Holiday Musical Houses.
by Kristy Campbell
I love this time of year. It is especially joyful for those of us with blended families because there is an extra element of joy in arranging the logistics of who goes where when and for how long. But this year with a teenager who wants to call her own shots, I’m finding myself stuck between a menorah and a tree. Holiday Musical Houses is not my idea of a fun family party game.
My daughter is 17, off to college next year, and has had to endure the back-and-forth of households since she was 5 year old. This year, she has asked to spend her last Winter Break at home with her 4 siblings and me here in California. Her dad would like her to spend it with her 2 siblings and him there in New York. I’m wondering if I could sneak away to Hawaii on my own. Part of me feels as though my daughter has earned her say about how she spends her vacation time, but another part wonders if she is able to understand the importance of choosing family over herself at such a self-focused time of her life.
It’s important to note that she’s not a selfish child. She’s a normal teenager and teens are designed to be self-absorbed. It’s in their child development DNA. Much like a toddler who learns about his world in relationship to himself, teens are revisiting and perfecting this me vs. world relationship. This time around, though, the stakes are heightened because their future is looming and their need to figure out where their specific place is in the world is as consuming as a toddler’s “me want” tantrums. For parents of a teen, this phase is exceptionally challenging because of the daily need to interject the sense of “other” into their teen’s world. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said something to the effect of “you’re not the only one in this family/country/world/Milky Way galaxy”…
Holidays have always seemed to me to be the perfect time to reinforce this message of connectedness, as opportunities for family meals, neighborhood get-togethers, and charity work abound. I’ve spent the past 12 years trying to build a sense of cohesiveness for my daughter within her rebuilt family. What hit me when she asked if she could just stay home this year is that the holidays are the worst time to show a child from a divorce about family bonding, especially as you are driving her to the airport. Telling her that she’d be missed at the annual holiday open house or that I’d be calling to say hi on New Year’s Eve doesn't teach her anything other than that her parents’ lives went on and she isn’t sure where she belongs.