Celebrating the holidays with adult married kids can be difficult. It’s a mixed bag of new independence and old traditions, with a side dish of sentimentality. New relationships and old allegiances can be a challenging mix. Too often the result is an emotional bang followed by a cloud of angry smoke. One serious family fight can cause the family to experience a holiday fracture that will be felt for decades.
All Moms Have The Same Fantasy
Let’s get real, having children is difficult. Parents of little children imagine the days when the house is clean and the laundry bulldozer has stopped dumping loads of clothes. We fantasize about those future days, and frankly, we make ourselves the star of the perfect holiday story.
We imagine a clean house, filled with amazing adult married kids. Lots of family arriving to celebrate at our home, enjoying our traditions, perfect behavior. Now take a closer look at the main storyline:
- You are the center of the story.
- Your family is all there, in delightful Christmas sweaters.
- Your home is decorated with holiday colors, classic red/green, of course!
- Your traditions are center stage, everyone plays the Pink Elephant gift game happily.
- Your idealized family behavior, no bickering, no cursing, purely pleasant.
Spoiler alert: Adult married children have the right to choose their holiday traditions.
This Isn’t About You Mom
Okay, take a deep breath- count to three slowly…1…2…3- feel better? Listen Mama/Grandma the days of controlling children with your expectations are over. That ended about the same time your kid left for college. Remember that old saying – if you love something, set it free? Yea, its time to set your adult children free from your expectations.
All parents struggle with the transition from adolescent to young adult. The time flies by, and as your children become adults it can trigger feelings of your own mortality. You get caught up in emotional melancholy, longing for the days when they were little, romancing the past to escape the reminders of passing time.
When we get focused on what used to be, we fail to allow room for what is. Getting stuck in “Mama Memories” is dangerous, it does not allow for adult children to grow and develop their unique perspective. As their lives evolve, our respect for their grown-ass space needs to grow as well.
Obviously, I am talking about financially independent, capable adult children. Young adult children who are still financially tied to the family funds are at a different stage. They do not get to make all their own decisions yet. If one thing is true in life, money equals freedom. When a child has enough money to fund their own life, they are an independent adult.
Okay, let’s go back to the holidays, shall we? Here’s the thing: the more pressure you put on someone to meet your expectations, the bigger the wedge of resentment you drive into the relationship. It is in your best interest to relax expectations and find ways to flex into the holidays.
Want to lower your stress level during the holidays? Try these slightly satirical ideas:
Ninja Nana Move
This first one is a game changer: Move your families celebration to the Sunday before the holiday. Yup, this is the ultimate flex move, the twisted pretzel pose of all time: Move Your Holiday Celebration.
As adult kids marry and make babies, the holidays become a fierce game of emotional Twister. Intense pressure from all sides can force them to choose holiday sides, and frankly, sweetie, they might not choose you.
Moving the holiday one week before is brilliant. You get the first expression of excitement. Your Thanksgiving dinner is the first one, your gift opening is the first one… You are in first place!
By being flexible, you have freed up your adult married kids to genuinely enjoy your celebrations. Additionally you have encouraged them to attend holiday events with other family. That is some high-level Ninja Nana shit!
Take off your apron and try this Superhero cape on instead. Invite EVERYONE to your house, on the actual holiday! This move is guaranteed to stun your opponents and cause some minor confusion. A Matriarch who extends her home to the in-laws? Damn girl, you are one fierce Mother!
Take the first step by inviting all the important people to your home and be genuine about it. You might be surprised how much fun those other people can be. And bonus round! your adult kids do not feel torn between commitments. If there are grandchildren, they will love the idea that both Grandmas are feeding them holiday treats.
Be Prepared to Accept The Boundaries Your Children Create
And lastly, this one could hurt a bit, but be prepared for your children to set boundaries that work for them. It is a beautiful thing, when encouraged by you, your child chooses to create healthy boundaries for their family. When my daughter got married, I encourage her to create new traditions with her husband.
As a result, they have created a holiday schedule that works for them, and their young family. I am so proud that they have put their family first. When I had a mother-in-law in my life, I felt overlooked. In the past, I experienced anger that there was a lack of family flexibility. Holiday expectations were to be met without question.
There was no space given to create boundaries for my new family, and for decades we did the same rote routine of holiday expectations. For my adult children, even if it pained me, I was committed to giving them the emotional freedom they needed to create their best holiday schedule.
Sometimes Clear Boundaries Can Feel Hurtful
Trust me, the first time my adult children made their decisions clear, it stung a bit. I had to take a mental step back and remember to practice gratitude that they felt free to create boundaries for their lives. After I spent some time reflecting on their wishes, I was able to see the healthy dynamic that we had created as respectful adults.
Honor The Boundaries Created By Your Adult Married Kids
As a rule, most families struggle with some aspect of releasing adult children from the nest. We are happy they have moved into their own place, but we can fall into the trap of placing childish expectations on our adult kids.
Let’s be mindful of the power we hold as mothers and grandmothers. Holiday gatherings are important but we must allow flexibility for our adult children to create their own schedules. Choose to be Wonder Woman and let healthy family boundaries be your superpower.