Don’t Let the Holidays Get You Down This Year

Thanksgiving is upon us again. Maybe, like me, you have already left home and are among the people with whom you’re going to celebrate the holiday. Maybe, like me, you will be seeing people you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. Now, masked and vaccinated, you’re hoping it’s safe, at least from Covid-19.

You may already be facing the questions from friends and family that drive you crazy. “Hey, when are you going to have kids? “Don’t you want to have kids?” “I want to be a grandmother. Where are my grandkids?” “You’re looking a little chubby. Are you pregnant?”

You could spend the whole holiday sulking. But don’t. I hope we have learned something in our time of isolation. My prescription for this year is to be honest. Don’t just think it; say it. Don’t mutter to yourself or your partner. Tell people how you feel. “Mom, those questions really hurt.” “We are trying.” “No, we haven’t decided yet.” “My partner does not want to have children, and I have decided to support him in that.” “We’re having trouble getting pregnant.” “I just don’t want to talk about it.” “Please don’t say things like that; it hurts.” “It’s hard for me to be around your kids when I may never have any of my own.” Tell the truth. If people don’t take it well, that’s their problem. If they love you, they will do their best to understand and support you. Maybe next time someone says something hurtful, a family member will say, “Hey, get off her back. She’s working on it.”

There’s always the option to skip the turkey fest and go eat burritos somewhere nobody knows you. Or stay home and watch Netflix. But why miss the good parts of the holiday? I know there are things you are thankful for. If you get to hang out with other people’s kids, enjoy them. If you like pumpkin pie, enjoy the pie.

Don’t silently fume and go cry in the bathroom. Share your burden. it will be lighter if you do.

I dictated this post while driving south on I-5 in California. I know there will be less than perfect moments. My niece’s kids haven’t seen me in so long they won’t know who I am. But I’ll just have to get to know them because they are magical little people.

If you are grieving, think about a woman at my church who has suffered many losses, including the death of a daughter and the loss of her eyesight. She allows herself to cry for five minutes a day, then says, “Shirley, get on with it,” and moves on. Take your five minutes, then let it go for a while.

I am thankful for you. Last week when I was falling apart, you were on my side. Together, we can do this.

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Childless or Not, This Thanksgiving Will Be Different

Annie is not worried about Thanksgiving–as long as I share the turkey with her.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve got a turkey defrosting in the refrigerator, but otherwise nothing is normal about the holiday. I will not be with my family this year. “Aunt Sue” will not see the little ones, not get those wonderful hugs, or hang out sharing family stories. On the other hand, she won’t feel left out because she’s the only one there who doesn’t have kids.

I’ll be spending the day at home with a friend whose husband died a few months ago. She has grown children, but they’re in Connecticut and California, and two of them have COVID. As the number of COVID cases soars, my friend and I will stay in our own two-person bubble and celebrate the best we can. I have no doubt we will argue over everything from from how to make the gravy to which movie to watch after dinner. Just like family. But we won’t be alone, and for that, I’m thankful.

This year, everyone’s holidays will be different, or they should be. Just because your relatives are family doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying the virus. Stay home. Keep it small. The grown children of three of my friends have COVID. One is in the hospital, very serious. Another friend has an eight-month-old grandchild she has not yet been able to meet because she can’t travel to Colorado. It’s tough for all of us, but maybe those of us without children are lucky not to experience that extra pain of separation from our kids.

I didn’t plan to preach, but this is frightening. We have had a huge surge of COVID here in Oregon, including right here where I live. We are in lockdown again. I feel as if we are at war.

At the same time, we have a lot to be thankful for. That we have friends and family to worry about. That this won’t last forever. For our health if we have it. For food and shelter, if we have those. For a chance to discover new ways to connect and to help each other. For our Childless by Marriage community. You are not alone.

I am thankful that the new book, Love or Children, created from these blog posts and your comments, will be out before Christmas. Put it on your wish list.

I will be extremely grateful if that turkey in my fridge is truly defrosted by tomorrow morning. I haven’t had anyone to cook a turkey for in over a decade, so I’m out of practice. The new situation has made it possible for me to finally host a Thanksgiving dinner.

Look at the upside if you possibly can. There is one. How about if we all meet someplace warm and tropical next Thanksgiving? That would be something to look forward to.

You can read more about my Thanksgivings past and present at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

So, tell us about your Thanksgiving. How is it different this year? How is it the same? What are you thankful for?

Being the childless aunt is not so bad

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone. How did you fare?

I went to California to spend time with my dad. For Thanksgiving, I drove him to the mountains near Yosemite where my brother lives. Traveling with a 96-year-old man who can’t stand without a walker, who doesn’t see or hear well, and who tends toward the cranky side, is not easy.

And then there were the babies. But that was the good part for me. I’m well past the age when people ask when I’m going to procreate. In fact, they don’t ask much about me and my life at all. Well, Dad grills me about my finances, but that’s a whole other thing.

It was a small group. We’ve been shrinking in recent years due to death, illness, and certain people not wanting to be with certain other people. My nephew, divorced, delivered his daughter to her mother’s house and spent the afternoon caring for his ailing grandmother. I was sorry to miss the little girl; I keep hoping I can build a relationship with her, but it won’t happen if I only see her once a year.

Meanwhile, my niece’s kids, a 21-month-old former foster son she adopted and a six-month-old foster daughter she hopes to adopt, provided the entertainment.

I was enchanted by the little girl, one of the prettiest babies I have ever seen (no online pictures allowed for foster children). When I held her and she smiled at me with her little toothless mouth, when she gripped my finger with her tiny fingers, and when she sang just for the pleasure of making noise, I fell in love. I know for some of you, just seeing a baby breaks your heart, but I hope you will come to that place I have reached where you treasure the magic of holding a baby, even if it isn’t your own.

And then be glad you don’t have to deal with an almost two-year old running around grabbing at things, throwing turkey, rubbing mashed potatoes in his hair, torturing the dog, screaming, falling, and screaming again. In perpetual motion, he’s like a wild puppy you can’t throw outside when it gets to be too much. Nothing is safe, except when he’s sleeping. He can’t help it. Everything is new and exciting, but I admire my niece for her strength and love, especially as a single mother. I don’t know if I could do that. Certainly not at this age. Could I have done it when I was young? I expected to. It just didn’t happen.

These days, I’m happy being the aunt and great-aunt. I strive to be the aunt they adore and let the parents be the exhausted ones with baby goo on their clothes and in their hair. Really, I’m okay with it now. I don’t want to take a baby home.

What I do want is grown kids and grandkids. You know, what almost everybody else has. That’s what makes me sad. I had it for a while with my late husband’s children and grandchildren. But now that he’s gone, they’re gone.

A couple years ago when I was bemoaning my childless status, a family member told me it was my own damned fault, that I had my chance. No, I didn’t.

So, how did your Thanksgiving go? How do you plan to cope with Christmas? And what do I buy a baby and a toddler for Christmas presents? I don’t suppose I can send them a copy of my latest book. 🙂

Hugs to all of you. I look forward to your comments.

 

Here comes Thanksgiving again–and pie!

Thanksgiving is almost here again. Do you dread it? Me too, probably for different reasons. I’ll be in California, taking care of my dad and driving him three hours each way to my brother’s house, where I will be surrounded by in-laws I barely know and oodles and boodles of kids. I’ll be the odd widowed sister/aunt hanging with her father while the men watch football and the women gather in the kitchen.

I’m sure you have heard about the fires blazing in California. Horrible. Whichever route I take from Oregon, I’ll be driving through smoke and devastation. I feel a little guilty for everything I still have, and I feel that I have no right to whine about anything, so I won’t. Instead, I’m going to be grateful. I urge you to do the same.

I know how hard it is being surrounded by children and their parents who don’t understand why you aren’t parents, too, who don’t get that it’s a painful subject which may be far from resolved. You’re likely to hear clueless comments about how you’re rich because you don’t have kids or how you’d better get pregnant soon because you’re not getting any younger. You may be dealing with stepchildren who don’t seem to enjoy your company.

And don’t get me started on the TV commercials with all those happy families.

I urge you to read the comment that came in recently from the woman who worries about finding a man who will understand that she can’t give them children because pregnancy makes her horribly sick. You think you’ve got troubles?

No matter what our situation, we do have things to be thankful for, such as:

  • The people we love
  • Our homes and everything in them
  • Our health, if we have it
  • Food
  • Clean water
  • Heat
  • Our beloved pets
  • Our work
  • Our hobbies
  • Books, art, music
  • God, if you believe
  • Each other
  • A chance to start fresh every morning

We don’t have everything we want. Nobody does. But think about the people of Paradise, California. They have lost their homes and their whole town. At last count, 50 people had died, some of them incinerated in their cars while they were trying to get away. In Southern California, others are going through the same thing. They have a right to mourn this Thanksgiving.

We have an obligation to help however we can and to celebrate the lives we still have. If you’re surrounded by babies, grab the nearest one and marvel at the miracle of this tiny person with her tiny toes and her toothless smile. Maybe you’ll have one of your own, maybe not, but this baby is here right now, grabbing onto your finger, snuggling against your chest. Enjoy.

I know. Easier to say than to do. If you need to take a time out, do it. Run away to nature, take a walk around the neighborhood, or excuse yourself for an emergency shopping trip. Don’t we always need more wine? Then take a deep breath, count the hours till it’s over, go back in, and pet the nearest dog.

And if you happen to be alone, put on your favorite clothes, treat yourself to a good meal, watch a movie, and enjoy the peace and quiet.

I am always grateful for you who read this blog. I might miss you next week while I’m in the land of no wi-fi, gorging on pumpkin pie, but I’ll be reading your comments. Can you add to the gratitude list? How about pie? I’m extremely grateful for pie.

Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. We can do more than be grateful. We can help. Here’s some information on how to help the fire victims. 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a childless holiday orphan?

Holidays are tough. We often find ourselves surrounded by families full of parents and children and feel left out because we can’t share in the talk about kids and babies and pregnancies. We may come up against people who bug us about when we’re going to have children or why we don’t have them. They may even make wisecracks about us being the ones without children.

The only way around this is avoiding those people and either spending the holidays alone or spending them with people with whom you feel more comfortable. If you have to do the family thing, try as hard as you can to forget what you don’t have and enjoy the good parts of the festivities. You do have things to be thankful for, I promise. And hey, there’s pumpkin pie.

Another holiday challenge kicks in when your mate has children from a previous relationship. If they live with you, they will most likely be with the other parents for the holidays. If not, they may be with you, or their time may be split between parents so you only get a taste of parenthood. And sometimes, it’s harder being with the stepchildren than it is being without them. Hang in there.

In our situation, the older kids were on their own by the time we got married, but they mostly spent their holidays with their mother, and the grandchildren were hustled back and forth between Grandma and their dad’s family, so we didn’t see much of them. Michael, the youngest, lived with us from age 12 to 20. Before that, we got him on the holidays, but after he moved in, his mom claimed him. Most Christmases, we had limited kid time and felt pretty left out. Once we had all three and the grandchildren at our house. That was the best Christmas ever. Unfortunately, it only happened once.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are special days, but try not to dwell on what you don’t have or what doesn’t happen on those days. There are 363 other days in the year to do something special just for yourselves and invite whoever you want.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I’m on the road this week, but I hope to post again on “black” Friday. I am thankful for all of you.