December 23, 2014 by Judith Liebaert
Once you’ve feathered your empty nest, the reality of spending your December Holidays with you, yourself and maybe your significant other (if you have one) can be a real slap in the face. How many years did you exhaust yourself conjuring up holiday festivities, traditions and gobs of gifts for your children, only to have them tell you now that the family dynamics and dysfunction are just too much?
Take a deep breath, love them for who they are (ungrateful little twits), and take a few pages from their Book of Me to help you plan the perfect Christmas without them.
The hubs and I are seasoned empty nesters. After seven years, we can say, “So far, so good.” We enjoy our quieter, cozy home for two. We appreciate not worrying about the comings and goings of teenage or adult children. We even like each other’s company. There’s just one tiny, annoying fly in the figgy pudding around this time of year — Christmas with just the two of us.
Spend just a few minutes listening to any group of young adults as the winter festivities draw near and you’ll get your fill of bah-humbugging. The only list longer than the gifts they’d like Santa to put under their tree is the one enumerating all their complaints about expectations, obligations, family dysfunctions and the stress of it all (cue melodramatic music).
I did a quick search of the internet, hoping to find other empty nesters sharing their thoughts on creating new holiday traditions after the birdies have flown the coop. There were a few, a snowflake or two lost in the blizzard of posts, tweets and blogs written by the under 40-somethings who pine for solitary holidays — dreaming of their food, their tree, their decorations — all of it their way and preferably by themselves.
OK, I get it. Over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house isn’t as much fun once you become the parents in the middle. Coordinating schedules to accommodate split families, blended families and geographical distance is a practice in the logistics of monkey business. Even when we are willing to take any day in close proximity to the 25th of December, it still means our kids are dragging their kids to and from four or more Christmases in as many days. Talk about too much of good thing spoiling the sentiment.
The idea of happy Christmases with all the kids and grandchildren gathered round the tree, all on the same day at the same time, are as old fashioned as black and white television to these Blue Ray, HD connoisseurs. They’ll laugh until their stomachs hurt watching Home Alone, The Christmas Story and Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, but the thought of actually participating in the multi-generational, extended family Christmases that we cut our teeth on, leaves them trembling in their pricey Ugh boots.
Even though there is a perverse side of me that would like to rent a hall, invite all the grands, all the exes, and all the steps to one big family free-for-all (with a well-stocked bar), I realize there is as much chance of that happening as there is of hosting a snowball fight in Hawaii.
Like I said, I get all that, but it still leaves hubby and I with a Christmas day all too quiet and more than a little bit lonely compared to the attendance not optional Christmases our parents and grandparents commanded.
So be it. If the second half of life is all about embracing change and finally doing things our way, then we can take no better cue than from the generations behind us. Let family gatherings and activities swirl around us before and after; our Christmas Day will be perfect just for two.
Sleeping in and then lingering over morning coffee, instead of getting up at the crack of dawn, sounds like a fine start to me. There’ll be time to relax and enjoy each other’s company with no distractions, no siblings sniping at each other, no grandchildren whining, and no explosion of wrapping paper when presents are opened in two minutes, flat. I’m thinking a dinner that includes a bottle of wine and a couple of medium-rare filets beats the heck out of crowd pleasing ham and scalloped potatoes in the crock pot.
Maybe we’ll take a ride to see the Christmas lights and then return home to watch all of our favorite movies. We’ll eat only the best cookies on the plate and not worry about setting a bad example for the grandchildren. Without our kids to roll their eyes and mock us, we might even sing a Christmas Carol or two — because it’s all about us and that’s what we like to do.
Get a ^ life!