It’s Okay to Enjoy Other People’s Kids During the Holidays

Hanging out with cousin Francis and the offspring of my cousins Rob and Candace.

Dear friends,

I survived Thanksgiving. 1636 miles of driving. Four different motels. Some much-needed hugs and talks with loved ones, too much good food, and getting reacquainted with my niece, nephew, cousins, and six children ranging from five months to six years old, and two dogs. Exhausting but also wonderful. Three of the little ones were my brother’s grandchildren. The other three belong to my cousin. Thanks to Covid, the kids hadn’t seen me in two years. They weren’t quite sure who I was at first, but we worked that out. I have precious memories of playing in the sandbox, making pretend meals, snuggling, and talking. So sweet. So fun. So loud and messy. 🙂 And no, I didn’t feel bad about not having children. Maybe it’s my age, but I was able to just enjoy the children for the magical beings they are. 

Being an aunt rocks. I hope I don’t have to stay away so long next time. One of the little cousins has been video-chatting with me on Facebook messenger. It’s so fun to see her gap-toothed smile on the screen. I think I need to do more online visits. Aunt Sue is tired of driving. 

Will they come to Oregon to visit me? Maybe, maybe not. Young families are not as portable as single adults like me. Watching their struggles for a few days has opened my eyes to the challenges of parenthood that come between the cute baby phase and sending them off to college. I need to make the effort because they just don’t have the time or the energy right now. That may be true in your family, too. 

Only now that I’m back at home do I feel lonely and miss the company and the commotion. If you are finding the holidays very painful right now, believe me when I say that they will become easier as you pass menopause and move on to other possibilities. 

So, tell me. How did your Thanksgiving go? Are there things you did this year that you will not do next year? Did you try my suggestions from last week about speaking up when people say stupid things about you not having children? Please share in the comments. Thanksgiving was just the warmup. Hanukkah is happening now, and Christmas is coming at us like a runaway stagecoach. We need all the support we can get.

Hugs from Aunt Sue 

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Thanksgiving with the granddogs

Well, my childless friends, how did your Thanksgiving go? The holidays can really drive home our lack of children when we’re surrounded by other people’s kids. So many of the festivities seem to be designed for children and families with children.

However, looking at it from a more positive slant, we can sleep, eat, and party in peace without worrying about caring for little ones–unless of course your little ones are animals.

For the first time in ages, I didn’t go to California this Thanksgiving. Instead, I stayed here in South Beach, sang at an early morning Mass and went to a friend’s house for dinner. This friend has three children, the oldest 31, the youngest 18, but so far, she has no grandchildren, only granddogs. And the kids brought the dogs.

What a delight. I had met “Whiskey” and “Porter” before at the dog park, but didn’t know they were related to Terry. Whiskey, a brownish terrier, and Porter a big old black lab mix his “grandpa” calls “Moron,” came charging in, giving us all kisses, patrolling under the table, and resting their heads in our laps. Whiskey looks a lot like my Annie, only smaller, and Porter looks like Chico, a dog I used to have. It was so great to hug them and play with them and talk about dogs all afternoon. For once, I did not feel left out. We all had dogs.

The food was great and I enjoyed the people, but the highlight of my afternoon was Whiskey and Porter. Then I got to go home to my own dog child. Give me a dog and it’s a happy Thanksgiving.

How about you? Were you able to be happy for what you have without mourning what you lack? Or was it a tough holiday? We’re here to listen.

Build a robot baby for Christmas?

Let’s start off with an interesting news item. It seems this childless couple in the UK built themselves a robot they named AIMEC, and now they treat him (how do they know the gender?) as their son. He’s brilliant, funny, musical, and helpful around the house, they say. Maybe they’ll even make him a baby brother. Ladies, if your husband doesn’t want an actual child, maybe he’d go for this. Most guys like gadgets.

But seriously, Thanksgiving is this week. Right away, our holidays don’t look like the ones we see on TV because we don’t have children and grandchildren to gather around the table eating turkey and pumpkin pie. Unlike parents, our plans don’t revolve around our kids. That gives us some freedom to choose what we want to do, but it also may spark feelings of sadness and loss.

I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with my dad at my aunt’s house. My brother is coming, and I’ll see some cousins I haven’t seen for a while. But I’ll be the one flying solo, the one whose life bears no resemblance to everyone else’s.

What can we do? I suggest we all spend just a little while thinking about what we don’t have and a lot of time feeling grateful for what we do have. One of my friends at church, for example, is in a wheelchair. She can’t walk, she weighs over 300 pounds, her husband died recently, and she has no money and no way to earn any. Compared to her situation, I am blessed in so many ways.

Let’s count our blessings, folks. It could be worse.

Thanksgiving looms

We had a nice visit last week with Michael, the stepson who lives in Portland. It was brief, and he got off work too late to make it to my reading at the Krakow Koffeehouse. But we met afterward at a little place called Pix, a delightful combination of art, liquor and designer chocolates. Michael is the one who usually comes to the rescue when I need someone to care for his dad while I go off on writer jaunts, so I’m glad we had a chance to visit him in his world. It felt really good.

Now, however, Thanksgiving looms, and everyone I know seems to be leaving town to visit their kids or preparing a feast for their kids and grandkids coming here. We have no such plans. Yes, the stepdaughter said a couple months ago that she’d bring everyone here for the holidays, but I haven’t heard a word from her or her older brother since then. I’m assuming they’ll be with their mother and grandmother in the Bay Area. And yes, my brother invited us to his house near Yosemite. I really want to see him and my dad, but Fred’s health makes the trip too hard for both of us.

I’m thinking it will be just me and Fred and the dogs. Michael might join us; we won’t know till the last minute. We did get a free turkey yesterday because we bought more than $100 worth of groceries. But if nobody comes, I may make enchiladas instead. What do you think, chicken or beef?