This past Sunday, December 26, was the Feast of the Holy Family. This is a relatively new feast for the Catholic Church to act as a model for modern families. Growing up I often wondered about poor Saint Joseph and if he had annoying relatives. Did anybody tell him NOT to marry Mary? Did they shun Jesus because of his questionable parentage? What did they think about him taking Mary to Egypt? Imagine: "Joseph! What are you doing taking your family to Egypt?? Do you have a job? How much will you make? What do you mean God told you to go? What makes you so special??" Ah, yes. Families.
This Christmas has been rather eventful. On one hand it was glorious. One of the elders of the family is in a medical care facility until he is strong enough to go home. He wasn't allowed to go home for Christmas so Christmas was brought to him - complete with a turkey dinner, gifts, and five young children running and crawling around. My five year old nephew led us in prayer. This old man sat in his wheelchair with a grin on his face watching the happy anarchy take place. For a while it was all about him. Then it was about an uncle who happens to have a Christmas birthday. But really it's all about the little ones, isn't it? Everybody was happy. Everybody except one.
There is always One who is always upset if others are the center of attention. This year the One was staying in our apartment for the holidays. It should have been fun. We had made plans to spoil her and take her around to see national parks. My son was thrilled to see her. But it wasn't enough. Somehow things that weren't about her (children's meal times and nap times) became about her. Somehow her resentfulness warped the happy atmosphere. Naps and mealtimes were late. Snacks were skipped. I was told to be bitter towards my husband. My son was told that we were too strict with him. She snuck candy to him and got him worked up and smiled when he misbehaved and told us what bad parents we are. Within two days of her arrival my son was having tantrums and wetting his pants. He was getting up in the middle of the night to ask us if we still love him. The day after the wonderful Christmas Eve she snapped. She picked a fight on Christmas Day and stormed out of the house making as much drama and confusion as possible.
As she stood sobbing waiting for her taxi (nothing else would do but to storm out with her bags and an unchanged plane ticket and no plan) she tried to convince me that she was the victim. I calmly and boldly negated every point telling her that she had a choice and if she left this way that she would regret it. I wanted her to know that whatever fantasy she had dreamed up I was not buying it. I wanted her to know that she could not mess with my family so easily. Oh, she still left and I was not about to let her stay. I could tell from her eyes that she got exactly what she wanted on Christmas day and she hated herself for it. Merry Christmas.
The longer I am a wife and mother the more I realize that I am the glue of the family. This means that I must be strong and form myself to other people. Sometimes I get a bit squished. But really I am a visionary who, like Joseph, dreams what her family can become. I decide the pieces I attach to the family mosaic. I direct the pieces and form the picture. The picture of this family will not include bitterness, self-victimization, self-delusion, covetousness, or pride. Not if I can help it.
But it doesn't end there. It is not enough to say that this woman is not allowed back into my house. Because in the end she is family. Mary and Joseph probably had to deal with this as well. What would they have done? They would have complete faith in God that would lead them into action.
I took my family before the Holy Eucharist and prayed for healing and guidance.
I would love to say that all of my problems miraculously went away but of course they didn't. My son is still nervous. My husband is confused and angry. I am furious that this woman would use my children as pawns in her delusional power trips. But then I remember something my beloved grandmother once told me about forgiveness: remember that Jesus already died for the person who has wronged you. THAT is how great His love is. Have I forgiven this woman? Obviously not or I wouldn't be ranting about it on my blog. Forgiveness is not an act of will. Forgiveness is the conscious decision to allow God to take control, transform and heal the situation.
I wish I had more wisdom in this situation. I wish I could kiss it and make it better. For now I will have to content myself with not bad-mouthing this person in front of my son (or at al)l. After all, she has her own problems. One day I will be able to forgive because that is what God expects from His children. Until then I will try to keep in mind that Jesus has already died for her sins. And I will keep her the hell away from my children.
Have a Blessed Christmas Season.