Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Holiday Spiral

To celebrate the end of political ads and political coverage, tonight's cocktail is the Apolitical Peartini. (my re-naming of the recipe, which I did not invent). I got fancy a few weeks ago and infused some vodka with pear. Just cut up some fresh pear chunks and stick them in a glass jar with some vodka and let it sit awhile. Then you strain it and put it in the freezer. Yum. You can also, of course, buy infused vodka at the store. To rebuild bridges and say no hard feelings to your friends and relatives who voted differently from you, here's the recipe:

2 parts pear-infused vodka
1/4 part amaretto
1/4 part simple syrup
1/2 part lemon juice

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, enjoy. Give hugs.

Halloween was 2 weeks ago, and somehow Thanksgiving is in a week. FML. This, of course, death-spirals us to the winter holidays - Chanukah is December 8-16 (my ex, children, and I are Jewish), then Christmas (my extended family is Christian, some of them very much so).

This time of year has always been a minefield for me, even before changing religions and divorcing. You know how some people have fond memories of decorating the tree, singing carols, drinking egg nog, and feeling all warm and fuzzy? I don't. Usually, my dad would get in an argument with a family member over Thanksgiving dinner and spend days or weeks fuming and making everyone miserable. By the time the blessed day arrived, the stress had reached a breaking point, if not before, which made it a little hard to focus on the baby Jesus and tidings of comfort and joy. When people who know I converted to Judaism ask me if I miss Christmas, I struggle not to laugh.

Still, I'm an only child, and at Christmas, filial duty has often taken me back to the homestead, which I swear is a nice suburban middle-class home and not a rusted-out trailer in a prison yard. It's not easy, and I'm again questioning whether it's worth what it costs me to go. The problem is now my father and Tweak (9). My father loves the idea of having grandchildren, but that's about as far as it goes. Tink knows how to work it, but Tweak, I've mentioned before, is high-strung. Since Tweak was tiny, my father, a grown-ass man, has clashed with him, and over the stupidest things. Several visits in the toddler and preschool years ended with my father standing at the end of the street waiting for a cab and refusing to speak to anyone while Tweak cried for Grandpa to hug him goodbye. Once I got a lengthy e-mail suggesting that Tweak was a sociopath because he'd pushed his sister and refused to apologize. Because what kind of sick, twisted 3 year-old would do such a thing? Oh, wait. All of them.

It has never gotten any better. And here's the thing: I recognize that my son can be high-maintenance. However, there are ways to get through to him, and these do not include criticizing and berating him, or yelling or swearing at him (I'm not exaggerating). It's not fair to ramp up the child's anxiety and then suggest that because his behavior deteriorates, he needs to be strapped to a hand truck like Hannibal Lecter.

The sad part is that Tweak is usually delightful: sweet, curious, verbal, empathetic, engaging, funny, and insightful. He gets along well with other kids. Teachers like him. He's going to be an amazing adult, and the things he struggles with now are likely the very things that will make him successful, so long as we teach him now how to use them to his advantage. This is the way a grandparent should see him. Instead, my father wants him to be Beaver Cleaver and always finds him wanting. It crushes the boy every time. Of course, it also brings out the mama bear in me, which is never a wise plan.

I need to admit finally that I'm never going to give my kids the holiday I wanted as a child by going to my parents' house. I feel guilty that I'm considering blowing off my family, but my children don't deserve to have every winter holiday season marred by this baggage and my anxiety about it. I'm also tired of every Christmas sucking. And, while I love and miss my extended family, I've lived in my current hometown for 14 years, and I can count on one finger the number of times most of them have come to visit me. So, I'm going to try out a new tradition. The Jewish Christmas Vacation/Staycation: 5 days of either going somewhere fun (suggestions a short distance from D.C. are welcome) or staying home and alternating tourist stuff (which locals almost never do) with staying home in our pajamas and making cookies. And, of course, Chinese food, which I'm almost sure is right there in Leviticus somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Angel Chiquita-BananaNovember 16, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    I vote for a short trip around DC! Heck, maybe even coming to visit me in the D would be more fun! I really enjoyed reading this.


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