Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christmas in the Stepfamily

As I was ferreting around my attic for our trusty old Christmas decorations, diving into dusty boxes in order to unearth the baubles and tinsel that I had carefully packed away last January I wondered whether I really wanted to go through all the trouble of putting up our Christmas tree...yet again. That may seem a strange consideration to some of you, but when you've done it for as long as I have, you too might get a little weary of this annual process. This year, like every other, I find myself on my own as I struggle with the tree's unwieldy branches, the strings of light that never blink when I test them out, but miraculously begin to do just that (which I absolutely hate!!) as soon as I've strung them on the tree; the intricate gold chains that are hopelessly tangled and will take hours to pick apart..oh, blast!!!!

The boys are grown up now and I am extremely busy. And to top it all off, today I'm tired, cranky and as always, pressed for time. So, why bother? Good question!! Answer (after some consideration):

* I do it because some years ago my husband, in his wisdom, suggested that Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without it all. And considering the fact that many years ago I had to absolutely insist on instituting ANY traditions in our home (which he had no interest in at the time, whilst I knew that this would be important for our children (2 of whom were my stepchildren), I should pat myself on the back for 'a job well done'.

* I do it because the truth is that Christmas really wouldn't be Christmas without all our traditions. And so I continue on decorating our home, putting up our tree and baking the Austrian cookies that present me with such a challenge every year because they don't like Aussie Christmas temperatures and as a matter of fact neither do I, especially when in the kitchen.

Anyhow, to stop rambling, as I was digging around my attic for the familiar Christmas treasures I began to think about the different meaning Christmas might spell to different people and it occurred to me that many stepparents would relate to the following acronym:

C - CHAOS
H - HOSTILITY
R - RESENTMENT
I - IRRITATION
S - STRESS
T - TENSION
M -MISERY
A - ANNOYANCE
S - SADNESS

This was certainly true for my first few Christmases after becoming a stepmother. In fact, I cried buckets of tears for the first 6 or 7 years. And from my dealings with blended families I know that this is equally true for many others. But I ask you, does anyone like to feel this way???? I don't think so. Let me give you some ideas that can help you change the above meaning of Christmas to the following one:

C - CALM
H - HOPE
R - REACHING OUT
I - INSPIRATION
S - STILLNESS
T - TOLERANCE
M - MEMORIES
A - ACCEPTANCE
S - SERENITY

Okay, let's get started:

FROM CHAOS TO CALM:

**CHAOS**, as we all know, is a state of confusion, turmoil and disarray. Christmas may cause an internal as well as an external state of chaos if we are unprepared for the variety of challenges that we may have to face at this time of year and that can turn Christmas into a nightmare. Just to name a few such challenges: Perhaps our well-laid Christmas plans are rattled by a biological parent's last minute changes.. or by children who decide that they'd rather be with their other parent than with us...or by the ex calling every five minutes to see how the kids are doing.. or by the fact that 'daddy dearest' spends all OUR savings on presents for the kids that we cannot afford..or by the expectations that our stepchildren need to be in 5 places at once on Christmas day..or that we've tried so hard to please everyone and no-one seems to be happy.or that we are all worn out and totally exhausted by the strain and stress of it all.

**CALM** the opposite of chaos, can best be achieved by having a plan, a contingency plan and yet another contingency plan. Being thus prepared can be a sanity saver at Christmas. What a lovely feeling if we can just shrug our shoulders when the partner's ex throws unexpected changes at us, when we can grin at his or her puzzlement at our nonchalant response to whatever challenges come our way. A few handy hints to arrive at this state:

* Don't fall into the trap of having fixed ideas about the way Christmas SHOULD BE.
* Be flexible before, especially during and even after the big C Day.
* Make Christmas a special time for your step/children, even if that should mean it won't be what you would like it to be or may be used to.
* Any time you notice tension creeping into your shoulders, breathe deeply 2,3,4,5 times (just don't hyperventilate!!!)
* Hang loose!

Stay tuned for the next step...

2 comments:

Blended-Families.com said...

Oh I love your post. You have been successful in blending your family. It is a process and I pray that you will be filled with grace to continue holding on.

Happy holidays!

Sonja Ridden said...

Thanks for that and please stay tuned for the next steps.

Happy holidays to you! Sonja