And it doesn’t have to be about Christmas either. From a Dorthy Dix reply to a common question, which means even more to me now that I am the parent and I have children who might be wondering about these same things:
As a mature adult, there are those rare, important moments when you are asked to show up, and pretend. You are asked to play an elaborate game of make-believe, for the sake of someone from another planet who nonetheless is a good person and made more than a few sacrifices on your behalf.
Now, if you were physically abused by your mother, or if she said things like, “See, son, I knew you’d never amount to shit”? That would be different. If you were gay and she rejected that and refused to accept your partner as part of your life? If she actively and aggressively fought against what you stand for? That would be one thing. Does her refusal to accept and acknowledge exactly who you are and how you choose to live hurt you to your soul? I’m not hearing that, but if that’s the case, then, sure. Do your own thing, knowing that the pain of playing along with her charade would ruin your entire vacation.
But if you can simply step back and accept that you’re two different people, with different quirks and beliefs and stubborn notions, if you can swallow her ridiculous rules and tolerate her tribe’s idiotic lectures without feeling like your psyche is being violated and injured, if you can grasp that she wants a SYMBOLIC CHILD of hers to be there for the whole routine, for every prayer and invocation and celebratory breakfast and chaotic present-unwrapping, to demonstrate that she is loved and appreciated as a mother by at least one of her kids, then you should rise to the occasion and give your mother what she wants.
You should do it because your mother isn’t battling you over your choices, day after day. She’s not telling you, day after day, that you’re doing it wrong. She wants you to get married and have kids, which makes her exactly like 99% of the mothers out there. Her wanting that doesn’t make her particularly awful. If parenting brought her immense happiness, she naturally wants the same thing for you, as repetitive and closed minded as that might be.
Your mother doesn’t fight with you all the time. Her primary battleground is Christmas. She wants this one thing from you. She wants it to an irrational extent. It makes her weepy and enraged. She wants you and your partner there, pretending that you fit right in. She wants you to pretend that you are a good Christian son. She knows that you aren’t, but for 48 to 72 hours she wants you to pretend that you are.
Now, some people will tell you, “It’s enough that you go and make an appearance.” But that isn’t the same thing. She wants you to stay under her roof, for emotional reasons. Do you know how it must feel, to be cooking and cleaning for your husband’s kids and grandkids, when only one of your kids will even hang out at all, and he’s only around for a few hours before he disappears? I’m not trying to give you shit, I’m just trying to make you see how lonely this holiday spectacular actually feels for her. You say you’re grateful that she gets her postcard Christmas. But she doesn’t really get that. It’s only a postcard Christmas if her own kids are there, trust me.
Personally, I think you should give your mother exactly what she wants. Arrive on the night of the 23rd and stay until the evening of the 25th, then flee to a hotel room. I would push to stay in the same room as your partner, but I wouldn’t make a stink about it if she refuses.
If other people really matter to you, then show them that you really mean it. Read the whole thing since there is no one I can think of for whom this isn’t excellent advice, and you might hopefully find out a few things before it’s too late.
From Five Feet of Fury.