Teen Talk

Splitting time with parents on Christmas is stressful

DEAR KELLY: I hate the holidays. My parents despise each other. Since I was 4 years old, I have had to leave one parent’s house at noon every Christmas Day so I can spend the rest of the day with the other person. I’ve always done it and never complained, but this year I don’t want to. I have an amazing boyfriend, and his family has adopted me like I’m part of their family.

They don’t fight, argue or hate on each other. They are like the most normal family ever. I was complaining to my boyfriend’s mom that I hate Christmas because I have to get up and rush through breakfast and presents since my other parent will be there at noon on the dot. Then I have to go to another relative’s house and do the whole thing all over again.

For once, I would love a Christmas where I woke up, stayed in pajamas, laid around and just relaxed all day. So my boyfriend’s mom invited me to stay with them (she knows about my family) and do that on Christmas. She said I could go to church with them (neither of my parents go to church) the night before and then just stay at their house and finally get to have the Christmas I’ve always wanted. I was so excited. For the first time, I was actually excited to think about the holidays.

So I told my parents and they flipped out. Neither thought it was a good idea, and both said they refused to give up their time with me, but no one seems to think about what I want. It’s always what they want. Well, I’m almost 18 years old, and I want to finally have one good Christmas where I’m not exhausted and stressed out all day.

My dad makes me go to my stepmom’s family’s house, and I’m pretty bored because there is no one my age. My mom has all of her family over, and there is so much drinking that someone is always drunk and it gets weird. Plus, I can’t talk about the other parent or say anything because they get angry if I bring up something good I did or got at the other parent’s house, so Christmas is so uncomfortable. I mean, shouldn’t I be allowed to have the Christmas I want? I want mellow, no drama and to relax.

How do I convince my parents I want to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family and have a normal holiday? If I don’t spend it with either of them, that would be fair and neither parent should feel I picked the other one. I love my parents, but I hate what they have done to me with the holidays.

Heather

DEAR HEATHER: I think I’m going to upset a lot of people with my reply, but I’m just going to keep it real. Yes, holidays are about spending time with family and being with those you love. I agree. But I also agree that you deserve to have a holiday you will enjoy and not feel like you are pulled, rushed and stressed. Your points are valid, and your feelings seem healthy and reasonable. While I can’t make your parents give up their time with you, and I get why they each want to share the day with you, you should be allowed to speak up at 17 years old and ask them to hear what you are saying and to listen to why you feel the way you do.

Perhaps your parents feel that they only have a limited number of Christmases left with you so they are holding on to every holiday like it’s their last. The reality is that as long as they act the way they do – about each other, and disregarding your feelings – the further away they are pushing you. If they were able to see what their dislike for each other is doing to you, perhaps it would stop.

Write your parents a letter. Address it to both parents and send them each a copy. Ask them to read your letter with an open mind and try to hear what you are saying. Tell them what you told me. You hate the holidays because you feel stressed, pulled, torn and uncomfortable. Tell them why your boyfriend’s house sounds appealing: peaceful, relaxing, calm and fun. Ask them to think about you and your feelings before they make their decision.

If they aren’t willing to let you stay at your boyfriend’s, tell them you want to change the arrangements so you are able to enjoy the day a little more. Maybe you do Christmas Eve day with one parent and then leave after dinner so you can spend Christmas Day with the other without having to travel or house swap. Don’t threaten them, but make them aware of what their fighting and dislike for each other has done to you. Ask them to set aside their feelings for each other and consider how you feel and what you are asking for: a “normal holiday” because you don’t feel you have ever experienced that.

Are there any compromises they would make? Could you split Christmas Eve between them and spend Christmas Day where you want? Could you do Christmas Eve with one parent and Dec. 26 with the other parent so you could experience the actual holiday with you boyfriend’s family? Or could your boyfriend’s family have a “second Christmas” the day after so you can relax and enjoy the day like it was actually Christmas? Try to wiggle things around and maybe come up with a solution that would work for everyone. You deserve an enjoyable holiday if they can’t act like adults and keep their feelings about the other parent silent.

Having divorced parents is hard. Having divorced parents who dislike each other is even worse. You didn’t ask to be put in the middle of their dislike, and it’s unfortunate they can’t see what they have done all these years. Learn from your boyfriend’s family about the kind of relationships you want to create for yourself. Appreciate the peace and love they share. Develop healthy, loving and respectful relationships in your life. You can’t fix your parents, but you can definitely take care of you.

Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@sacbee.com.

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