Christmas Lessons From an Unconventional Family

by Brandyn Murillo

A Christmas setting: Earlier than usual, with anxiousness exuding from the children’s rooms. The sun’s first light illuminates a dewy lawn, bringing a coffee mug’s mist to transparency. A couple emerges from their dwelling, intent on permitting their excited children to open presents.  If lucky, the couple might be on the receiving end of gifts. Then, they may plan to visit other relatives, go out for a Christmas day family treat, or let their children enjoy their new gadgets. All is well.

Coming back to reality, it’s important to mention that nothing I have experienced is anything similar to this. (This is  an observation, not a complaint.) It’s a setting I created by integrating my exposures to media advertisements, movie scenes, songs, and etc, all recreating the ‘typical Christmas family.’  My own parents are long separated, each approaching  the dwindling days of 2015 with their own respective families and homes. When I left  the mold of that typical family as a kid, I often found myself lost and mangled in holiday drama that preceded even my own existence.

In my reality, waking up on Christmas instead comes with certain responsibilities, choices, and reminders. I don’t even know why my parents split in the late 90’s. But I’m reminded of the impact of that decision almost two decades later and will continue to be indefinitely. It’s excruciatingly painful to reveal to one set of parents that I won’t spend Christmas with them.  I have to be careful and responsible enough to do this without admitting or even hinting at preferences.

I can’t be in two places at once, but I do love everyone in my family. My stepfather, my biological one, my stepmother, and my mother — they’ve all done so much for me. But when two decide to split even after having a kid, they delegate responsibilities to that child that no one should ever have to contemplate. They remind their child of the messy nature of human relationships: not all them are Target-commercial perfect.

I remember this sad but true fact when my own non-parental relationships are met with tribulations. Should I lash out, speak my mind, and let this other person know my frustrations? Or should I preserve my restraint and admit my mistakes? I’ve learned the importance of considering the outcome of a situation, and have had time to contemplate the futility of tending to my own ego or selfish desires.

Having two sets of parents means more awkward moments, an inability to please everyone, and lots of heartache. But it also means two sets of presents, a ton of elders, much more food, and it’s hard to complain about any of that.