Monday, November 11, 2013

Day Eleven: Thankful for the Lessons Learned Through Disappointment and Sadness

Before I get started, let me first say that today is Veteran's Day.  And today I am thankful for the veteran's that have served this country.  I chose not to write a blog post about Veteran's Day because, honestly, I don't have much more to say than Thank You.  No stories of family members who served, no close connections to anyone lost due to war, and so I chose to write about something else today.

Today isn't really a thankful post that will leave you with any fuzzy feelings or an upbeat attitude.  In fact, this post will probably come off more like it feels when receiving a back handed compliment.  The intention will be there for it to be a good thing, but it will end up feeling like an insult rather than a compliment.

I had a really rough time sleeping last night.  Mostly because of the feelings that will be explained today.  I went back and forth in my head about whether or not I should even write this post.  Then, when I made the decision that I would write it, I found myself tossing and turning to try and think of the best way to say what I had to say without sounding selfish or upsetting anyone or coming off that I'm a coward for using my blog to express feelings rather than tackling the demon head on.

Today, I am feeling a little sad and pretty disappointed.  The feelings are not new, they have been growing inside for quite a while...yet, I have tried with everything inside of me to ignore them, get rid of them, push them away.  A conversation I had yesterday ended up fueling them in to overdrive... thus leading me to write this post... because when I write about feelings I just can't shake, I tend to feel better.

Let me start by saying something you already know, that my two most favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Do you know why?  Because they are the two holidays that are spent with my family.  And because of the traditions that were instilled years and years ago that I cherish so much today.

Christmas for the childhood traditions, and Thanksgiving for the traditions that were created once I became an adult.

Six years ago, for the first time ever, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my house.  It was such a proud moment for me.  Every year prior, Thanksgiving was held at my parents' house and even though I loved those times... it was one of the highlights of my life to be in a place where I could have my family - my parents, siblings, grandparents, in-laws - there with me.  I felt so special on that day.  I was eight months pregnant with Jelly, but I didn't let that deter me from putting everything I had into making that day special for everyone that came.  That was the only year to have such a big Thanksgiving.  Every year after that, it was just my parents and my two youngest siblings that came for Thanksgiving... but, that was still a big deal for me.

And so the new tradition was born.  I would host Thanksgiving at my house, and my mother would have Christmas at her house.

Which leads me to Christmas.  Christmas has ALWAYS been my most favorite holiday simply because of the traditions.  To this very day, I still "do" Christmas for my kids the way my parents did for me.  No presents under the tree until Santa comes Christmas Eve.  Spending Christmas Eve watching A Christmas Story before heading off to bed...several times over, for me, thanks to the 24 hour marathon that has played since I was young.  Stockings hung in the bedrooms so that the kids can open them when they first wake up, but no child is to leave their bedroom until Hubby and I are up and coffee has been made.  Sitting around the tree Christmas morning and only one person opening a gift at a time, so that the entire family can watch the excited face that comes from opening up the surprise that awaits in the present.  Enjoying cookies for breakfast.  All traditions that were handed down to me from my parents and that I hope my children will hand down to their own children.

Once I had a family of my own, new traditions were added.  Christmas morning is spent at home with my children, but after all the presents are opened it's time to get dressed and head to my parents' house.  We arrive there to more gift opening, and Christmas dinner.  The entire day is spent talking, laughing, playing, and having a jolly good time.  We always spend the night, and then celebrate Boxing Day with my parents, because that's an English holiday and I feel happy that we still observe it together as a famliy.  A time to eat leftovers, play with the new games and toys that the kids received for Christmas, and more talking, laughing, and having a good time.

All of those traditions were so important to me...are so important to me.  Which now leads me to the tough part of my blog post.

In the beginning of last year, my parents became foster parents.  It stemmed from them taking in my niece and nephew, who were taken away from my sister because of reasons that are best left between my sister and my parents.  At the time, I thought it was a great thing.  My mom had always had children in her home.  And, once she was left permanently disabled from a surgery that went bad, she truly needed something in her life.  She had spent her entire adult life working, and being home alone was a lot for her to deal with.

I thought it was a wonderful thing that my parents were taking in my niece and nephew.  They were both very young, and needed to be with family that loved them and would take care of them the way they needed to be taken care of.  I even thought it was wonderful that my parents had agreed to open up their home to other children that needed a safe place.  It is a very honorable and demanding lifestyle that I knew would be good for my parents.

What I didn't think about, at the time, were the ramifications it would have on my own family.

When my parents first got started, they had one or two foster children at a time.  No biggie.  Last Thanksgiving was the first year of them being foster parents, and my parents had Thanksgiving dinner at their own house.  Not because of the foster children, but because my house had simply gotten to the point where I just couldn't host there.  The house was in a shambles and I just couldn't open up my home anymore.

But, I made a pact that it would be the only Thanksgiving where that would happen.  We would find a new home and everything would go back to normal.

So, this year, when we looked for our new home... I envisioned Thanksgiving dinner in each house we looked at.  When I walked in to our new house, and saw the open dining room, I immediately thought how perfect it would be to have my family here for Thanksgiving.  So much room for everyone, and a warm, inviting place for them all to come.

Yet, my excitement started to turn in to worry over the summer.  My parents had "upgraded" from having one or two foster children (not including my niece and nephew) to having three or four at a time.  I started to think forward about what Thanksgiving would be like with my five, my parents, my two siblings, my niece and nephew, and three or four extra children.  Quite the handful.

And, yesterday, I expressed that concern to my mother for the first time.  When she responded that she would just have Thanksgiving at her house, like it was just another day... no big deal... it really hit home how much my parents becoming foster parents has pushed away their family.  More over, my family.

All I keep asking myself is what about me and my kids?  They expect to spend holidays with their grandparents.  I expect to spend holidays with MY parents.  And, honestly, being that they have ten people in the house right now, I barely want to go over there.  It's just too crowded.  There's too many people there.  I can't go over and enjoy some quiet time with my mom while the kids play outside... because no matter where I go, there's a foster child sitting there.  

I know that sounds terribly selfish.  I don't mean it to be that way.  It's just what my parents fail to see is that while they are taking care of four complete strangers... their own grandchildren are feeling pushed to the wayside.

Up until last year, it would be nothing for me to ask my mom for her to babysit all three kids while Hubby and I spent some time alone.  That certainly can't happen anymore.  With them having eight children in the house, there's just not enough room... and it's just too much burden to ask of them.  Why on earth would I ask them to babysit three more children when they've already got their hands so full?

Butter still gets to spend quite a bit of time over there, but Peanut and Jelly would rather not.  They feel too crowded, themselves, when they are there.  

And my mother doesn't realize the burden it also puts on me.  Doing something like hosting a family get together has become almost impossible.  It makes me nauseous just thinking about trying to accommodate that many people in my home at one time.

Now Thanksgiving and Christmas will not be the same.  My parents won't be coming here, and even though we will still go over there for Christmas dinner (this year, although I'm not even sure that will happen again if there's so many people there next year), we won't be staying.  There's just too many people already in the house for us to add another five to the mix for a sleepover.

I'm just sad, and frustrated, and disappointed, and upset.  I don't want to hurt my parents' feelings.  I feel this way because I love them so much and feel like I'm going to be missing out on so much with well as my kids.

I honestly, truly wish they had just agreed to take my niece and nephew.  Their grandchildren.  Two small kids for them to raise.  Two children that need their grandparent's love.  My parents are still young, they have three other grandchildren, they have two children still living at home that will be moving on soon...and eventually having families of their own.  Their house would have never been empty.  There would always be kids there for them to love, take care of, depend on.

I know the impact that my parents are having on those foster kids.  And, again, I feel terribly selfish for even putting these feelings out there.  But, they are my feelings.  

My entire life, I have looked forward to the Thanksgivings and Christmases spent with my family.  Siblings getting together.  Nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles...and grandparents.

It looks as though I won't get to have that anymore.  Thanksgiving and Christmas just won't be the same.  I won't get to have Thanksgiving the way I pictured when we bought this house.  I won't get to continue my Christmas traditions with my kids at their grandparents' house celebrating Boxing Day.  

But, one thing I do know is that I can look at this as an opportunity to learn.  To create new traditions.  One day, I will be a grandparent.  I only hope and pray that my children are willing to carry on the traditions that mean so much to me.  That they will spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with me.  Because it is a BIG deal to me.  It means the world to me.  And, to know that my lifelong traditions are coming to an end breaks my heart.  

So, today, I am thankful that I got to spend so many years building the memories I did with family traditions.  I am thankful that I will hopefully grow and create new traditions.  And I am thankful that my feelings may come off as selfish and nasty.. but they are fueled by love.  If I didn't love my parents so much, I wouldn't be near as upset and sad as I am right now.


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