It may seem a little out of date to be blogging about Christmas now the New Year has flipped over, but sometimes it takes a week or so to figure out how you feel about something.

On Christmas morning, I picked up the present from SIL and began to open it. Seeing the back of a photo frame inside, I rolled my eyes and said, "Yep, as predicted, a photo of Nephew for Christmas." But it was ok - expected, accepted, a running and open joke we have with SIL about how parents are morally bound to give photographs of their cherubs away as gifts forevermore, or at least until teenagehood. Mr Bea and I were smiling at each other as I pulled it free of the wrapping paper and turned it over to have a look. Then my face fell.

"Ah, I see your sister has decided to start sending us photos of children we don't even know." Because there they were - Nephew on one of Santa's knees, and another little boy on the other.

Mr Bea craned to look. The other boy, it seems, is a long-lost and very distant cousin, born in the same year as Nephew. The parents have been hanging out. I may have met them once. I sat there for a moment, til Mr Bea gently pulled the picture from my hands and set it aside.

Later he called his parents. They were attending the traditional family gathering, although this year things were a bit less traditional with the addition of a jumping castle. "That seems over the top," Mr Bea said to his Dad. "In my day we were perfectly happy to amuse ourselves with a cricket bat so venerable it had been passed down from father to son for generations, gathering a new layer of duct tape at each handover, whilst stuffing ourselves full of too much sugar and trying to make sure our presents lasted the required twenty-four hour probationary period beyond which it is no longer a punishable crime to break them."

His father agreed. I, on the other hand, lost it. "Don't you see what this means?" I said. "Each year from now on, there's going to be this big, exciting thing at Christmas and each year our children - when, if and however we have any - will be left out."

"But that sort of stuff always happens to younger cousins," he said.

And I guess that's the point*. Ours weren't supposed to be the younger cousins. Ours were supposed to be the same age as the rest of them. Our child should have been sitting on Santa's other knee. Our toddler should have been bouncing tentatively up and down on the castle at the family gathering last week.

I know I'll still find people to share the experience of parenthood with - families we wouldn't have otherwise been close to, and even families we wouldn't otherwise have met - but they won't be the ones I'd chosen. This infertility isn't going to have as temporary an effect as I'd hoped. There are opportunities being lost forever**. At the end of Christmas Day, the wedge between what I thought my life would be and what I realise my life is grew a little bit wider.

*It's also this - what enticing treats will be presented at future gatherings to remind us, year in, year out, that our children are not in the same agegroup as the rest of them? "It's one thing," I said, "to struggle to keep up with a game of backyard cricket, but it's another to watch the older kids participate in an expensive, awesomely exciting and much-trailed activity while you're left to sit in the corner making your own fun. Frankly, I think it's rude. It means the main event of Christmas day is now something that excludes people who don't have children in the same agegroup as your cousin. The biggest thing about a Christmas family gathering should be something everyone can share." A week later, I still stand by that last sentence. Christmas is a family event, not a kid's birthday party. Phew, it's good to get that rant written down.

**Hopeful Bea won't let me post this without pausing to acknowledge, one more time, the opportunities which will no doubt be created. She doesn't know what they are, and the mystery is kind of enticing. Thanks, Hopeful Bea, now please tone it down before someone hits you.


ColourYourWorld said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ColourYourWorld said...

Sorry there were too many typos in my last comment so I will try again.

WoW a Jumping castle for Christmas ! That is extravagant.

Hmm, I had never given much thought to the whole cousin thing. You are right, they are opportunities lost forever , nothing can make up for that time lost. My future children will have a huge age gap with their cousins, the youngest cousin is well and truly old enough to babysit at 15. Not to mention they already have second cousins that will be older than them too.
Ah crap, I am really feeling my age now.

Serenity said...

I think about this often when I spend time with my friends; that there will be a significant age gap between them now when I had thought there wouldn't be any.

And I absolutely agree with your last statement, that Christmas should be something in which everyone can share.

(That said, Hopeful Bea has a point, you know.)

Stephanie said...

I am right with you on this subject. The youngest cousin in our family is 5 years old today and in a couple of months will be 6. The grandparents (my in laws) give money to the grandkids every year and pay for their private schooling. I have worried that our kids will not get the benefits that the other grandkids have received. (not just money, but experiences too) On one hand I feel really guilty about even thinking about this, but on the other it is true. They will not know their grandparents or at least remember them. It is just too sad.

BigP's Heather said...

I agree that it is rude.

As the youngest cousin I can vouche for how much it sucks to be left out of everything.

beagle said...

I've wondered similar things. We have nieces and nephews ranging in age from 1-13. Now the 1 is pretty good, but at the rate we're going here, that one will be off to college before we get off the ground, and the 13 will be having kids of his own!

I don't think infertility ever goes away. We just have to find the hoepful bits where we can.

(Not that I'm particularly good at that!)

Mel said...

I know what you mean. I have pics of my neice and nephew everywhere and I think to myself "that should be my kids up there." After all I started ttc way before my younger sis.
I was wrapping their presents and thinking that I should be wrapping my kids presents. I love buying presents for kids and I always have to remind myself that these kids are not mine that their parents don't want them spoilt and I try to respect their wishes by keeping the presents to a minimum. Hopefully my kid/s won't be too much younger than my neice and nephew.

Jules said...

My niece is 3½. We have pictures of her everywhere. M is our surrogate daughter (when we see her, but that's another story).

I can't help but think, how our child & M, would have been best friends. They could have played dress-ups together, explored the world together, grown up together.

Now M will be at least 4, maybe even older, before we give her a cousin.

It may not be important in the scheme of things, but it is important.

Infertility sux!

TeamWinks said...

My family is so huge, we always had people in the same age groups. However, that doesn't mean that I can't understand where you are coming from. Things can change. You can shape how the family gatherings go. Think positively, even though it sucks to try.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I think the cousin thing will be alright for your children in the end. I experienced the other end of the spectrum on my dad's side of the family-most of my cousins are between 4 and 15, I'm 29. When I was a kid it was pretty lonely at get togethers, now there are 9 kids running around. When I was a kid it was me and my brother who is 6 years younger. There have been very few times that I've actually felt slighted or left out. Look at the bright side your kids will have all these others to look up to and/or terrorize at holiday events!

Also, could you please tell my mom's friend that teenagedom is the appropriate time to stop sending pictures of your kids. She still sends out holiday photos of her sons-23 (senior in college), 25 (married a year), 27(divorced 2 years). It is so tacky!

Lollipop Goldstein said...

It's a loss I hadn't thought about it a while. That loss of parenting your kids alongside your siblings or other cousins. Giving them what you had. I'm sorry, B.

Anonymous said...

A jumping castle for Christmas. WTF. That's all I can say. The kids should be merrily playing with their new toys or rummaging through the house's stash of older toys. They shouldn't need to be "entertained."

The loss of sharing parenthood at this time is one of the worst aspects of infertility. I see D.'s nephews and now his niece grow up and away from our not-yet-born children. It's a very painful loss. I have to remind myself that although we are "left behind" among some friends and D.'s side of the family, my own brothers and many other friends have not yet started trying or are single. There will be other babies.

GLouise said...

A jumping castle for Christmas? How obnoxious!

And a photo of some random child alongside your nephew? Very odd!!

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