Mr. Chili has been talking to his parents about changing the Christmas traditions. It’s going about as well as can be expected.
He started a week or so ago by suggesting that we modify our already beloved Christmas Eve traditions by expanding them to include our family gift-giving. The response to this was that they’d “think about it.”
Mr. Chili left it alone for a while then, yesterday, he screwed up his courage and headed to his parents’ house for lunch (they live in the same town in which he works; proximity is not a problem). Mother wasn’t home, but Dad was. Dad was in a good mood, my husband tells me, so the topic was brought up again, this time with the addition of the idea that we feel it’s important to have Christmas at our house and we’d be delighted if they’d join us here for the day. From Dad, anyway, that information was pretty well received.
Mr. Chili suspects his father of not mentioning this visit to his wife when she got home (can you blame him?) because Mother called at 9:30 last night to offer us a DVD before she returned it to Netflix. Mr. Chili, in a really admirable display of initiative, brought up with her the things he’d discussed with Dad earlier in the day. He told her, respectfully and gently and without any trace of hostility that I could discern (and believe me, I was listening for it) that we’re very much looking forward to Christmas Eve and that we’re going to enjoy Christmas Day at home. Among other reasons for this is that the girls have expressed a desire to be home (and, by ‘girls,’ he meant all of his girls) and we would love it if they could join us.
She ended the conversation abruptly and hung up on him. This was in my inbox this morning:
I am very unhappy that you want to take over Christmas after agreeing that you had it last year and that it was our turn this year! A quick gift exchange with me providing supper on Christmas eve seems like a most unfair substitute for our traditional festivities. I can understand that you would like to show off your new house to your friends. How about your doing what we did last year and having your favorite people to Boxing Day the day after Christmas? Please, can we talk about this?
She did end the email by asking for a conversation about this, but neither Mr. Chili nor I are entirely convinced that she genuinely wants to talk; she’s not really ever been the type to sit down to discuss things with compromise in mind. Still, the fact of the invitation was not lost on me.
I’m doing my best to stuff my anger about her assumption that this is about showing off the house to our friends. This is a deliberate stab, and really doesn’t bode well for future conversations. She’s not listening to what we’re saying, and she’s not considering that the original tradition in the Chili family has been that the family with the youngest children (that’s us) hosts Christmas. I’m breathing in and out and trying to remember to approach this with an intention of love and gentleness.
I’ve sent an email to Auntie L asking her to talk with Mother sooner rather than later about her side of the family’s plans for the holidays. This is going to be a difficult transition for Mother, and she deserves all the time we can give her to get used to the idea of change. My only hope at this point is that she comes to understand that this is not an attack on or an indictment of her. A lot has changed for a lot of people in our family, and the traditions that used to work no longer serve us anymore.