Gnawing on Childless Thanksgiving Leftovers 

The night after Thanksgiving, my father and I watched “Entertainment Tonight” on TV for lack of anything better to watch. The show was obsessed with babies. They profiled five celebrity couples enjoying their little ones this Thanksgiving. Then they featured two “Dancing with the Stars” pros who are dads now. Then they talked about how Blake Shelton and girlfriend Gwen Stefani can’t wait to have children. Is there no other news to report?

I wish people would stop asking how my Thanksgiving was. They expect glowing tales of happy family gatherings. In truth, I feel almost as bad as the turkey. “Complicated,” I say. “Great food, problematic people. How was your Thanksgiving?”

There was the whole family feud business where only half the usual folks showed up. That had nothing to do with babies, but it hurt.

A family member told me she doesn’t want to exchange Christmas presents with me anymore because she has to focus on her grandchildren. She went on and on about the joys of grandmotherhood, implying that I couldn’t possibly understand and that I was an idiot for never having children. She’s wrong. I know what I’m missing, and it hurts.

I didn’t get to see my great-niece because her parents have gotten divorced and she was with her mom. The child was only a few months old when I saw her last Thanksgiving. Now she’s walking and talking and has no idea who I am.

Meanwhile, I was taking care of my dad round the clock. At 95, with numerous problems, he needs a lot of help and resents every bit of it. My mother didn’t nickname him “El Groucho” for nothing.

On the happier side, we all spent Thanksgiving focused on the antics of my niece’s nine-month-old foster child, whom she is in the process of adopting. She’s hoping by April he will be hers. At 30, my niece does not foresee marriage in her future. My father keeps asking why she became a mother this way, but I think the answer is clear: she wanted to have a child and wasn’t willing to take a chance on it never happening. She has a lot of support from her parents and brother, but it’s still a challenge being a single parent. I am so proud of her. I’m not sure I could be so brave.

Being a foster parent isn’t easy. It took a couple years to get to this point, going through an extensive approval process, waiting for a child, and taking in an older boy who proved too troubled and too violent for her to handle. And of course, the child can always be taken away. But now, fingers crossed, the little blond munchkin eating his first stuffing and pumpkin pie last week will soon be a permanent member of the family, and I will be his great-aunt, aka Super Tia.

So that’s how my Thanksgiving went. It’s a great relief to be back home. How about yours? Report in the comments, then tighten your seat belts. Christmas is coming.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Are you hurting during the holidays?


At least once every holiday season, I have a meltdown. I sit between the Christmas movies on TV and the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and cry. It seems like everywhere I go everybody is celebrating Christmas with their kids, whether it’s the school holiday pageant, my friends all heading out to be with their children and grandchildren, or those TV shows where everybody is gathered together, young and old, from babies to great-grandparents. Here, it’s just me and the dog. I will be spending Christmas afternoon with a childless friend at his senior citizen mobile home park potluck. That will be nice, but it’s not exactly a Hallmark holiday.
Last week I wrote about getting off our pity pots and joining up with our friends and family with kids to help them and to ease our own grief. I still think it’s a good idea. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re just hurting too much to do that sort of thing. We just want to hide under the covers until the holidays are over. Watching other people with their kids is the last thing we want to do.
“It’s just another day,” says my Scrooge-y father, who does no Christmas decorations or other festivities. He just writes a few checks for his kids and calls it Christmas. He never was big on holidays and since Mom died, forget about it. He has children and grandchildren, but he doesn’t do warm, fuzzy relationships.
It’s all about attitude. I plan to make the best of my holidays. I will enjoy the food and friends, the music and colored lights. I will enjoy giving and receiving presents. I will be working my church music job Christmas Eve and Christmas morning—my choice—to keep myself busy. I plan to have fun at that potluck. Will I shed a few tears? Probably.
Dad also likes to say, “It is what it is.”
I don’t want to alienate anyone by getting all religious, but think about what we are celebrating this time of year, whether you’re welcoming the birth of Jesus, celebrating Hanukkah, or enjoying the winter solstice. Whether or not you have children has very little to do with it. Try to see the blessings that you have, even if you’re looking at them through tears. To paraphrase the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Love the ones you’re with.”
And turn off the TV if it makes you cry.
How are you doing this week? Please share in the comments.

Duck! Mother’s Day is Coming Again

If we’re to believe the images we see in the TV commercials, Mother’s Day is a joy to all women. Their children shower them with gifts, Hallmark cards, and breakfast in bed, and the whole family gathers to honor the grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Picture little girls in frilly dresses hugging their moms and grand-moms. Picture big picnics, feasts at a big dining room table, or gatherings at a favorite restaurant. Picture flowers and cards, and the whole world wishing you a happy Mother’s Day because you, the mother, deserve it.

Yeah. Now picture what it’s really like for many of us. First, our mothers may be dead or terminally ill or we don’t get along. The holiday emphasizes the fact that we don’t have a mother to honor. Second, we don’t all have children. We go to church and feel left out when special prayers are said for the mothers. We go out to eat, and the waiter assumes we’re mothers, but we’re not. We go to a family gathering and feel left out because we’re the only ones without kids. We wait all day for some kind of acknowledgement from our stepchildren, and it doesn’t happen. Everywhere we look, people are talking about Mother’s Day, and it makes us feel like crap.

For those who are mothers, congratulations. Enjoy your day. For the rest of us, if we can focus on the moms in our lives, that’s a great thing to do. If you just can’t, run away until it’s over. It’s a good day to turn off the TV, stay away from Facebook, and avoid going to restaurants. How about a hike, a walk on the beach, or a movie instead?

I’ll be playing music for two Masses at church and then going to my monthly song circle. In between, I’ll probably have lunch with a friend who hates Mother’s Day as much as I do. Her mother, like mine, has died. She has adult children, but their relationship is rocky. So I’ll pretty much do what I usually do on Sundays, and I’ll enjoy it.

Over the years, Mother’s Day has gotten easier for me. It will for you, too, I promise. Try not to get yourself all upset about it. If you need a good cry, go ahead and cry. Then move on. It’s just one day.