The Ghosts of Dysfunctional Christmas Past
When I was fifteen years old, it was my father’s turn to have us kids for Christmas. I was the middle child of three teenagers. We lived with our mother just outside of Toronto Ontario. We were going to take the train to our fathers house in Montreal Quebec. But my mother didn’t want me to go that year. My mother guilt tripped me about how alone she would be and how hard it would be for her to be by herself for Christmas.
So I stayed with her and my brothers went to Montreal without me.
My insecure and narcissistic mother was always painting such nasty pictures of my father, and deep down I was extremely torn between the two of them. I knew it would make my mother happier if I turned against him and I was always worried about her happiness. I felt guilty for wanting to see my father. I did not want my mother to know that I actually wanted to go to my fathers place for Christmas. SO when I decided not to go there for Christmas, I thought that my compliance with my unloving mother’s wishes in the case of that Christmas would gain me great points with her! I believed that finally I was going to prove to her that she was the most important person to me and then she would finally love me! I had dreams and hopes of having a wonderful mother daughter Christmas with all kinds of bonding. I thought we might watch movies together, maybe go shopping, or even out to lunch! I thought we would buy special food that I could prepare for the two of us and I really thought “my sacrifice” of staying home from my Father’s was going to pay off really big. I thought that finally I was going to prove my worthiness to my mother.
My man addicted narcissistic mother found a new love interest that Christmas season. Guess what happened? I was left alone while she did everything with her new man. I saw my selfish self centered mother on Christmas Day when we went to her girlfriends for Christmas dinner. She didn’t tell me that her boyfriend was going to be there too. I felt trapped because it was too late for me to change my mind and go to my Dad’s. She flirted and giggled with her boyfriend the whole day. She didn’t seem to notice me that entire holiday season. There were no movies, no special meals, no bonding or shopping, in fact my Mom’s girlfriend felt so sorry for me that she took me out to dinner one night with her boyfriend so I didn’t have to be alone every day and night of my Christmas holiday from school.
I still remember the confusion I felt about that whole thing. I felt so “thrown aside”. I don’t know that I had ever felt such a depth of rejection like I did over this one which is kind of interesting to note because I had suffered far worse rejection over the years from both my parents. I think that the shock of it hit me before my dissociative coping method kicked in. I was stunned speechless that my own mother would do that to me. I had sacrificed my Christmas with my father, brothers and new baby half sister for HER. And she ditched me. She didn’t even apologize. I was so unimportant to her that I am sure she didn’t even think she has done anything wrong. She completely disregarded my feelings. It was so blatantly obvious that my selfish self-centered mother didn’t care about ME.
I felt so guilty that I had stayed home from my father’s house. Although my narcissistic mother talked me into staying with her I was far more angry with myself than I was with her! I felt like I had been tricked and that I should have “known better”. I was 15 and I was in total denial of her manipulative ways and I told myself this was my own fault. I was accustomed to being the one at fault and this was no exception. I felt guilty and impatient with myself for feeling rejected.
That was the last Christmas day that I have spent with my mother. As I got older I felt really bad (wrong, guilty, ashamed) that I did not spend Christmas with my mother after that hurtful Christmas when I was a teenager, accepting as always and as I had always been “taught” that it was MY responsibility to arrange it and that it was up to me to go to see her and to initiate all those types of plans. I harbored a secret suspicion against myself that I purposely would not see her because of that Christmas when I was fifteen. Deep down I (falsely) believed that I was probably “getting revenge” on my mother for that horrible Christmas I spent alone. As usual, I was my own judge jury and executioner. That was the way I had been taught to be, always looking at why it was my fault.
My Parents and I have lived in different Provinces and even in different countries since I was 19 years old. When I was about 45 years old, I suddenly realized that neither of my parents ever once has made an effort to include me in any of their Christmas plans. Neither of them has ever suggested that we see each other for Christmas even when I produced three grandchildren. They didn’t ever make the effort to be with me for the holidays. I was not the only one who had not initiated plans.
In my recovery from dysfunctional family stuff, I realized that relationship is not one sided. Finally that guilt, shame and the belief that I was still executing revenge against my selfish mother from when I was a teenager, subsided and I saw the truth about the situation. She was the Mother. She was the ADULT. She was wrong. She constantly treated me like I was nothing. She constantly put me last. She never looked at her treatment of me as anything that I was not deserving of. She constantly accused ME of being selfish and self-centered and I was so busy trying harder that I didn’t realize it was NOT me. I didn’t realize her punishing attitude was wrong and it was likely meant to deter me from realizing the actual truth. I have nothing to be ashamed of and as for not going to my father’s house; I was manipulated into staying home. I was only fifteen. None of this was my fault. I had to realize this truth. None of the facts of this dysfunctional Christmas event defined ME. The facts about that Christmas defined my mother. They show HER true colors. I was not the cause of the dysfunction in our mother daughter relationship.
My life is brilliant since I have embraced the truth. Christmas is a wonderful magical time for me now as I have overcome the baggage of that past and move forward with my new life in freedom.
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Happy Holidays to all of you who celebrate.
Note: I wanted to write a series of articles that relate to dysfunctional family Christmas and family issues, but this event is the youngest Christmas Memory that I have. I have often wondered why the heck I can’t remember any Christmas mornings. I can’t remember even one time of finding presents under the tree before the age of that year when I was fifteen.
Related Post ~ part two of this post: Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Giving the wrong Gift