Each year, around the end of the summer, my husband and I start making travel plans for the holidays. We typically visit one side of the family for Thanksgiving, and the other side of the family for Christmas.
But this year, we are staying home, and honestly, it’s a huge relief.
Before I go any further, let me add a disclaimer: We love our families. We do. We both have kind, supportive parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and extended family members, and I feel very grateful to have each of them in our lives.
However, as transplants to South Carolina with no relatives within 100 miles, the distance takes its toll during the holiday season. Visiting my family in Texas involves flying with two small children, and visiting my husband’s family in Ohio involves an eleven hour drive (each way).
My son is five and my daughter is four, and they have yet to spend a Christmas at home. Since the holidays are all about spending time with family, and as the only relatives who don’t live close by, it falls on us to make the effort to get together.
For the past two years we have made the trek up to Columbus, Ohio, to see my husband’s family. It’s always a fun time. The kids can play with their cousins, spend quality time with their grandparents and their (now) 97-year-old great-grandpa, go to a hockey game, and they have large family gatherings with a lot of food and presents. The drive is long, but our kids have gotten used to it, and look forward to the trip, and it’s actually turned them into good little travelers. But we’ve made the journey twice already this year (once to Ohio and once to Deep Creek, Maryland), so, as a driver and a mom, I think I’ve maxed out my Long Distance Car Ride credits.
Holidays Gone By
Maybe my inclination to spend the holidays with only my immediate family stems from my own childhood growing up in New Jersey, far from all my relatives in the South. Without obligations or expectations, our family of five was free to create our own quirky traditions (like having cheese fondue on Christmas Eve!) and always spent the holidays celebrating with good friends and neighbors. My mom loved to decorate for the holidays. Even for Thanksgiving she had a ton of decorations; my favorites were the sets of wooden pilgrims that I would line up along the windowsill. Some of my fondest memories of Christmas Day involve wearing pajamas well until the afternoon and eating special holiday dishes and relaxing together.
Or maybe after a long year, I’m just tired. Just thinking about all the work involved with going out of town is enough to get me stressed out.
Beyond the usual logistics involved with traveling — figuring out what to do with the dog, finding someone to come feed our two cats and help out with other house-related chores, making arrangements with work (a tricky task since I already work remotely as a freelancer: do I keep working over the holidays or try to find a replacement, which can be a hassle) — holiday travel comes with its own set of challenges, especially for this unorganized, last minute mama. Gifts need to be sent to the destination in advance, and the ones that didn’t make it have to be carefully hidden in the back of our packed SUV. Don’t get me started on having to smuggle Chippett, our Elf on the Shelf, into the car without my kids noticing in order to convince them that Santa knows we’ll be at grandma and grandpa’s house.
Holidays Yet To Come
Our decision to stay home this year wasn’t an easy one to make. Thinking back on our busy holiday adventures in recent years brings up many happy memories.
A part of me feels guilty for being lazy because for all the work that goes into traveling and visiting relatives, it does end up being worth it.
But the other part of me is excited to stay home and pass down my traditions to my kids — and maybe make some new ones. I plan on putting all the time and energy that would go into packing and traveling into having fun with my kids during this special time of year.
I’m also kind of looking forward to waking up Christmas morning in my own messy house. I know we will make more joyous memories, just the four of us, even if we do end up wearing our pajamas the whole time.