Reflections on the Art of Christmas

It’s been nearly a week since we all sat around the tree unwrapping presents and enjoying the festivities. And this year it was just that bit different because the family was smaller than usual. It was my first Christmas without one of my sons. So I’m writing this post to share with you some of my process as I came to terms with how that would be.

I think I was making it a bit difficult for myself because IĀ  had expectations of how I thought it all should be. You know. Families all belong together at Christmas. It certainly never even entered my mind that one of my kids would want to go off and be somewhere else.

When he first told me, I took it with a pinch of salt and had this belief that he was going to change his mind. But as the day got closer, it became more and more obvious that he really meant it. He would be spending Christmas with his girlfriend. Oh my God. I immediately went into the victim role, feeling totally got at and abandoned because he was putting her before me.

The day came when he was ready to go off on his journeying and asked me to help him get his things together. We ended up stuffing things into a suitcase at 1 o’clock in the morning, freezing out in the hallway with arctic conditions in the house. I went to bed with a headache and got up really early to see him off. Not a joyful moment. The rest of the day I felt quite miserable and kept wondering what I had done wrong. I knew this would come at some point, just not as early as this.

But strangely it was my husband who came to the rescue. He caught me wallowing in self-pity and said quite simple: ‘You know, it’s only Christmas. Don’t get all hung up on it!’

I stopped in my tracks and gave it some proper thought. He was right. Although it was the Festival of Light, a time of connecting and a time of rekindling love in our lives, it was still only another day. Me having a good time would be a choice. Choosing to have a great Christmas, whether or not all my kids were with me, was all it would take. I could continue to love them all and feel loved whether or not they were there on that day. And the fact that one of my sons had chosen to spend a few days with his girlfriend didn’t mean that he loved me any less.

We all act true to our values no matter how we try otherwise. It’s a subconscious thing. We can’t stop ourselves. And just remembering that my son was doing the same as I was doing, helped to put it all into perspective. We are all in the right place at the right time no matter how it may seem on the surface.

And so Christmas day came and went. I had a lovely time. And the days passed quickly, my son returned and it was lovely to have him back.Ā  No more. No less. No big deal.

One more lesson learnt in the art of mastering the chicks leaving the nest.

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18 Responses to Reflections on the Art of Christmas

  1. Tricia Kirkwood says:

    Louise is correct. You have raised a confident, independent son who is not afraid to leave the nest. That is Great! The first time for the Mom is so hard. I have not always had my 2 girls with me at Christmas, so it is very difficult to accept.

    I moved 1200 miles away from my family in my 20’s, to the southern part of the US, and regret not being able to always see them on special days. We do things when we are young and if we could turn back the time, we might have taken a different path.

    I now understand how much it hurt my Mom, but I ended up being hurt even more. I am thankful for my family down in Texas, but it is hard to be away from my ‘first’ family.

    Being a Mom is a life-long journey, and does not get any easier. You are blessed to have a husband who can comfort you and is wise. You are a great Mom!

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks Tricia! And thanks for sharing your experience too. It’s a great insight to understand how it must have been for our parents. x

  2. Laine D says:

    A very powerful story for all of us Fiona, a particularly poignant one for me. (Your husband is a smart man :D)

    As a divorced Mum of 2 girls I faced having to “let go” of my girls every other holiday for years (from them being 3 y.o and 1 y.o) what was worse was with no other family I would end up alone for Christmas (or any other holiday),for a long time it would completely wipe me out. I would spend each holiday on the road driving to pick them up or drop them off and there wasn’t anything else…. pure and simple, I was just waiting for the time when they came back. I eventually got to a place where I opted to embrace the days they were with me no matter what the title on the calendar (after all the Christ was really born in July).

    Now the girls choose to be with me, but I know that soon or later they will have somewhere they prefer to be. Any day you have together you can celebrate… when they choose (or have) to do something else they are using the skills and power we have taught them not rejecting us!

    Togetherness is not a time or place but a feeling. Your willingness to be vulnerable and put your sons happiness above your own shows your strength and love.

    Laine D.
    Aspire to Inspire

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks Laine. Lovely to hear how things have been for you. Here’s to embracing the days we all have with each other no matter what the title on the calendar. x

  3. Fiona it is so interesting that you chose to be vulnerable and admit how hard it is when the chicks leave the nest. I agree with Louise, you have instilled real values in your son’s life. Rejoice. Glad you managed to turn around our gloom and enjoy the day with the rest of the family. I only have one, and she is constantly off with her friends. I always give thanks that she has friends and loves to socialize since I was a shy little mouse as a young girl.

    Jennifer Duchene
    Home Makeover Mixtress

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks Jen. It was your heart-felt sharing about Christmas, albeit from a different angle, that inspired this post. I know that, as a mum, I want my kids to be happy and stand on their own feet. The hard part is when they untangle themselves from us again. And since this is already happening, it really is reason to be happy for them.

  4. Ruth Conner says:

    Fiona, I have three daughters and one son, Tom, wife and 3 children. Son lives in CA and told you about that situation and we skype.
    the oldest girl Mary Ellen and her partner, Bill Nugent. Mary Ellen went to Bill’s Mom’s in Chicago…
    I know, I am older and I still feel that way. One of my dreams is just to have all the children someday around one table with all of the 6 grandchildren.
    Only two of my children had children.
    I know how you feel… It is tough…When the girls went to college to Los Angeles, Hampshire in AMherst and Boston U in Boston. Most holidays, we could not afford to be together.
    At 12 tommy stayed with his father and that was mind blowing for me… the world has changed.
    You got your first reality of the empty nest. so difficult. I wish you well…Read the Prophet about children… how they come thru us… that always helped me…
    I feel your pain…It is a total new adjustment in life to go thru… Stand tall and let them know how you feel but when they get older, they will be doing other things.
    Skiing and snowboarding are two sports that have come into play for my family… That is the first really good snow in Colorado and was shocked the first time Cathy said that she wanted to snowboard….
    We have had to adjust a lot… We all learn about life as we go along and are shocked sometimes with the children.
    They have been a major responsibility for me and I guess I did not know how that would all play out.
    So be happy and give them all the love you can when you can.
    Mothers are the backbone of our society and we just have to give sometimes.
    Christmas is not my favorite holiday anymore. I refused to decorate a tree ever since i had to give up my home in 1978… The girls did it but i would not participate. They and I all say, Mom get contakerous at Christmas cause she wants to have a home and a great big table for all of us to be there. 1978 was the last time that happened. We were all together when Ann graduated from Boston University and at Ann and Andy’s wedding and then at Tom and Shannon’s wedding and that is it.
    Just think how proud of how you feel about being a good Mother and enjoy it while you can. It is a lifetime investment.
    Love to all of you in your family and have a great and successful New Year. Ruthie

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Ruth, thanks so much for coming onto my blog and sharing your comments with me. Knowing that all mums go through this is sort of comforting, isn’t it? I’m already finding the benefits to the kids moving further afield, including my eldest going abroad soon. I can seize all of this as a huge opportunity for growth. x

  5. I hear this so often–about people absolutely wanting to be with family on Christmas. But when the definition of “family” or “loved ones” starts to change, then the pain sets in! I am so happy for you that you found a way to process this and help your son be in his new stage of life. A wonderful holiday lesson. (I love the little falling snowflakes on the screen…)

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Hi Judy, lovely comments. Yes, Christmas takes on a whole new definition. And it reminds me of being the change I want to see. A topic for a further blog. Thanks a lot. x

  6. Loved this. Agree with Lou. Hubby and I had our very first empty nest Christmas. Gifts were shared nearly a week early, one daughter via skype. Then when Christmas actually arrived there was no gifts, there was no fuss or muss and no family…we had to send text messages to the girls or they would have forgotten to do the same, busy with their boyfriends and their families…it was a tough year, but we got through it and in the end actually embraced it all and counted my blessings of what the season was for me. Then wrote a blog about it LOL

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks a lot. It was lovely to hear about your experience of this. I guess it’s just one of those transitions we go through in life. Would love to read your blog. x

  7. Donna McCord says:

    Oh Fiona, I would have felt just as you did! Having family around at Christmas has always been so important to me, and the last few years since my parents moved to another state along with two of my sisters, it has been much different. We only have one child, and so when she ever decides to have Christmas somewhere besides home it will be extremely difficult for me! But your husband is very wise and you are blessed that he was able to help you put things into perspective. Christmas is indeed a special time of the year, but it is all in how you choose to think about it. And knowing your child is where they want to be and happy is an important part of the love and joy of the Christmas season. I like, too, how Louise suggested you focus on what you have done right as a Mom and I truly believe that one day you will know without a doubt how much your son loves and appreciates you…I think back to myself and how it wasn’t really until I was married and a mom myself that I realized how wise and wonderful my parents are! I wish you a very happy and blessed 2011!

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      I appreciate this heart-felt comment Donna. Makes me feel all warm hearing these comments from those of you who are reading these words. Wishing you a happy and blessed year ahead too, Donna. x

  8. I am not a Mom but I am a daughter and being away from home is just as hard as not having everyone home altogether around the tree. But you are absolutely right, it’s the way you choose to celebrate, and I am glad you chose happiness!

    So did I! It’s my 3rd year in Texas and the past two times, I cried my eyes out at christmas eve. This year, I decided to enjoy myself with the people around me no matter what and I was surprised how nice and peaceful it was. And it helped my husband, too, because he doesn’t deserve an unhappy face šŸ™‚
    And it’s true, it makes everyone else around us feel worthless if we don’t enjoy those who are with us!
    Happy new year Fiona!

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your insights with me Franziska. Finding appreciation for things just as they are is the way to go. Making conscious choices can turn things around in a big way. Here’s to enjoying what we have.

      Happy new year to you too!

  9. Instead of asking yourself ‘what have I done wrong’ maybe you should also be saying ‘look what I’ve done right’ – you have raised a boy who is strong and independent and treats his girlfriend right – after all you say families should be together. Maybe she is his family now? Doesn’t mean he loves his birth family any less as you say!
    Louise Edington
    Facing Fears and Frontiers For Freedom

    • Fiona Stolze says:

      Thanks Louise. This is a big one. Things come full circle. Yes, his girlfriend is the most important woman in his life now. It’s a huge opportunity for growth all round. Yes, time for celebration of what I’ve done right. šŸ™‚

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