21 December 2009

Back Home, in Two Ways; Christmas

We spent almost two weeks with my mom and stepdad, but the last two nights, we've been back at our house.

Slowly but surely, the damage from the burst pipe is getting taken care of and sorted out. What happened with the pipe was a fluke, not related to the cold weather as I had initially assumed. It was just one of those things that happened, a failed clamp on the sink in the attic bathroom. The fans have been running for close to two weeks now, and the upstairs and basement are dry. My room is getting there. The baseboards have been ripped off, holes have been drilled into the walls, and the industrial fans churn away, day and night.

Still remaining to be done are the replacement of some wiring, refinishing of the floors, replacement of the upstairs bathroom flooring, and painting in my room. It seems that no contractors are available to do the work this week, it being Christmas week and all, so we're in a lull right now. We'll have to move back out when that work is done, but it's nice to be home for the moment.

We had fun staying with my parents. It was nice for me to have help in the evening and company after the kids went to bed. But going back and forth between two houses was wearing, and the commute from my parents' to preschool to work and back was exhausting.

It's always strange to be back home, to be an adult in your parents' house. My family manages that tug-of-war pretty well, but it gets complicated because I have a stepbrother who has three kids, one a new baby, and a wife who has a challenging personality. They live locally and they have their issues, and they don't have much of a support network outside my mom and stepdad. It's a struggle for me—for all of us, I think—not to get caught in a tit-for-tat tally of how much has been done for me and the twins v. how much has been done for my stepbrother's family, how much I have suffered v. how much they have suffered, who is more deserving, who is more demanding, who is more needy.

I try to be respectful of my mom and stepdad's time. I want to spend as much—more!—time with them socially than I do in some kind of babysitting/service capacity. I want us to just enjoy time together, although I know they are happy to help me when I need help and that being able to recieve that help is one of the reasons that I wanted to be closer to family. But it's hard to keep everyone's feelings in line. Maybe I worry about it too much, but a couple of weeks of walking that line was enough, and for that reason perhaps more than any other, I needed to get back to my own space.

This week, the kids are on vacation from preschool and the nanny will come to our house every day. Heaven. Maddie and Riley don't have to get dressed in the morning, they can eat breakfast when they want, the lunch has to be planned but not packed. Those things make for a small, but significant break for me.

We'll spend a couple of nights with my parents to celebrate Christmas. John was vehemently opposed to idea of Santa, as well as to the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. I'm not sure how he planned to handle it with the kids, but I know he didn't believe in propogating the idea of any of the Triumverate.

I am 100% Santa-neutral, so I would have been willing and happy to let John take the lead on that. Christmas is not a religious holiday for me, and the overcommercial side really bothers me, so I struggle with how to celebrate in a way that is fun for the kids, minimal on the gifting, and not too heavy on the Jesus. I like celebrating being together, for sure, but it's hard not to get pulled into the fray.

It's especaially hard this year because the kids get it. They must have heard about Santa at school because I have neither talked about him nor not talked about him; when we've seen Santa images around, I've said that it's Santa when asked, but I haven't explained who he is or what he does. But yet, somehow, Maddie is especially aware. She has a keen interest in writing him letters and in paying him a visit (although she was not aware that most often, kids pay him a visit to ask him for a specific gift). Riley is not into it. Neither of them know about the reindeer. Maddie insists that he is "a real man," and that any Santas she sees are people dressed like the real guy, not the real guy himself. It's interesting to me to watch her develop her own concept, and I find myself loathe to dispel it, preferring to let her create what is meaningful to her. If that means signing Santa's name to a gift tag, I find that I'm OK with that. I'm pretty sure he's bringing her a scooter, if I ever find time to get to the store, that is.


Keen said...

Keeping everyone's feelings in line is complicated, and exhausting. Glad you're back home, at least for now! I don't think I'd realized just how extensive the damage to your house was.

Glad to hear you are all doing well. Hope you have a great Christmas with your family!


Alayna said...

Glad to hear that you all are home, even if repairs still need to be made! And, on the Santa thing, he seems to have worked his way into our home as well. It's amazing how much they can pick up just from being out and about in the world. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Kathleen999 said...

I haven't stressed the Santa thing either, but Santa did fill their stockings last year. This year someone gave us some money and asked us to buy them presents from Santa. So we did. My husband is anti-Santa and tooth fairy and Easter Bunny as well...he wasn't raised with them. But I was and I remember how magical it felt on Christmas morning.

We are in an unusual situation as we celebrate Hanukkah, closely followed by the boys' birthday, and then right on to Christmas. Sometimes these holidays overlap, this year we had one day between H and bday, and 5 days between bday and Xmas. All I could think after the birthday party on Sunday was 2 down, 1 to go. Takes some of the fun out of everything to have so much of it.

Nicky unfortunately is now scared that Santa will put him on the naughty list and he desperately wants to be on the nice list. It doesn't improve his behavior in any way, just has increased his daily anxiety. I am not taking them for pictures with Santa. I would rather take them for pictures with Elmo, frankly. We are not writing letters asking for toys. Trying to keep the Santa thing low key so it doesn't stress my husband out as well. I guess in our house Santa just brings some stuff through...well, maybe he comes in through the fire escape?

Mommy, Esq. said...

I read somewhere that one thing to consider about telling your kids about Santa is to think of the fact they'll tell OTHER kids the truth. It may be worthwhile to go along (but no overboard) about Santa for a few years so Maddie and Riley don't become social pariahs at school. Or, ask your Jewish friends what they tell their kids about Santa. It's wonderful you have family you can rely on and a landlord in charge of fixing the house mess. Happy Holidays, Kristin

Ellen said...

I just finished Parenting Beyond Belief and they tackle the Santa, Easter Bunny myths quite well. We went the route of having Santa around, but every time our oldest probes facets of his existence, we don't provide answers. Instead we ask her what she thinks. She's developing critical thinking skills, and we're not filling her with lies.

Glad to hear you are home as well. There are many, many times that I wish we were closer than family--with all of our faults.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Santa's bringing a scooter to Vivi too. I have exactly the same feelings about Christmas as you do, although I do enjoy seeing the wonder Vivi gets out of Santa Claus (and I've been known to propagate the myth to encourage positive behavior.)

Hope the house is fully back in order soon!

Ellen said...

I mean closer to our family, not closer than family...

Jill said...

Although we do the Santa thing, it isn't overdone. And our kids get presents because they are loved, not because of any naughty/nice list. So I think you can be low key about it, and still have it part of the celebration- if you wish.

Sandi said...

I am 100% pro-Santa, although Christmas has no religion significance for me. I tell my kids that no child is ever naughty enough that Santa will withold gifts. I hate that crap.

Anonymous said...

We are a religious family, but I use the story of "baby jesus" to talk about helping others, even playing Santa ourselves to someone who might need a bit of joy or someone/family that is very needy.Our elderly neighbor with a love of chocolate gets a surprise gift, etc.
We use an Advent calendar to open a small box each day with a little token so each day is celebrated in the season versus one big blow out day. We do Santa as well, but he only brings one "big" thing, like a scooter, and a few small stocking stuffers ( no junk!)or books. My daughter also considers all santas "fake" or Helpers for the REAL santa.She's seen the same one for the past four years and I have to admit he looks so majical I get a little under the spell.
Otherwise we go to all the free outdoor concerts, drive down well decorated streets, and teach her to be thankful for what she does have.
amanda in Atlanta

Steph said...

I completely understand your pipe bursting episode, and the ensuing horror of fans and holes in baseboards.
We had that happen last January. Good times.

I'm anti-Santa, but then I don't have kids yet...I'm sure you'll figure out a balance and I wish you happy holidays!

winecat said...

I really like your choice with Maddie, she's old enough to decide what Santa means to her this year. Hopefully as the years process you'll be able to creative rituals that are meaningful to all 3 of you.

I too hate the consumerism of Christmas - Costco had Christmas merchandise is SEPTEMBER!

My favorite part of the holiday is giving. It doesn't have to be big it just needs to be appropriate to the person receiving. My gift is the joy of watching the face of the person that I spent time finding just for them. Buying gifts just because is a waste of money and totally opposite of what my idea of Christmas is.

Cloud said...

Amazon will deliver a scooter to your door.

I know, because that is what we got for my oldest this year.

So maybe the Santa works at Amazon?

christina(apronstrings) said...

Goodness-that does sound exhausting! I hate sibling weirdness-and my SIL has the least trying personality possible-so I can't imagine.
As a family my uber religious family didn't do the Santa thing-which I missed.
We do Santa with our one year old-who doesn't get it-but last year we called my nephew (who was 3) that Santa had just passed our house. It was the sweetest-cutest thing ever.
But I doubt either of our lives our different b/c of how our parents dealt with the Santa question.
Happy Holidays.

OTRgirl said...

Sounds like you're managing quite a number of balancing acts. I'm glad you get your own space for a little while, and glad that this week feels like a break for you.

My parents definitely emphasized Jesus more than Santa. They had books, stories and conversations with us about various holiday traditions. We grew up aware of the history of St. Nicholas and how that transformed into Santa Claus. Awareness without belief seemed to work for us. Hope you can find a balance that works for the twins.

Anonymous said...

Similar to OTRgirl, I teach my girls about the history of St. Nicholas. He was actually a pretty decent guy (though I skipped the part about the belief that he brought a few children back from the dead - I didn't want to bring any confusion about 'santa' bringing Daddy back to life . . .)

It is tough to find that balance - especially when you have grandparents who seem to get more excited about it then the kids do. I have to try to keep a reign on them blasting the girls with it, and not feeling like a 'scrooge-mommy' for not doing so. Especially my in-laws, as I don't have my husband to back me up on their side now. I would have nothing to do with Santa if I could get away with it - but society makes it pretty tough.

I love letting the kids come up with their own ideas - last year when my oldest was 3, she thought that Santa came in the front door and had dinner with us.

This is our first Christmas without 'Daddy', so it's a tough one for me, but I'm still trying to bring joy for the girls. Not an easy thing. All the best to you, Maddie & Riely


Anonymous said...

I didn't plan on perpetuating the myths, either, but having children changed that. Maybe the kids would have changed John, too. I don't think going with Santa et al is necessarily going against him.

Just my two cents.


Roads said...

I agree with you on this one. Santa is just about the only lie we purposefully and systematically tell to all our kids. But we all do it, and we're surprisingly determined, too.