Christmas in July (Part 2)

Our daughter was born in February this year.

Our home burned completely to the ground one month later. Right away we bought a camper trailer. We’ve been isolating from nearly everyone since May. We have one friend on our quarantine team with whom we don’t live.

My husband’s parents have another son and other grand children. Those grand kids are young adults and work in places that interact with a ton of people everyday. My in laws are choosing to take the risk to continue visiting with them without covid safe practices. It breaks our hearts, but we choose to keep them off our quarantine team because we refuse to risk our newborn daughter.

My mom worked with the public and then got furloughed. She lives alone. She told us she was not seeing anyone or visiting anywhere except the grocery store, so we decided, after waiting for 2 weeks, she could be on our quarantine team.

It was a relief to be able to sit on real furniture, use the washer and dryer for our laundry, and shower in a full size shower. We went for a few visits.

For some reason, someone thought it was good to move the drawing for Christmas gifts to July. Since covid is raging, the aunts decided to get us together on a virtual meeting. Also, because of covid, my family hasn’t met my daughter. There was a request from one aunt that I share my daughter over the video meeting. My mom asked me if I wanted to go over so we could video in together from her laptop.

I was sort of broadsided by the whole thing. I talked to my husband about it, really only discussing the mechanics of getting us all to my mom’s for the meeting. He quietly said, “That’s cool, I’m not going to go. I don’t want to be in the draw.” The previous Christmas came flooding back to me and I was angry with my grandma all over again.

I really checked in with my anger and concluded I don’t want to participate either. I don’t want to support an event that I find to be mean and exclusionary. I realized that my grandma being in her 80s is no excuse for her to behave with such prejudice. It’s my time to be an example for my daughter, and our family moving forward, that we stick firm to our morals. I refuse to go along simply because I’m supposed to “respect my elders.” My husband and I both agree, respect is something earned through action.

When I started dating my husband, his family embraced me as family right away. I felt acceptance, welcome and love immediately. They are a beautiful example of family, both his maternal and paternal sides. I’m so grateful I married into their warmth. I am disappointed that my family doesn’t behave the same way.

I let my mom know by text message that we are not participating in the Christmas draw this year because of its exclusionary rules. I let her know I was telling her so she could decide how she best wanted to break the news to grandma. I figured my grandma’s feelings would be hurt, which I accepted as reasonable since our feelings had been hurt.

My mom’s feelings seem to be hurt too. We were supposed to take my daughter to visit and for us all to get some relief from our camper trailer. She told me not to go that day. I let her know we understood.

What I didn’t expect was the picture message I received from my aunt with the list of Christmas draw results that includes picks for me, my husband, and my daughter, the next day.

I felt really betrayed by my mom. I felt she put me in a position where my whole family was now either going to participate in a lie or we were going to point out she was lying. What were we supposed to say when three people who got “gifts from us” said thank you? Lie or say, “Oh no, my mom got them for you”? What were we supposed to say when three people asked us what we wanted for Christmas? “Nothing, get something for my mom.” All of those options still don’t reflect a true none participation. I didn’t want to have anything to do with that part of Christmas.

I texted my mom that I was disappointed that she didn’t honor my request for us to not be in the draw. She responded that she was choosing to represent her family by including our names and that she was going to do it all, we wouldn’t need to worry about doing anything. I expressed the awkwardness or potential decite she created for us all by choosing that action.

She decided to clear it up by texting in the group message that it was her fault for misrepresenting our wishes, that she would still be getting gifts for everyone that “her family” drew, and that the ones who drew our names should not get us gifts. This felt overly dramatic to me. It felt punitive. I felt she was trying to paint me out to be a bad guy.

I responded to the group text with: Thank you for clearing it up, a simple solution would be for those who drew our names to simply get gifts for the names we “drew,” and if anyone had questions about why we weren’t participating, I’d be happy to answer.

My mom quickly responded, “No solution needed.” One of my older cousins responded, “No need to explain, we’ll work it out.”

I felt quickly pushed aside. They don’t care to know. It doesn’t matter to them. We are supposed to be family. Shouldn’t this matter to them?

This feels typical of my experience of this part of my family my whole life; they care more about appearance than morals. I’ve always felt outside because I want to dig into the real reasons of why we do these things and none of them seem to want to look. Why is this gift giving so important? Why is it exclusionary? Why is my mom feeling victimized by our choice to not participate? Why were we disrespected? If they don’t understand we feel disrespected, why don’t they understand?

Is this how a family is supposed to work? I don’t think so and it’s not the way my husband’s family works.

I really want to embrace my husband’s family style and also the morals we are setting in our own family. We are going to do Christmas on our terms. That does include giving gifts to my side of the family, but it’s everything to do with our actual relationships and not grandma’s particular rules.

My mom hasn’t reached out to me since her response to the group text. It’s been days. I feel abandoned by my mom. This is a familiar feeling. I’m seeking to voice this out so I can release it. I don’t want my resentment to impact my relationships with my daughter and husband.