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Carolyn Hax: All I want for Christmas is for you to do what I want for Christmas

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have only one child, who just got married this year. We have always spent Christmas Eve together, just she and her now-husband, and Christmas Day with our extended family.

This year they want to still spend Christmas Eve with us but not Christmas Day. It's not to be with his family, as I said we would host everyone from his small family, though not mine, as it is too large to host during a pandemic. They have decided they want to spend Christmas Day alone.

I have never been so hurt. My husband and I will be alone on Christmas Day. We told them let's skip Christmas Eve and get together on Christmas Day, but they said no.

We would never leave them alone. I find this to be a very selfish act, as we are getting up in years. I feel Valentine's Day is for couples but Christmas is for families. I can't begin to tell you how sad and hurt I am. Am I wrong?

— Heartbroken

Heartbroken: You feel what you feel, and you value what you value, so it’s not “wrong” to feel sad. The Christmas tradition you love just got wiped out — this year, at least — by an unfortunate concurrence of a virus and the debut of your daughter’s new family unit. I am sorry you’re left with Plan B.

Where you go awry is in blaming your daughter for those feelings, tarring her emotional launch as a “very selfish act.”

For one thing, she is a newlywed. Have mercy.

For another, you are both free-standing, emotionally continent adults. She’s doing this for herself, not to you. Adopt this as a mantra, if needed, because “You’re selfish for not giving me what I want!” is a stance you’ll probably regret. You’ve voiced your objections, so please now manage your disappointment — again, your absolutely understandable disappointment — “in house” from now on.

For another thing, you have Christmas Eve. And even if you didn’t, I’d be reminding you how lucky you’ve been to enjoy her company previously. (Her husband’s family? No such recent luck.) That’s because, once you’ve looked your sadness in the eye, felt it, accepted it — the next step is to put it in perspective. The secret to goodwill and good moods under changing conditions is to gather up whatever blessings remain, and get creative with them. You have time.

For another thing, your daughter is part of a continuum — the benefits of which you have clearly long enjoyed, once you and husband and child became your own primary family unit apart from his and your parents’, the center of your own holidays. Your daughter is now planting herself on this timeline. Maybe her timing isn’t ideal, but, she’s paid a heavy price already in 2020 currency, hasn’t she? Starting her marriage amid disaster? She’s entitled to this emotional milestone. Please do not dent her joy just because it’s tougher for you.

If needed, imagine your parents had tried to tell your newlywed self how to live. Presumably you’d have resented that.

Or maybe you needn’t imagine. If they actually did interfere, then let that memory talk you out of doing the same to your daughter. And if you came to be grateful for their meddling (all variables get a hearing today!), then grant your daughter the same opportunity to grow into her beliefs on her schedule.

For another thing: Do you realize you’re upset about having to accept the exact experience they’re choosing? Proof there’s no punishable-by-outrage, uniform code of holiday conduct. Or much else.

For another, then I’ll stop, promise: Christmas is one day but your emotional tie your daughter is 365 and eternal, so I urge you not to strain the latter in shortsighted thrall of the former.

Though if I can think of another good reason to resist intergenerational bomb-throwing over a relatively minor slight at a time when we really, really need to keep our connections to each other warm and intact, then I will add that, too.

I don’t intend this as a piling-on of every reason you’re wrong wrong wronnnnnnnng. I spelled it all out because, again, we need each other right now and need to keep our heads; because we’re collectively kind of losing them; because holiday hard feelings are a preventable perennial; and because strong emotions tend to block new thinking. I’m hoping it helps, as you plan your next move, to send the heavy plow of logic through first.

Logic, and time. I witnessed my own parents wind up similarly and unexpectedly alone for a major holiday, despite four adult kids within driving range. Long story. My typically easygoing mom was bereft. And then I watched years of future life and past goodwill outnumber, overtake, swallow up and all but erase that day.

So un-guilt your daughter, a true Christmas gift — then start planning Plan B. Charity, music, pie? The season stands ready with its countless other gifts.

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