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Dear Grandparents, Please Cancel Christmas

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To my parents, my children’s grandparents:

Please cancel Christmas.

We desperately want to visit you. We want you to be able to hold and play with the kids, instead of giving them a time-lagged wave on a screen. This year has been hard, and there’s something incredibly appealing about returning to our childhood homes, to a place where you make holiday magic come alive, where you’ll make everything be OK like you have so many times before. We’re grown up now, but we’re still your kids, and we want to come home.

But please stop inviting us.

It’s hard to say no to you. It’s so, so hard. We know this year has taken a toll on you. We know that the separation hurts, and we know that you want us to show up with a carload of grandkids and gifts. We know the isolation is painful. We know that the kids are only little once, and you just want to hold them before they’re too big. We want this too. We can’t tell you how guilty we feel every time we say no, we can’t come visit.

Well, maybe we can. We feel so sad and guilty that we’re planning to do something that we know is dangerous for our family and, frankly, the country. We know the math. We know that in our area, if each person has a 3% chance of contracting COVID-19, that means that a nine-person gathering has a 24% chance of at least one person having COVID-19. We’re looking at the new baby, the nephew with asthma, the sister with a pre-existing condition and the grandparents who are pushing 70. We’re looking at the posts from our friends who are healthcare workers, pleading with everyone to take this seriously. Over it all, we see a flashing red 24%, and we know this is a very bad idea.

Please tell us that you agree, and that in light of the current risks, we are cordially uninvited from Christmas.

Please help us out. We’ve been saying no to you all year, and it’s wearing on us, just as we know it’s wearing on you. We’re torn between your need for connection and our need to not be the ones who brought COVID-19 to our parents. We’re torn between wanting you to hold the baby and not wanting to take our baby to the pediatrician with a cough one week later. On top of all the health risks, we’re torn between wanting to prioritize family relationships and being afraid that a mandatory two (or three or four) week absence would cost us our jobs.

We’re in a bad situation, and we’re tying ourselves in knots trying to figure it all out. We know we’re never going to find a good solution, because there isn’t a good solution, but every time you propose a gathering, every time you tell us how much you just need a family get together, we feel obligated to keep trying. We’re parents now too, and we’re getting a better understanding of the sacrifices that went into raising us. We know that we owe you so much. We feel grateful, and lonely, and pulled in a hundred different directions.

Which is why our Christmas wish is this: please cancel Christmas. Please give us the gift of knowing that we can stay home and keep our family safe, without worrying that it will hurt our relationship with you. Please don’t put us in a position to say no, when you so clearly want us to say yes. Please tell us that no matter how much you miss us, you agree with the importance of taking this seriously. Please say outright that even though you’ll be sad to miss the baby’s first Christmas, you agree that it’s more important to make sure that we can all get together for future Christmases, without anyone being lost to COVID-19 — not just for our family, but the families around us too.

Please, please be the parents that we need you to be, and take the initiative to cancel Christmas.

Your children

Unsplash photo via SB Vonlanthen

Originally published: December 12, 2020
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