were understandably a little disappointed but who seemed to accept that this is the natural way of things:  after all, at some point, they, too, stopped gathering with their extended families at the holidays and instead focused in on immediate family - siblings, parents, children, nieces and nephews.  When a family gets too large to fit comfortably into someone's home for a few hours, it is bound to happen that sooner or later each segment will splinter off into being with just their little tribe, and while I'm sure the extended family gatherings will continue to occur, we're not going to sacrifice our sanity at the holidays to go.  

However, we genuinely love and miss many of those cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles, so what we are doing is being intentional about finding time during the rest of the year to get together with those people.  There is no reason at all that we have to try to see one another between December 15 and January 1 every year!  So, keeping in mind that we'll be (conspicuously) absent from the Christmas festivities, we're making plans to see some of those relatives during less-crazy times.  In January, we made the effort to drive and meet up with Jason's grandparents and an aunt and uncle to whom Jason's always been especially close.  We hung out at his grandparents' house for a while, "visiting" and watching the girls dance in the living room, then went out for dinner and were able to really talk and catch up before coming home to our own beds on a Friday night.

This weekend, we're heading to Ohio, where we're going to meet up with two of Jason's cousins, their spouses, and their kids for a Great Wolf Lodge extravaganza.  It's not a short trip and it's not exactly cheap, but we are so very much looking forward to spending three whole days together with great people who live far away.  I think it's going to be really fun; I think, too, that we're going to get in about a hundred times more quality conversation and memories than we would trying to navigate a two-hour holiday party while chasing our sugared-up kids.

We are packed (Jason's contribution:  beer, iPod), we are waterpark-ready, and we are especially hopeful that in our own little way we'll be strengthening the family bonds, Christmas tree or no.

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