My kids and I have spent decades adhering to the Christmas traditions I grew up with. My family has always done everything exactly the same. Every. Single. Year.
Christmas Eve was always spent at my parents’ house. All four of my kids would sleep in the same tiny room — two of them on the floor. The adults would stay up well past midnight getting everything ready. Then we’d all get up at 6:30 am and begin our Christmas morning by reading the Christmas story out of the Bible.
My mom did her best to make everything magical. There were lots of decorations and candles and homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
But when it was time to open gifts, it felt like being in a fish bowl. Everyone watched everyone else. My brother and his wife always had plenty of money to buy their kids loads of expensive gifts — every movie, game, and electronic device they could possibly want.
But after my divorce in 2010, money was always tight. So my Christmas budget was slim. I wasn’t able to buy my kids expensive gifts. My mom tried to make up for it by getting them extra things, but they were rarely gifts my kids actually wanted.
I stopped enjoying those Christmas traditions. I always felt left out, like I didn’t quite belong. But like so many mothers before me, I kept going because of my kids.
But on Christmas 2019, as we all returned to my apartment exhausted and grumpy on Christmas night, I overheard one of my kids mumble under her breath, “I hate Christmas”.
And that’s when I decided. It was time to take Christmas back for my family. It was time to let go of the traditions that were deemed as so important by my relatives.
Even though my kids were worried that Christmas wouldn’t be as fun at home, I made the executive decision that our next Christmas was going to be done at our home, our way.
Telling my relatives wasn’t easy. There was talking behind my back and I was accused of “ruining Christmas”. But I stuck to my decision. And when Christmas 2020 rolled around, we stayed home.
Of course I was nervous. I wanted Christmas to be special for my kids. And I still didn’t have a lot of money to spend. But I felt a surprising freedom. I hadn’t realized the pressure I was under when my kids opened their gifts with everyone staring at them. With that audience always in the back of my mind, I stuck with traditional gifts my relatives would approve of.
But now that the fishbowl was gone, I didn’t have to do that anymore. So my kids’ gifts looked totally different that year. I bought inexpensive things for them I knew they’d love. Favorite drinks and snacks, a gift commemorating a family joke, and even witchy stuff my religious relatives would balk at.
And I wasn’t the only one who felt this newfound freedom. When we all sat down to talk about how we’d spend the day, my youngest asked “what are we going to do?”
Whatever we want!
And that was it. When they realized they weren’t bound to traditions anymore, they were suddenly free to enjoy Christmas for what it was.
We did almost everything differently. We let go of all the family traditions and did what we wanted. There were no expectations, no schedules to keep, no judgment.
Things at my mom’s house are pretty formal. So when I told my daughter I didn’t care if she turned on a Christmas movie and ate breakfast in front of the tv, she was shocked. I let my kids eat in front of the tv all the time. But she had no idea they could do that on Christmas.
We slept in our own beds, got up when we wanted, watched Christmas movies, and relaxed. And by the end of the day, every single one of my four kids had come up to me and said, “this is the best Christmas ever.”
Sometimes it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to let go of who we think we’re supposed to be. It’s hard to let go of the expectations others have for us, and the expectations we have for our kids. But that Christmas I learned a lesson. It was safe to stop doing what my parents wanted me to do. It was safe to climb out of that mold. In the end, I discovered that the best gift I could give my family was the freedom to be ourselves and break away from what no longer serves us.
About the Author
Kathy Kiger is a longtime friend to the Pride and Joy Foundation. A former P&J Guest Blogger, Kathy has joined the P&J team to help out as we get ready for some new and exciting changes in 2024!
Kathy is a marketing strategist and copywriter who helps queer businesses and entrepreneurs build and connect with their ideal audience. As the CEO of Kathy Kiger Agency, she writes blogs, emails, and website copy for entrepreneurs, coaches, and small businesses. Kathy also offers copy coaching for business-owning badasses who prefer to DIY their marketing.
Kathy was raised as an evangelical Christian and dutifully followed all the rules and expectations — from homeschooling her kids and baking her own bread, to suppressing her sexual orientation for decades.
Married for almost 15 years, and then divorced for 10, Kathy finally had her holy shit I’m a lesbian moment in early 2021. Kathy is now living in her queer joy as a cat-owning-dog-person and single mom to 4 adult and teen kids.
Kathy is the creator behind the Better Late Than Straight blog where she shares her own insights as a late-blooming lesbian, along with resources, and the stories of other women who have embraced their queerness later in life.
You can hear Kathy on podcasts like Coming Out With Lauren and Nicole, The Coming Out Late Podcast, and Life After MLM. You can follow along with Kathy’s Better Late Than Straight journey on Instagram.