The December holidays are filled with warm, fuzzy feelings: parents and their grown children get together to pay homage to cherished family traditions. There may be minor blowups and some discord, but the family is together again and that counts for a lot.
Then there comes a time in the life of almost every family when those traditions shift their ground, when our grown children start building their own family traditions with their homes and families at the center. And that can bring on a quietly sad trauma for us, the parents of grown children.
Here's one example of what I'm talking about:
Sam moved to Oregon 40 years ago--alone. None of his east coast family moved with him--not his mother, father, sisters or cousins. Sam married a west coaster and had one child, a daughter, who is now grown. Last year, she married a Portland man--a man whose family is three generations deep in that city. And that's what is making the holidays so difficult for Sam. In year's past, Sam, his wife and daughter came east for the holidays. They spent time with his sister and nephews in New York City, visited the tree in Rockefeller Center, window shopped the department store's Christmas extravaganzas and cooked Christmas dinner together. This year, his daughter, in the flush of her first year of marriage, invited her new Portland family and her parents to her house for a holiday dinner. Goodbye trip to New York and visits to all the cousins and nephews.
Sam's daughter decorated her house with garlands and tinsel. Made a good dinner for her first time at entertaining a lot of people. Sam's son-in-law's family was there by the dozens, people he barely knew. And that was the sad trauma for Sam. "It was the worst feeling in the world," he says, "to be a guest in my daughter's house and feel like an outsider."
Time and acquaintance may soften the feeling, but as our grown children put down roots with other families, we no longer make the holiday decisions or impose the traditions--regardless of how warm and cozy they felt for oh so many years.