An Open Letter To Some Parents.

Over the past little while, I’ve had several conversations that have led me to one conclusion. Going Home For The Holidays is not the joyous, Normal Rockwell experience it is sold as. Rather, it is a suck-ass ordeal for many people. Not all, obviously. But quite a few. This post is for them.

Dear Parents,

I’m sorry to bother you in your affluent retired or semi-retired lifestyles, but there’s something I have to get off my chest.

Your children and their spouses find it uncomfortable, inconvenient, and impoverishing to come to your house for Christmas. I know you get a lovely warm feeling, having all the children and grandchildren gathered about you. And how nice for you. You set up the spare room and put some tape across the cupboards so the baby doesn’t get in, do a load of shopping, and anticipate the Fun Family Times.

You know how it’s so expensive to come and see us? Well, it’s just as expensive for us to come and see you. Maybe more so, if there are kids who need their own seats on airplanes. And with the Christmas jack-up of airfares. A young couple already in debt are hardly going to relish spending a few more thousand dollars to get to you. A working couple, not even in debt, will still have trouble covering the cost of airfare. For grad students, already living on stipends as thin as a dime, it means more money on a credit card they’ll be able to pay off sometime after they get Tenure. 20 years down the road. The gift of Debt. How lovely, I’ve always wanted one!

Instead, why can’t you dip into your ample RRSPs and come and see us? Let us do the prep and the cooking. It’ll be fun. What’s that you say? There’s nothing like having the children come home?

News Flash! This is not their home anymore. Don’t take it personally, but they have built their lives and created their own homes. They don’t really yearn for yours. Particularly if you have moved from the home they grew up in. That’s not coming home, that’s just going to someone else’s house where your parents happen to be. In some cases, your aesthetic sense makes them break out in hives. And going to your house often means going back to your rules. We don’t live by them anymore.

So you’ll help with the airfare? Great. Now what does this Christmas visit net us? Uncomfortable spare room beds, endless ‘advice’, and critical comments on our weight, our lives, and our careers. Interminable inane conversations about your fascinating hobbies and charity boards. Sideways glances you think we don’t see. Christmas gifts that show us we are utter strangers to you.

And sure, we’ll go, because we are dutiful offspring, or maybe we are still buying in to the rosy glow of Holiday Family Time. Maybe we just drank away our memories of how awful it was last time. Whatever the case, the idea that going home for Christmas is a delightful experience is a myth. The reality is that it will put many of us in debt, until springtime at least. Our spouses will be in unfamiliar family cultures. We will try to relax, but you may get on our nerves quite badly. We will be, in turn, bored, frustrated, claustrophobic, and irritated. Merry Christmas! Doesn’t that sound fun?

Sincerely,

Liz.

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