Christmas: The Most Terrible Time of the Year

When visiting your adult child for the holidays represents stress and anxiety. It’s the holiday season for most people the most wonderful time of the year they’ll say. And while I don’t celebrate holidays in general, this year this time of the year is a nice time to get away…

Christmas: The Most Terrible Time of the Year
Photo by Barry Plott from Pexels

It’s the holiday season for most people the most wonderful time of the year they’ll say. And while I don’t celebrate holidays in general, this time of the year is a nice time to get away from the hustle and bustle of South Florida, the snowbirds, and the warm weather to enjoy cold weather and hideout for the holidays.

Kinda sorta.

Having lived in the Carolinas all my life, I miss the change of seasons and cold weather. But this year, I decided to come home to visit a few close friends, my grandchildren and my adult problem child who can’t seem to get his shit together.

My stomach churns as I plan the trip. I get my flight, and the entire time, I’m anxious. It’s not an anxiousness linked to excitement though. It’s my son. I love him, but he’s too much most times.

My 28-year old son makes me anxious. He’s one of the primary reasons I’ve left the state. I have no peace if I’m in close proximity to him. He’s needy. He failed to take heed to the life lessons we gave to him coming up intended to help him avoid the life he’s living now. It’s disappointing seeing him struggle so much. I feel like at his age he should be doing better.

I’ve tried the hands off approach, and I have tried giving up. I keep coming back. It’s hard to give up on your kids, no matter how terrible they are.

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But he’s my son and lately, I’ve been feeling deep down in my spirit he’s feeling alone, and a mother knows her child. We have all moved away, and he has no family ties nearby. He was set up to do the same, but he failed to take hold, so he was left behind. He could have been in the Marines gone to California or Okinawa, but when it was his time to go, he dipped on Uncle Sam.

He would have six years under his belt by now. But he chose the easy way out. He’s learning there are no easy ways out.

We took put him in college. He left on his own during the first semester. He moved in with his friends, we gave him all of his furniture from his room. The friends got put out, and all of his stuff was put on the side of road when they were evicted. I have purchased more ID’s, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses than I can count since he’s been an adult. I gave my other two children their documents when they finished college.

He’s the only one that has not been able to keep up with the things he needs to be an adult.

I have paid to have his driver’s license reinstated three different times. Again, he has no license. He’s been struggling for years trying to get his shit together. The entire family is tired of him. No one will help anymore. He was worn out all of his bridges. I’m tired, but I’m human too.

As a mom and a person with a heart, I felt like my physical presence was needed.

But as soon as I make known plans for a visit, the begging and petitioning phone calls and texts begin.

I need…. I need… I don’t have… no one will help me.

My flight arrives. I make it to town. My stomach begins to churn. I feel super stressed now.

There is never a time when this kid isn’t in distress, and this trip won’t be any different. I have chewed his butt inside out about his inability to get his shit together but now is not the time. There are fires, and I need to put them out. I will just do what I can, do what is within reason, and go back into hibernation mode.

This is why I dread the trips home. This is why I hate the holidays. Will I ever be the mother that’s cherished and appreciated? Will I always be seen as the fountain of help? Did I mention I’m tired already?

I send a text to let him know I made it safely. There is no appreciation for me arriving safely.

Only petitions.

His dryer is broke, and the family hasn’t had clean clothes in weeks. It’s winter so toss them in the yard to dry is not an option.

He hasn’t had a way to the grocery store in months because they don’t have transportation. They live in a rural town and they don’t have public transportation or Uber…so if you don’t have a car, you’re shit out of luck. So they have been eating fast food from his girlfriend’s place of employment (Applebees) or they eat little Caesars Pizza because it’s cheap and it’s all they can afford.

He needs a ride to work. He works on weekends only, 16 hours a day, 3-days per week. The girlfriend’s mother will take her to work and babysit her grandson. The mother-in-law is so tired of my son she’s told her daughter not to ask her to help him with shit. I know how she feels, but it still feels bad to hear someone else be sick of your man-child as a mother. They are poor, but they are hanging in there together. Maybe things will get better.

They don’t have a car so they can’t take their trash off. The live in a rural area and there is no trash pick up. Trash is piled up because they can’t get to the recycle center to dispose of it.

I got all this dumped onto my lap my second day in town. My anxiety level is out of this world. I have an old bottle of aged Haitian Rum in my closet. I’ll be having that this trip to ease my pain and so that I can perhaps rest a little easier.

I’m angry.

I’m angry because my son shouldn’t be here. I’m disappointed because I know he learned better. I’m sad because I hate to see my kid and his kids suffering. I’m unhappy because this should be the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s not.

The holidays are supposed to be filled with cheer. It’s supposed to be about family and fellowship. Life gives us no instructions for when things go wrong. For when our children go astray, or for when fairy tales turn into nightmares.

I go to the store to buy things to make a pot of chicken soup. It’s the least I can do. A soup cooked with mom’s love to soothe a weary, lonely, broken soul.

I hope it brings him some peace.

I have little joy. Thank goodness my best friend is as solid as a rock 20 years strong. She has her own troubles with a nephew. His wife abandoned him and their three young sons ages, 5,7, and 8 years old. They were living with her, but now they’ve moved out and he relies on her to babysit for him 5 days per week like an after school care program. She’s 55 and doesn’t have any kids of her own. She’s the refuge for her family.

A single woman carrying the torch for grown men in her family who keep making bad choices.

She helped her brother raise her nephew and his two sisters when his mother died from cancer when he was only 13–14 years old. She understands clearly what I’m going through because she’s been through something similar. We’re tired, but we can’t be. There is no rest for the weary.

We must always work. We must always have a little extra, just in case our children or family needs something. There is never a day off.

It seems women are the glue that keeps the families together, husband or not. Not to take anything away from father’s going through similar anguish, but the love and dedication of a mother is a league of its own.

And so as people go around spending money they don’t have on gifts their loved ones don’t need, shopping in stores decked out in garland, Christmas trees, beautiful lights, and gingerbread scents…some of us don’t have that luxury.

Some of us are dealing with our adult children and their adult baggage.


I take a few days and I help him run errands. I watch my grandson while my son does laundry at a nearby laundromat. I drop the soup off. And I take them to the store to pick up a few things they need for the house.

On this particular trip, he has very little to say. I don’t say much, because I don’t want to upset him. He seems, different. Like life has taught him some of the shit his mama tried to warn him about.

Things like how hard life is, and how people don’t help you, especially when you’re not family. I told him how hard it was to live in small towns (I like to call them Buck Nelly) where there are few jobs, no public transportation, and limitations as tall as the sky. I taught him the value of getting his education, and having his own stuff. At least a car if he planned to stay in Buck Nelly.

At least he knows how to live without. I taught him that. I also taught him how to survive during a life famine. He’s surviving, but barely. He’s so small. I can see his shoulder blades. I try not to stare too much because I’ll get full. He wasn’t this thin when he was at home eating when he wanted and as much as he wanted. His struggles are showing.

He’s not using drugs. He’s not smoking. He’s not drinking alcohol either. There is no money for any of that now. There are no more good times.

There’s only money for life, and it’s pretty hard to come by these days. I drop him off, and I weep and meditate on the way home. Where did I go wrong? How did we get here? Will things ever get better for him? I hope so?

I want to see my child better before I close my eyes and leave this earth. So, I watch, and I wait.

It’s Christmas time. I should be happy right? Well, I’m not.

It’s the most terrible time of the year.

Marley K., 2018