I don't know if it's just because Jacob is getting older, or if two kids was my breaking point, or if this year's stress just put me over the edge, but this year I really wished we could spend Christmas at home. Don't get me wrong, I love our families and really don't want to be anywhere else for Christmas, but I really wish we could clone ourselves or something so we could hang out at home AND spend the holidays with our families.
I grew up with pretty much all of my extended family in town. Christmas Eve was spent at church and with one part of the family, Christmas morning was spent in our own house and at church, then the rest of the day was split between both sides of the family (but lots of presents, so it was perfectly fine that we weren't home). I do recall wishing for a little more free time during the day to take it all in and play with my toys, but I enjoyed the family time so much that ultimately I was fine putting that wish aside for a bit and waiting until the 26th to assess the goods. But our house was still home base, and that's where most of my memories were made.
I don't know how much I thought about people that didn't have all of that family in town. I think there was one time that we hopped in the car a day or two after Christmas to drive more than 10 hours to visit my aunt and uncle in Wisconsin, and I think at least at that point I was a little bummed to leave my toys so soon and wondered how people who had to travel felt about that.
Until I had kids, I don't think the travel bothered me. I did miss some of my old Christmas traditions that were replaced with new ones with Craig's family, but I enjoyed my time with his family as well, so it wasn't a big deal. When Jacob was a baby it still wasn't a major issue because he wasn't old enough to have Christmas memories or understand that Santa usually visits people on Christmas morning, not a day or two before. At that point whatever was easiest was fine.
But now that Jacob is old enough to have lasting memories, I'm a little bummed out by our circumstances. As I scrolled through picture after picture of Facebook friends and their kids, the feeling only got worse. I'd see everyone's pictures of their cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, or all of the chaos of Christmas morning, and once again bemoan the fact that we don't get to do that at our own house...at least, not like that. Maybe it's just me, but opening presents in the early evening two days before Christmas just doesn't have the same zing. It's so much more rushed and doesn't have the same mystique. I suppose Jacob doesn't know any better and I'm a bit jaded by my idyllic childhood, but still...it's different and not quite as cool. I'm sure it'll only get worse as Carter gets older. As much as I don't want my kids snooping around or staying up all night waiting for Santa, I did have fantasies this year about Jacob someday loving his brother and the two of them teaming up a bit to solve the mysteries of Christmas. Of course, with the age difference Jacob will probably know the truth about Santa before Carter's old enough to fully appreciate it, so we might never have two completely enthralled kids, and we probably won't have that real, magical experience of opening our gifts on Christmas morning in our own house before the magic wears off a bit. That makes me sad.
But the thing is, it's still probably more important to have the family time that we have. Who knows how long all of our older relatives will be around, so I've always felt that it's important to defer to them while they're still around. It wouldn't be right to keep the kids from enjoying Christmas with their grandparents, cousins, or other extended family, either. They're as much a part of Christmas as the lore of Santa. There isn't really a good way to have the best of both worlds since it would inevitably involve lots of Thruway travel in a short period of time and could be complicated by weather and lack of sleep.
So, until we someday figure out how to move to Buffalo to be close to both families, we'll have to make the best of a tough situation. I guess I just have to plan ahead better and do what I can to make our Christmas as memorable and magical as possible. Maybe the kids won't know the difference and the excitement of Santa is actually as awesome for them two days ahead as it was for me. Maybe it's even more special because they're first to get their gifts or because they get three full days of presents instead of the one that I had. It's hard to tell, particularly with a kid like Jacob who isn't phased by much and who rarely shows gratitude unless prompted, but maybe their Christmas memories don't have to be like mine to be awesome. Still, I long for a little taste of my childhood to show up in my kids' experience, and I can only hope that someday we figure out how to pull it off. In the meantime, Christmas will still be special. Different, but special.