Holidays and Hardship: Will the Kids Be Alright?

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Eleanor Haley

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My pretty little girls living in your snow globe-sized world, what wouldn't I give to keep you wrapped in a blanket of safety and comfort forever? While you lay in your bed and worry about the monsters in your closet, I lay in mine and think about dangers that look nothing like monsters yet cause me far more fear.

I know it's cliché, but when you were born, I realized a kind of love I'd never known existed. I wish I could say this love made me stronger, but truthfully it made me exponentially more vulnerable. Loving you means allowing my heart to reside in three different places without guaranteeing it will be kept safe. With you in this world, I multiply the risk of everything times three.

When I reflect on my own childhood, I remember the holidays as some of my happiest and most comforting times. To my recollection, our Christmases were always perfect, and I want the same thing for you... but sometimes things go off track. I would move mountains to prevent hardship from permeating the bubble we've created around you. But tragically, this year, that's just not possible. Though those who love you will always try.

When it comes to holidays and hardship, we cling to tradition to prove that everything will be okay. We assume that the key to our child's wellbeing is a holiday just like years past. So we grieve what can't be the same—and set out to make perfect what we can, damn it!

With half-hearted tolerance, we grit our teeth through bad attitudes, fights, messes, and stress and remind ourselves to just get through. We've forgotten why we're doing any of it in the first place, but we do it anyway because, to protect our children, our first instincts are to control, to be perfect, and to do everything "right." 

As I said, I remember my childhood Christmases as being happy and perfect times. Still, upon further reflection, I realize they were anything but. With a chaotic family of eight, there was coordinating, clutter, debt, teasing, bickering, lost keys, and grouchy kids up way past their bedtimes. My holidays were a disorganized mess, yet still, I remember them as perfection.

I'm not going to pretend my family didn't focus on tradition; they just didn't strive for perfection because they knew they'd never achieve it. With people coming and going and kids constantly growing, flexibility was key. Our traditions had a very loose foundation of togetherness, love, acceptance, sharing, and laughter; a culture which my parents embodied daily. There was bickering and teasing and bad moods, and I'm sure my parents would recall some years of serious hardship, but 10 years later, all I'm left with are warm memories.

I guess what I'm saying is that I know grown-ups sometimes overcomplicate things. When life feels puzzling, we think the answers must be complicated, when they are often as simple as being there for one another and sharing support and love. We cannot shield you from life's hardships. Sometimes, things have to change. Some years are tough. All we can do is talk to you, guide you, reassure you, and let you know there's a safe and warm embrace waiting for you anytime you need it.

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5 Comments on "Holidays and Hardship: Will the Kids Be Alright?"

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  1. Linda Rubano  November 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm Reply

    My children will be fine as they have no connection with my grief and don’t want to hear about it. I feel sad that they have no empathy for me. I cry alone every day.

    • Eleanor  November 19, 2014 at 9:03 am Reply


      I am so sorry for your pain and that you feel like you’re alone. For what it’s worth, we’re here. Are there any people or groups in your community that you find supportive? I know sometimes we can find comfort in some of the most unexpected places.


      • Linda Rubano  November 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

        Thank you so much for your kind words. I was divorced from my husband when I entered into a relationship with my first love. We hadn’t seen each other for 40 years. Sadly, he was married and though he tried to make it work with me, it failed. We stayed in touch, 3000 miles apart, until he suddenly became ill and cancer ran riot through him. In four months he was gone and I think about him every day and feel so sad that he had such a terrible death. When you love someone, you don’t think about right or wrong, you just love. My children, who are adults don’t understand any of it and I’m not allowed to talk about him in front of them. Sad!!

  2. Stephanie  November 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm Reply

    Thank you, this was beautiful. As a mother of two young girls whose Grandmother has incurable cancer, I find myself rushing around desperately trying to make this Christmas as perfect and merry as possible, as though the happy memories can somehow buffer against the pain I know they will eventually have to feel. A “snowglobe” is the perfect metaphor for what I am trying to create, but really I am overcompensating for the pain I feel and currently hide from them. I know it doesn’t really work that way, I can’t buffer them forever.

    • Eleanor  November 19, 2014 at 9:05 am Reply


      So you can definitely relate. I’m so sorry about your mother’s illness. When my mother was ill I remember feeling the same pressure to get everything right and cram as much of life as possible in while I still had my mother to share it with. I hope you find some peace this Christmas. We’re here if you need support.


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