Blog  /  Grandparenting, Marriage, Parenting  /  Norman Rockwell, Leave Me Alone!!!

Family Matters, Dr. Tim Kimmel

I’ve experienced more than 55 Christmases. You would think that by now I’d have given up the dream of my holidays turning out like a Normal Rockwell painting.

 

But I keep trying.

 

When I was a child, Christmas Eve was an elaborate event in my Dad’s large Italian family. My Nana would cook and bake for weeks preparing for that special night. Now that she is gone, I can picture her in Heaven instructing the angels on how to prepare the pastas and pastries for God’s banquet table.

 

The captivating part of my childhood holidays wasn’t just the food, it was the atmosphere.  Cousins, aunts and uncles, godparents and various other people filled the house with animated talking, raucous laughter, and an occasional argument. Nana’s girlfriends spoke only Italian. My cousins and I would grimace as they pinched our cheeks, but secretly it added to the fun.

 

I’ve pondered why those holidays provoke such great memories for me. I believe it’s because that family atmosphere created a feeling of being a part of something bigger than me. I felt loved and safe. And I think that’s why, I’ve tried to recreate something similar for my family.

 

However, in a stepfamily that can be difficult. I know this from the perspective of a child and an adult.

 

When I was eight years old my parents divorced and my dad remarried a few years later to a woman with two sons. I experienced the tremendous tension the festivities can produce in a stepfamily.

 

My childhood memories of growing up are that I was confused, extremely lonely and deeply sad. And the holidays could thrust those emotions into overdrive. Trying to please my mother, my father and his new family, plus my very domineering Nana, (put dark hair on Marie Barone from the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond” and you have my Nana), was no easy task.

 

Then at the ripe old age of 29 I encountered the holiday voyage as a stepmom. This would be the time to ask, “What was I thinking?”

 

When his sons were younger, my husband Steve and I worked hard to make certain his children didn’t feel holiday pressure from living in two homes. We tried to be flexible and let the kids decide where they wanted to spend Christmas Eve. Usually they remained at their mom’s.

 

I’m certain Steve desired to have them at our house more often, but neither of us wanted to “rock the boat.”  His concern has always been that this communicated we didn’t care, which was totally untrue.

 

All I wanted was to re-create the “Norman Rockwell Italian Christmas” festivity fun for his sons that I remember from my own childhood. But I quickly realized that they had no desire to embrace the things that meant something special from my past.

 

It took time for me to recognize that his sons weren’t rejecting me personally or my Nana’s favorite recipe; they merely had no desire to embrace my family traditions. Why would they? They have their own family roots, they don’t need mine.

 

Steve’s sons are now grown with children of their own. Occasionally when November rolls around and I get a whiff of pumpkin spices, or hear a chorus of, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Norman will attempt to attack.

 

But I’ve learned how to stifle his lyrics.

 

Now when the nostalgia hits I’ll call with my brother or someone else to reminisce. And most important I choose to turn my thoughts toward gratitude. My marriage has made it 27 years; the kids, Steve and I are healthy; we have a roof over our heads and food in the cupboard; our debts are paid; and we have an amazing church and friends.

 

To top off the holiday I focus on how exceedingly grateful I am for the Baby in the Manger who came to bring peace, joy and blessings to anyone who asks.

 

Norman Rockwell—you are history!!

 

 

Laura Petherbridge

Laura Petherbridge serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, marriage and relationships, stepfamilies, co-parenting, and divorce recovery. She is an international speaker and author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t” -Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, and The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, and endorsed by Gary Chapman (Five Love Languages). Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series, and has appeared on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, Moody Broadcasting, Christianity Today’s Marriage Partnership and Crosswalk.com. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Summerfield, FL. www.LauraPetherbridge.com

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