Let me start by saying that I adore my mother-in-law.
She is, after all, at least partially responsible for the existence of the greatest man I have ever known. No matter what beef I may have with her from time to time throughout the years, I will forever respect and love her for that very reason. That will never change.
However, this is the first year that I am hosting Christmas. At my house. For a whole week. All of my husband’s family will be traveling from out of state so once they arrive there will be nowhere else to go.
Cue the dramatic music…
Again, I feel as though I should drive home the point that I love my husband’s family. They are generous, loving, caring, sincere and I am incredibly grateful that the Lord put them in my life. We — as in the hubs, kiddos and myself — are beyond excited to have them here to celebrate. What I am having a hard time with is the little voice inside my head that is preparing me for the inevitable drama that accompanies family get-togethers.
No, I don’t know for sure that there will be theatrics, pointed stares, eye rolling, hurt feelings or awkwardness. But I do know that my husband grew up with Christmas traditions that are still in place today. Traditions that his mom has stuck to for over 30 years and have not been challenged in all that time.
There has been no need for her to adjust or change or rearrange her Christmas. Ever.
For nearly our entire married life, we have lived in a different state from both our families so if we made it home for Christmas, it was an emotionally charged, whirlwind trip. It was always us visiting them and of course, what she wants to do in her house, she can. If we didn’t travel back for the holidays, we celebrated with our own little family and obviously developed our own traditions. A quirky mix of fun that is a little bit from me, a little from my husband, and a lot from our three kids and our lives together. Ok fine. Some is from Pinterest too.
Here in lies the dilemma. Do I wait for the inevitable conversation about WHY we aren’t going to midnight mass? Should I just ignore comments about the fact that we aren’t having ham on Christmas Eve like she has always done? Am I supposed to rearrange the way we do our holiday because she is used to doing the stockings for the whole family and that that is just the way it has always been? Will I get protests and mutterings if we don’t wake up to caramel rolls Christmas morning but have scones instead?
Our schedule is different, the menu is different, and the activities are different. It is our house, but how am I supposed to do HER Christmas AND ours? How do I let her know that as the matriarch of the family, she has done a great job, but things change? How do I say that we like to wear matching pajamas for Christmas and that we don’t open up ‘just the one’ present on Christmas Eve? Will we argue (again) when I tell her that we don’t believe in Santa and there is no elf on our shelf?
I feel as though I have to defend our family celebration.
And yet, so far, she hasn’t said a word to me about it. There has been no mention of what she wants to happen or what I need to be doing.
We talk on the phone, discuss schedules, plan last minute shopping outings, marvel at the changes between our past and present Christmas cards, but really, that’s it. While I am panicking about how ridiculously early my kids will wake everyone up, my mother-in-law is excited to snuggle with my kids in bed-cold toes and all.
I am buying ingredients to make her favorite Christmas dessert, but she keeps telling me how excited she is to see how we decorated our tree. I downloaded her single most favorite Christmas album (the ONLY one she listens to every. single. year) and she calls to tell me that they adjusted their travel arrangements so they can arrive a few hours earlier than originally planned.
In short, she just can’t wait.
She can’t wait to hug my children. She can’t wait to see her son celebrate Christmas with his own sons. She can’t wait to be a part of something that she has missed out on for so many years.
And she can’t wait to see me. I know because she told me so. And I know that the hug she gives me when they get here will be just a little bit tighter than all the others.
There is no dilemma if I remember that above all else, she loves us. And that we love her too.
Come to think of it, caramel rolls on Christmas morning sound like a great idea.