For over a month, my twin and I have been shopping and trying to make sure that everyone not only got what they wanted for Christmas but more importantly, were “happy with their haul.”  

Planning the Christmas gift exchange at WorthamWorld, my husband and I enjoyed preparing the meal together while my grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna played games in the kitchen waiting for my son and his wife, my niece and her husband and my niece Stephaney to arrive and open gifts.  

The twins had spent the night with my husband and I at WorthamWorld and were enjoying their morning with excited anticipation of the gift exchange scheduled for noon to give my son and his wife time to unwrap gifts at their home.

Makenna had wanted a laptop for Christmas to keep up with her exceletated studies for school and Maryssa had wanted an updated phone to keep up with her social circle.  Makenna has always focused on her grades and Maryssa needs constant “nudging” when it comes to her schoolwork.

They are compensating personality twins who although they look alike, have different interests.  Makenna is a straight A student who only cares about her studies.  Maryssa is a social butterfly and the most popular at school.  

Cindy ordered IPhones on EBay for them only to find out on the day before Christmas Eve that one of the ones she had purchased was stolen and blacklisted.  Cindy was devastated about this and had never been “burned” buying phones on Ebay before so I met her at Metro PCS to try and resolve the problem before Christmas Eve.  Cindy was pretty upset about the phone situation.

After 2 1/2 hours of working with Metro PCS, it was decided that Maryssa would give her old phone (newer than Makenna’s because she had broken her original phone) to Makenna and the other iPhone that wasn’t blacklisted would be given to Maryssa.  We escalated an “Item Not As Described” claim with EBay to return the blacklisted phone and get a refund.  I told Cindy not to worry about Makenna’s phone because she didn’t care about a phone,  her sister did.

My husband and I let the twins open a gift as we waited on the rest of my family to arrive and Makenna was thrilled with the new laptop that my husband purchased at Best Buy and Maryssa was thrilled with her new and updated phone.  

There was no jealousy between the twins because that would come later when their mom Stephaney started an epic argument over one twin “getting better gifts than the other twin.”  My twin sister, Cindy has custody of the twins and has been the Primary Conservator since they were born 13 years ago.  Their mother, Stephaney was 15 when they were born.  Stephaney has spent most of her life trying to find love but has yet to find the perfect mate.  She wasn’t ready to be a mother at her young age much less to twins and signed over custody to my sister.

My twin sister has raised the twins as her own children for years making their lunches, buying their clothes and helping with their homework and has never prevented their mother from seeing them and spending time with them.  Cindy has spent her life caring for her children and grandchildren and like me, wants all of them to be close but we encounter competition all of the time with the three adult children.  From “so and so just got another new car?” To “another new TV? They are so spoiled!”  While we wish they could be happy for each other’s success, it’s something that hasn’t happened.  Why they compete we will never know.  In fact, Cindy and I hate all this competing and know it’s a problem.  What we don’t know is how to fix it! 

Taking on twins in your 40’s is an expensive and time consuming commitment that grandparents take on.  My husband and I help Cindy and Steve with expenses for the twins and always have.  It really does “take a village.”

Every year all of the planning and preparation that my husband, my sister and I put into Thanksgiving and Christmas is effectively turned upside down when one of our adult children decide to “stir the chili.”  These problems were far more insignificant before my son and my niece married and new members joined the family.  My niece Stephaney is jealous of my daughter in law Stephanie and every year their gifts somehow get mixed up although my sister and I carefully mark their gifts Stephanie H or Stephaney M.  One Stephanie opening the other Stephaney’s gift turns the entire room into chaos!  They both wear close to the same size which only makes the “competition” more fierce.  Sadly, this “gift mixup” happens nearly every year. 

My niece Stephaney Mahaney pictured below was thrilled with a few gifts but had decided to “speak out” and inform my sister and I that Makenna had more and better gifts than Maryssa.  I “lost it” while bagging up Christmas paper and boxes and threw the bag at her screaming “you’re ruining Christmas! Why can’t you just be happy and enjoy the holidays with your family?  Why do you want to start an argument over a problem that doesn’t exist?”

 My usual “perfect Christmas Mode Mood” flew out the window in front of my entire family.  I will never get over that happening although my husband says that years from now, people will laugh about it because I’m always composed and in control and pride myself on being fair and reasonable.  

Stephaney bringing up a problem that didn’t exist after telling me that it wasn’t fair for my son to be flying off on another trip when she wasn’t was part of the problem.  Stephaney didn’t understand that I wasn’t paying for their trip or her sisters trip to the Gaylord either. They were.  

Years ago, Leigh Ann and Stephaney were close to one another but Stephaney has spent years in and out of rehab which certainly hadn’t helped their relationship.  My mother was a drug addict so I’m familiar with alcoholics and drug abuse.  It’s a problem no family wants and too many families are exposed to.  I’m praying that one day my nieces will understand that having a sibling is a gift and mend their broken fences.  My sister and I constantly remind them of how much we appreciate our Twinship and how lucky they are to have two moms and a large family but it’s often on deaf ears.

Perhaps because Stephaney was embarrassed, she left in a huff while I tried to calm down and resume the gift exchange having no idea she had left our home because there are two living room areas and numerous rooms.  I had assumed she was in the guest room “cooling off.” 

I simply couldn’t believe that yet again- someone had to do something to spoil my perfectly planned and executed holiday.  This “blow up” ruined an otherwise perfect day with my family and friends.  

Other families have perfect holidays or at least it appears that way from looking at their happy photos posted on Instagram and Facebook.  For some reason getting my own family to look as happy as other families continues to be an impossible fantasy.

While picking up my father who lives a few blocks away to go to the movies, I told him about the “Christmas Incident” while crying as I explained exactly what had happened while unloading the food I had brought him in his kitchen.  I wasn’t sure my niece would bother showing up to the movies and worried about her out driving around alone and upset on Christmas Day.

My dad patiently looked at me and told me something I probably needed to hear “every year you try to one up yourself by making everything perfect-life isn’t perfect and holidays aren’t either.  Don’t beat yourself up.  If you weren’t striving for perfection, you wouldn’t have been all on pins and needles waiting for a shoe to drop.  You cannot ever make everyone happy so stop trying and you might actually enjoy the holidays.”  

In a world of trying to make every family photo perfect (thanks to FB), perfection is overrated.  I’m OCD and the only person in my family that wants “everything perfect- all of the time.”  It’s a family rumor  (and untrue) that I will flip out of a cushion is crooked or a dish is left in the sink although I’ve spent years trying to “lighten up” my quest for perfection even if my family don’t realize it.  The truth is that I cannot control my family so I control my home but have really worked at “not being perfect” at home especially during the holidays.

My dad waited patiently for me to “spit it out” while explaining that all I’ve ever wanted was to make everyone happy.  It’s true.  There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for my family or friends.  I would go hungry to save someone else.  I finally stopped crying after explaining everything to my dad and finally understood that Christmas wasn’t about the perfect meal or the perfect present.  

Sure it was a holiday that most families share together celebrating but I had let Christmas become so commercialized for our adult children that while trying to be the perfect hostess running around and refilling drinks and passing out gifts, that I had not only “forgotten the reason for the season,” I had also missed an opportunity to stop and enjoy the moment with my family because I was too busy trying to make it perfect by gathering up the trash and trying to clean up the living room.  

What I should’ve been doing was sitting down and watching everyone open their gifts and rather than throwing wrapping paper when I got upset, perhaps giving my niece the “stink eye” instead.  The stink eye usually lets the person stirring the chili know to “cool it.” 

When you put my entire family in one place at the same time—someone is going to say or do something to upset someone else.  It happens every time and although it makes me furious because I want to create a wonderful family memory, I cannot control everyone.  I’ve tried most of my life and haven’t accomplished it yet.

My dad was right and I learned a valuable lesson.  He was thankful that I had brought him gifts and food and was taking him to the movies to get out of the house.  Unlike our adult children, my father appreciated (that’s right appreciated) my efforts to make Christmas wonderful.  I realize now that at my fathers age, there may be a time when he’s no longer here to enjoy our rowdy family whether they are all getting along with each other or not.

My dad is alone often now after losing Gretta to cancer and for the first time I’ve noticed, far more interested in having family members come by for a visit than he is about a gift of a meal.  

Companionship has become a priceless commodity for my father with everyone so busy working and tending to their own families that finding time for a visit is often the last thing that occurs to many of them.  

Living a few blocks away, I often bring him dinner or take him to lunch in order to get him out of the house.  The cold weather is hard on him and he often declines an invitation to get out of the house.

I’m deeply saddened and sorry about my Christmas Anger Incident and I’m fairly certain it upset my son, my nieces and grandnieces, and anyone else at our home but after years of trying to make everyone happy, I had literally become Clark Griswald in an instant and over reacted to complaints rather than compliments regarding gifts.  When you work so hard to make everyone except yourself happy, it doesn’t take too much to set you off.

There has yet to be a Christmas at our home where someone didn’t “bring the drama” and start an argument and after 30 years of this, my temper got the best of me. For some reason, the “happy and perfect holiday” has yet to occur in my life.  I keep hoping for the perfect holiday but it may never come.  

My niece, Stephaney Mahaney is beautiful but unlike her sister and my son, has no husband or person to share her life with.  There is a certain degree of jealousy regarding the “family” her sister Leigh Ann has with baby Maddy and her Navy husband Alex.  My son has his wife and four dogs for his family while Stephaney wonders if she will ever find a husband?  The truth is that she has had only idiots for boyfriends who take advantage of her kind heart.  

Stephaney has often told me that the one thing she would really like for Christmas was for someone to love her.  We all love my niece but she often competes so much with my daughter in law that having them together is “asking for it.”  Stephanie Hafele doesn’t realize that by marrying my son, she “took Stephaney’s best friend” away from her.  

My niece has never accepted Stephanie Hafele as family and even tried to come between my son and his wife shortly after they married.  They may never get along due to the fact that my son is in the middle by trying to spend time with his cousin and trying to spend time with his wife.  

Stephaney and my son are close in age and were always together until he married.  Although my niece came to the wedding, it was with a chip on her shoulder about who my son was marrying.  The battle five years later continues to “roll on.”

I never asked Stephaney to leave, I simply blew up and blew it off.  I was going to find her and apologize when I realized she had left through my basement door.  I was crushed about it too and upset that my son knew she was leaving and didn’t tell me.  My son thought that my niece had been drinking and although I didn’t see her in the bar area, she may have had a few cocktails which easily can put her over the top.  

With our children and their spouses, “blow ups” are a common occurrence unless you walk on eggshells trying to keep everyone happy and even then, it’s a mine field!  I’ve never kicked anyone out of my home in my life and believe me there have been a few times that I should have but this wasn’t one of them.  I’m the smoother, the fixer when something happens that causes an argument not the person who makes it worse.  The “shocker” was for me to react rather than my usual overlook it and move on role.

I’m sick and saddened that a holiday that was supposed to be happy had turned into an argument.  Moments leading up to the gift exchange were happy and wonderful with family members taking photos together and enjoying the spread of food my husband had set out.  We both worked as a team to give our family a wonderful Christmas and try to make everyone happy but it’s not as easy as it may sound.

Cindy used to love dressing up the twins in holiday outfits and arrived with a few of her years past favorites and everyone had fun posing for Cindy which made her happy. She loves taking photos and enjoys having e eryone together.  Her husband, Steve Daniel barely made it home from his job as a truck driver for Ryder in time for Christmas Eve.  Steve has missed many holidays while out on the road working to “save the farm.” 

I had called my dad to come over and join us but he was joining us later at the movies and declined.  Looking back, I’m glad he did because watching me blow a gasket is something that I would prefer no one had witnessed.

Although I made several calls and texts to my niece begging her to come back, she ignored me.  Storming out on Christmas only made this situation worse.  Perhaps it was I who ruined Christmas by blowing up but in my own defence, it would have never happened if everyone only had good things to say.  

Why is it that when you throw a group of people together at a Wedding, a Funeral or even a Holiday together that someone has to “make it all about themselves?”  I had bought movie tickets to The Greatest Showman at 4:15PM for my family and my friend Angela and her son Gianni thinking that everyone would enjoy wrapping up Christmas together.  My best friend Tammi was sick and unable to join us but, I had my sister text Stephaney to please come enjoy the show with us and put the argument behind her.

As I sat outside the movie theater with my brother in law, Steve, Cindy, the twins, my niece Leigh Ann and her husband Alex played with Madyson while we waited for Stephaney to show up.  Perhaps to “make an entrance,” at exactly 4:15PM, my niece Stephaney finally showed up.

Every Christmas, I make “movie plans” for my family and try to give my husband a break from everyone being at our home for the holidays.  As usual, our favorite holiday movie “Christmas Vacation” was playing on the television at our home with Foxy Wortham resting on the couch after all of the excitement aka my family leaving the building.  Jumping and begging for snacks left my 12 year old Beagle ready for a Christmas nap on his favorite spot of the sofa next to my husbands recliner.  Holidays are my dogs favorite time of the year! 

I’m hoping that next year is “drama free” after hearing that one of our friends has decided to “skip Christmas next year” after a family argument and drunk relative “spoiled Christmas at our house.”  Thankfully, I didn’t have any drunk relatives at my house but it’s happened before so I keep tabs on the drinks these days.  My home has an “Open Bar” and I’m often in the uncomfortable position of saying no.

I Officiated a beautiful Christmas Eve wedding and enjoyed how the holiday decor tied everything together with their family who were “home for the holidays.”

I’ve decided (as usual) to leave my tree up and reminisce about the highlights of the holiday rather than the lowlights and know that even a Perfectly Planned Event can have a few bumps in the road.  My history of Planning Events spans 20 years but people are unpredictable even when the people are your own family.

As my son and daughter in law fly to Washington for a Christmas Trip, it’s “back to business” for me as I prepare for a road trip tomorrow to a TDCJ Unit for a Prison Wedding.

Hopefully next year will be all fun and laughs but, I can’t predict the future.  I can only hope that one day our children and grandchildren comprehend the expenses, the effort and the sacrifices we make to give them a wonderful holiday…Event Planning requires sacrifice.  You spend a lot of money and time to make everything perfect and in a matter of moments it’s all over.  

The one thing I hope to gain at future Holiday Parties is happy memories, the joy of Christmas and a few hours of glee but maybe I’m setting the bar too high when my family is concerned and perhaps, I’m not alone in my quest for the perfect holiday get together?  Everyone wants the perfect Christmas with their family but occasionally, their family don’t really get along with one another…

Wendy M Wortham