Sunday, October 3, 2010

They Can't Miss What They Never Had

Amélie had her 5th birthday this weekend.  I have a hang up about celebrating birthdays and holidays.

My thoughts on birthdays go something like this “so, I was born, so were the other billions of people in the world and they are just as important as I am, and I just don’t have time to bake every one a cake.  That just wouldn’t be fair.”  I realize not every one feels that way.  Don’t get me wrong the births of my kids were the best things that have ever happened to me.  We do celebrate; mostly my husband drags me along no matter how much I protest.  I really go out of my way to attempt to keep it low key.

While I do think there is some merit to my birthday thoughts, I believe my aversion goes deeper than that.  My parents, well OK, my mom went all out for holidays and birthdays when she and my dad were married.  

Christmas Eve in my childhood home was a family and neighborhood event.  The house was decorated, friends came with gifts, drinks flowed and then we went to midnight mass with our dad.  (I assume my mom stayed home and cleaned up, I don’t think she ever stepped in the church aside from our baptisms.)

After my parents divorced things changed dramatically.  Mom had no money or time for birthdays.  My dad’s wife would always tell us what gifts she HAD bought us but returned to the store because we did not deserve it, for one reason or another.  My father got every other weekend and holidays after we went to live with my mother.  Our first Christmas after his marriage and conversion to Judaism he insisted on his visitation.  No mass, no tree, no turkey, not a gift, just plans to go to the movies.  (I have nothing against Judaism, it was just a very rude awaking, clearly our lives would be different from here on out.)

A couple of years latter when I was in the foster care system, I was the ONLY kid at AHC (out of 24) left in the building.  In all fairness I can’t remember if I was in trouble or if both my parents were away on trips.  (I think all of the above).  Anyway Christmas Eve I hung a sock up, hoping that the Christmas spirit would move someone.  No such luck…I woke up to find that the poor staff who had to stay and work for one damn kid had stuffed the sock with toilet paper, and I was done.  I was done with Santa Claus, done with Christmas, done with religion, done with family, done with birthdays, done with childhood, done with hope. Done, Done, Done!

I know a lot of people who went threw the system go all out trying to give their kids everything they never had as kids.  Please, don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways I do that, with my time and attention, my decision making.   They are always my first consideration.  But, they can’t miss what they never had. 

Now, my attitude about all of this makes my husband crazy.  First of all it is not about me.  (He is right).  Birthdays and Christmas are fun (so he says).  We are not getting divorced (we're to lazy to hold grudges).  Nobody in our house is going to change religion (we don't have one).  So, what's the problem?  Why am I so nutty about this?  I can’t escape the feeling that we are setting them up for future disappointments.

I know that nobody expects for their life to change in the blink of an eye, but I know it can, and it does.  I never want my girls to know what it feels like to lose everything they hold dear.



You clearly have a big bruise left over from this trauma. It is not about you is true in a way, because the real magic of this stuff is all about the kids. But, we cannot forget we are human too. We have feelings and experiences that make us who we are. It is valid! It matters too! You do a good job. You do the best you can in the situation. If it were me, I would pray for direction so I could do right by all involved. That may not be you. Either way, it is what it is and everybody matters.

Anastasia said...

I work at a residential treatment center. And screw that stuff for putting tp in your stocking!

I work the over night shift so I could bitch and moan but I'm here to protect the kids and make sure they are safe and cared for even when they were asleep. One year we had only one kid and we went all out, we made "reindeer footprints" on the ground in glitter, decorated everything. I am really sorry that you had to live that. And I am a step mom and I can't imagine being that much of a bitch. No matter what they are kids. This xmas I will visit you and decorate your house. although that may be more creepy then nice. I will have to be in cahoots with your hubby.

Amy Koffron said...

I was overcome with emotion and a flood of horrible memories of my life after our parents divorce. It has taken me 2 days to unscrew my head since reading this post. I, too, have had a really hard time with birthdays and holidays ever since.

My girlfriend Deva's Christmas Eve party was my kids favorite thing to look forward to each year. I was soooooo grateful to her for having it - she probably doesn't know how or why it mattered so much to me and my kids. I'm not sure I really understood it until I read your post.

I virtually ruined Christmas for my kids until I found a way to make my husband's family tradition - my tradition. It wasn't until my youngest was about 13 (she's 22 now) that I was able to decorate a Christmas tree with anything other than disdain and angst.

In my typical style - I threw money at it. I spent a damn fortune on new and pretty ornaments and made a color and type theme that was ALL MINE. My tree looks like it belongs in Macy's on the display floor. My husband still cringes at the what I spent on creating my TROPHY TREE.

I spent a another damn fortune on presents for my girls, always more than I could afford. I tend to think I can SPEND my way to happiness, contentment and peace. WRONG!!!! That's been the hardest lesson for me learn. I'm still working on it.

I always remember how happy the sailboat (a very small 2 person boat) I got for Christmas when I was 12 made me. Which, of course, our *&%^^%$&* father and step-MONSTER said......."wasn't actually mine" after the divorce. They kept it [and my ski's, my bike, my sewing machine, my antique vanity etc.)and let me sail it once on a vacation with our mom. After that, they held it hostage, NEVER TO LET ME SAIL IT AGAIN. Several years later, our father gave away my boat away rather than let me or our mom have it.

WHY? Hummmmm...can you guess? I wasn't good enough? I didn't deserve it.

So, not only do they buy you/us gifts and then NEVER GIVE THEM, but they also take gifts BACK! Or give them to HER KIDS or brother.

But as I read your post I realized that not only did I/we not "deserve" things/presents....BUT, YOU DIDN'T EVEN DESERVE A HOME!!!!

I could just puke! I literally have been walking around for the past 2 days wanting to PUNCH somebody. How can I compare my experience to yours? They don't compare! I always knew it was horrible for you, but the toilet paper in the stocking made me so angry. I'm soooo pissed off! For that person's sake, they better never run into me!

You're on the right track. Figuring out what it's about, what makes you unhappy, will help you to find a way to overcome some of it (I seriously doubt that it is possible to erase it all) for your kids sake. You always do! Your a an amazing mother in every way that counts!

I LOVE YOU. Amy xoxoxoxoxoxox

P.S. I have lots of Christmas ornaments to spare.......want some?

Terra said...

May beauty surround you today, and always, and may celebrating the seasons of life feel like a warm embrace, and bring you a simple joy that nothing can erase.

Sunday Kofffon Taylor said...

Thank you, Jump Off, Anastasia, Amy and Terra. I had a little trepidation about posting this. I was recently asked how my foster care experience affects my life now this was one of the things that emerged. I am far more comfortable talking about my more “positive” parenting hang ups, like hyper-vigilance, over-indulgence and so forth (which have their own set of consequences). Admitting that from some where around October through January I turn into an anxiety riddled grumpy pants with no holiday spirit wasn’t easy for me.

Now that I have put it out there, I am already feeling less anxious about the whole impending holiday season. I have decided that I do need to make and carry on family traditions that the whole family can enjoy. I am not sure I’ll be ready to put up a tree this year, but baking cookies I think I could definitely manage.

Amy- I am sorry that my deciding to talk about this stuff has been hard on you. I know that being so much older, you had to zone out (disassociate) to be able to function, and that you are starting to remember things and events that you had stuffed away for a long time for survival’s sake. You are and an adult and I am confident you can handle the truth now. My hope is that as you are remembering the things you have worked so hard to stuff, pack and horde away, you will begin to feel some relief from having to carry that crap around inside yourself. I’m just saying…that would be nice…being unburdened. Maybe?

Von said...

So much cruelty in adults and so much suffering.Hope you can make it new for yourself and for your kids.

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