There’s no place like home for the holidays

Let me be frank with you: I dread going home to spend the holidays with my parents, where I grew up. Very little will have changed there, and yet I have changed so much. The chasm between my present, experienced reality and my parent’s conceptions of my life is growing ever wider: a giant, insurmountable wall blocking almost all meaningful communication.

Going home, for me, is folding myself into a little box–as though I myself am to be one of the presents to be put under the tree. I will be asked lots of questions that I don’t want to answer, about my love life (non-existent still, thank you SOO much for asking) my politics (you can stop worrying, Mom and Dad, I’m already a stone’s throw left of your political comfort zone and how much worse can it really get from here?) and my beliefs (do you REALLY want to have a theology argument with me right now, Mom and Dad? You know that I have enough education and debate skills that I can ‘win’ this conversation regardless of the veracity of my opinions, right?). I’ll try to demonstrate who I am now, and that will inevitably lead to conflict with SOMEBODY as I step out of my expected family role. I’ll have lots of moments where I’ll feel like fifth-wheel to the double-date of my parents and my sister and brother-in-law, and I’ll have a few moments where that feeling is justified. Someone will have an emotional melt-down (cuz family is hard on all of us) and I’ll step in to smooth the waters and provide more support than I have free to give, simply because that is the deep pattern that I’ve established with my family and desire alone is not sufficient to break free of this deeply-tread path of action.

In short, I do NOT want to go home. Part of me would rather be anyplace else.

I know as a matter of fact that my experience is far from abnormal, unfortunately for all of us. As it turns out, being an adult and having parents is HARD. (I’ve also heard that being an adult and having lost or been estranged from your parents is also hard. This is a no-win scenario, guys.)

I feel really conflicted about all of this. After all, I was born into great privilege. My family is financially stable; well-educated; white; supported by the community. I was well taken care of, and was giving many opportunities for success. My parents provided for me all the way through college, and even now, they still help out with a few niceties. How is my level of frustration justified? Shouldn’t I feel grateful? Why am I so much more likely to dwell on the criticisms that I have of my parents as compared to their many parental successes?

I don’t have any answers, except to continually confess my self-centered perspective of family and intentionally remind myself of the good things my parents did model for me–including diligence, stability, Christianity, commitment to core values, fulfilling personal responsibility, besides the financial support.

If any of you are farther along on this journey than me, I would love to hear your insights.

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2 thoughts on “There’s no place like home for the holidays

  1. Oh girl… it’s hard to convince family that you’re not something or someone that they “think” they know!! I mean they’re your parents they know you better than anyone right? 😉

    I’m 33 and my dad still thinks I’m a selfish teenager (that’s when our relationship got rocky) No matter how hard I try to selflessly love him he is blinded to the woman… wife and mother I’ve become. Us children can change just like everyone else!

    It’s hard to be placed in the same position in one’s family then, add on top of that, the blurred line of respect for one’s parents mixed with our desire and need to be respected as adults by them.

    When I had my first child. .. 7 years ago… my mom and I started a long but healthy process of her becoming more of my friend than mother. I had a daughter now and when my mom would try to step in as her authority… her parent… my child’s parent… that gave me the picture that things had to change. I was an adult… a mother and my child was my child and my mom had to learn to step back… to trust me!

    I hope you find some joy this year with your family. .. you are growing… changing and they probably are not and that’s a weird place. There are probably areas where you’re more mature than them and that’s super weird!

    They want to hold on tightly to the little girl they raised (which I also get now that I’m a mom and have been able to be more merciful towards my parents… it’s hard and scary not being in control when it comes to one’s children) and you want to emerge as the woman that the loving foundation your parents gave you has helped to mold!!

    It’s all a process. .. a journey. It takes a lot of time… love… open communication… and understanding on everyone’s part!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I think I’m readier to change our relationship dynamics than they are, and that’s just hard. I also think some of it is that my parents have very traditional expectations, and since I’m not married, Dad still sees me as being part of his household. It looks like there aren’t any quick fixes anyway–I’m in this for the long haul, regardless.

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