+
upworthy
popular

As an adult with a less-than-normal childhood, here's what Christmas means to me now

angel tree fellowship, christmas, parents in prison
Photo by Thandy Yung on Unsplash

Not every child experiences the perfect Christmas.

As Christmas fast approaches (literally eight days away, holy cow) I relish the opportunity to do all those wholesome holiday things.

I love filling my cats’ stockings with tuna treats and springy toys. I’m thrilled to top our tree with a sparkling glowy star and sneak away to wrap my boyfriend’s present. And boy, do I look forward to his authentic Puerto Rican coquito.

The apartment smells of cinnamon and gingerbread, and it fills me with a comfort that’s both so welcomed and yet so foreign.

It hadn’t really dawned on me before, that perhaps why I now wholeheartedly embrace the tradition of Christmas, though I am in no way religious, is because it’s a way to cultivate what I never really had in childhood: a sense of peace.

In other words: Christmas provides a sense of normality. And for someone with a less-than-normal childhood, that feeling matters. A lot.


I hadn’t always given Christmas the same thought. When I was little, all I knew was Christmas meant getting one of those cheap kiddy art sets from Angel Tree.

If you don’t know what that is, Angel Tree is an organization that provides gifts to children of parents who are incarcerated. It comes with a note from the parent, written in prison. That way there’s at least some semblance of connection during the holiday.

My mother knew I liked art, and therefore always asked for it.

Unwrapping the gift was … fine. Reading the letter from my mom, on the other hand, was outright numbing. It just didn’t compare to the real thing. To talking. To seeing her react to my surprise. To hugging.

“Little me” didn’t realize that all I wanted for Christmas was the one thing I couldn’t have, and to ease the pain of longing, I would feel nothing instead. All I understood was art set + mom’s letter = Christmas.

This is by no means a complaint against Angel Tree; I think what they do is an amazing contribution. I certainly used the hell out of those watercolor paints and oil pastels, and it most definitely made a positive impact on my life.

And my mom did her best. This is not a judgment of her character nor a degradation of her parenting. It just is me saying: I didn’t feel what I think I was supposed to feel, as a little kid at Christmas time.

Having this holiday apathy, I spent my teens being “too cool” for Christmas, and looked down on it as some kind of capitalist conspiracy. Then as an adult working at amusement parks, Christmas simply became “holiday pay day.” Yes, I suppose you could say I leaned into that same capitalism I fought so hard against during my formative years. What a sellout.

I spent the holiday wearing a prosthetic “Who nose,” stilt walking, entertaining the crowds. And when that fat check came in, I would always wonder if the 12+ hours were worth it.

It wasn’t.

(Again, no ill intentions toward my former place of employment. Plenty of my coworkers loved spending Christmas this way. I just did it for the wrong reasons.)

Knowing what I do now, it makes perfect sense that I allowed the holidays to fuel my raging workaholism. It was a way to avoid difficult feelings. And many experts note that it is a symptom of parentification, when a child has to take on the adult role, thereby suppressing their own needs.

Miriam Njoku, a certified Trauma Recovery Coach, sums it up best:

"When a child suffers from prolonged trauma, they live in a perpetual state of stress with no control over their life, work can become something they have control over or a means to escape their reality. They might come to believe that if they work hard enough it will bring peace in their home.

My previous life as an amusement park entertainer.

Facebook

Yep, that was me. As someone who grew up mostly without a mother, mostly without a father, in poverty, bouncing between relatives' houses and changing schools multiple times, I sought out sovereignty in the only way I knew how. Through making money.

But after a while, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Having my own Great Resignation, I slowly started to embrace Christmas as a way to wean off my workaholic tendencies. If most of the world was going to take a day off, then why shouldn’t I?

Did I decorate? No. But did I splurge on a Starbucks White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha and do some serious Netflix binging? Yes I did.

As I coated my mouth with the sweet, creamy treat and bundled up in a blanket, new sensations washed over me. It was like my spirit finally exhaled. It was so rare for me to not feel hypervigilant, goal oriented, anxious. But in that moment I was inexplicably, undeniably … safe.

And that was when my attitude started to shift.

I think for most people that come from a troubled home, there comes a point where you realize that in order to heal, you can’t simply work for a better tomorrow. The better tomorrow is already here. Instead, the priority should be giving yourself what you never had, today.

Kelly McDaniel, author of Mother Hunger, stresses that mothers provide daughters with three important developmental needs: nurturing, protection and guidance. And if any of the three is missing, an achy loneliness permeates the self-image. That loneliness is what she calls “Mother Hunger.”

This book was a real eye-opener for me. Look, I knew that my childhood was not that great. But I had no idea just how much my inner compass was warped. No wonder I didn’t know how to have those warm fuzzy holiday feelings. I didn’t know how to have warm fuzzy feelings, period.

Login • Instagram

McDaniel shares in her book that healing “Mother Hunger” involves “thawing the frozen, innate healing process.” In my case, that meant a warm blanket and learning how to simply be comfortable doing nothing.

Though I am focusing on the mother-daughter relationship, a similar principle can be said for father-daughter, mother-son, father-son. Bottom line, when we don’t get an example of safety as children, it affects our lives until we choose to teach it to ourselves. That’s my take, anyway.

The sweet taste of coquito and normalcy.

personal photo

Now when I think of Christmas, I think of warmth. I think of rest. I think of gratitude. I also think about how nice it would have been to feel this way as a kid, and it can trigger a bit of sadness. And yet, with every holiday tradition, both big and small, I find comfort knowing that it’s never too late to reclaim those lost parts.

To me, Christmas means celebrating a recovery from numbness. And sipping coquito with my boyfriend while watching my kitties play with their toys. And I feel joy in every minute of it.

Whether or not this story resonates with you, I’m wishing you a very Merry Christmas. In these sometimes stressful, often less-than-normal times, may you find your own special way to exhale.

popular

10 anti-holiday recipes that prove the season can be tasty and healthy

Balance out heavy holiday eating with some lighter—but still delicious—fare.

Albertson's

Lighten your calorie load with some delicious, nutritious food between big holiday meals.

True

The holiday season has arrived with its cozy vibe, joyous celebrations and inevitable indulgences. From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas cookie exchanges to Aunt Eva’s irresistible jelly donuts—not to mention leftover Halloween candy still lingering—fall and winter can feel like a non-stop gorge fest.

Total resistance is fairly futile—let’s be real—so it’s helpful to arm yourself with ways to mitigate the effects of eating-all-the-things around the holidays. Serving smaller amounts of rich, celebratory foods and focusing on slowly savoring the taste is one way. Another is to counteract those holiday calorie-bomb meals with some lighter fare in between.

Contrary to popular belief, eating “light” doesn’t have to be tasteless, boring or unsatisfying. And contrary to common practice, meals don’t have to fill an entire plate—especially when we’re trying to balance out heavy holiday eating.

It is possible to enjoy the bounties of the season while maintaining a healthy balance. Whether you prefer to eat low-carb or plant-based or gluten-free or everything under the sun, we’ve got you covered with these 10 easy, low-calorie meals from across the dietary spectrum.

Each of these recipes has less than 600 calories (most a lot less) per serving and can be made in less than 30 minutes. And Albertsons has made it easy to find O Organics® ingredients you can put right in your shopping cart to make prepping these meals even simpler.

Enjoy!

eggs and green veggies in a skillet, plate of baconNot quite green eggs and ham, but closeAlbertsons

Breakfast Skillet of Greens, Eggs & Ham

273 calories | 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (5 oz) pkg baby spinach

2 eggs

1 clove garlic

4 slices prosciutto

1/2 medium yellow onion

1 medium zucchini squash

1/8 cup butter, unsalted

1 pinch crushed red pepper

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bow of cauliflower ham saladGet your cauliflower power on.Albertsons

Creamy Cauliflower Salad with Ham, Celery & Dill

345 calories | 20 minutes

1/2 medium head cauliflower

1 stick celery

1/4 small bunch fresh dill

8 oz. ham steak, boneless

1/2 shallot

1/4 tspblack pepper

1/4 tsp curry powder

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp garlic powder

3 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/8 tsp paprika

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

tofu on skewers on a plate with coleslawPlant-based food fan? This combo looks yums. Albertsons

Grilled Chili Tofu Skewers with Ranch Cabbage, Apple & Cucumber Slaw

568 calories | 20 minutes

1 avocado

1/2 English cucumber

1 (12 oz.) package extra firm tofu

1 Granny Smith apple

3 Tbsp (45 ml) Ranch dressing

1/2 (14 oz bag) shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)

2 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

frittata in a cast iron skilletSometimes you just gotta frittata.Albertsons

Bell Pepper, Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata with Parmesan

513 calories | 25 minutes

6 eggs

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

2 oz Parmesan cheese

1 red bell pepper

1/2 medium red onion

8 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with slices of grilled chicken and a caprese saladCaprese, if you please.Albertsons

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Classic Caprese Salad

509 calories | 25 minutes

3/4 lb chicken breasts, boneless skinless

1/2 small pkg fresh basil

1/2 (8 oz pkg) fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 3/4 pinches black pepper

1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

four stuffed mushrooms on a plateThese mushrooms look positively poppable.Albertsons

Warm Goat Cheese, Parmesan & Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms

187 calories | 35 minutes

1/2 lb cremini mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 sundried tomatoes, oil-packed

1 1/4 pinches crushed red pepper

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with open English muffin with goat cheese and sliced baby tomatoes on topMove over, avocado toast. English muffin pizzas have arrived.Albertsons

English Muffin Pizzas with Basil Pesto, Goat Cheese & Tomatoes

327 calories | 10 minutes

3 Tbsp (45 ml) basil pesto

2 English muffins

1/2 (4 oz) log goat cheese

1/2 pint grape tomatoes

3/4 pinch black pepper

2 pinches salt

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

pita pocket on a plate filled with veggies, meat and cheeseThis pita pocket packs a colorful punch.Albertsons

Warm Pita Pocket with Turkey, Cheddar, Roasted Red Peppers & Parsley

313 calories | 20 minutes

1/4 (8 oz) block cheddar cheese

1/2 bunch Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

4 oz oven roasted turkey breast, sliced

1/2 (12 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers

1 whole grain pita

3/4 pinch black pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp mayonnaise

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

plate with toast smeared with avocado and topped with prosciuttoDid we say, "Move over, avocado toast?" What we meant was "Throw some prosciutto on it!" Albertsons

Avocado Toast with Crispy Prosciutto

283 calories | 10 minutes

1 avocado

2 slices prosciutto

2 slices whole grain bread

1 5/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp onion powder

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

bowl of chili with cheese and green onions on topVegetarian chili with a fall twistAlbertsons

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili with Cheddar

444 calories | 30 minutes

2 (15 oz can) black beans

1/2 (8 oz ) block cheddar cheese

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

2 green bell peppers

1 small bunch green onions (scallions)

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin purée

1 medium yellow onion

1/2 tsp black pepper

5 7/8 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cumin, ground

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil

Find full instructions and shopping list here.

For more delicious and nutritious recipes, visit albertsons.com/recipes.

via Eltpics / Twitter

Mapping out the structure of the inner ear.

There are no two human beings who are exactly alike. One of the funny quirks of evolution is that some of us can do things with our bodies we think are routine, but are impossible for others.

Some people can wiggle their ears, others can't. Some can wiggle their nose like Samantha from "Bewitched" while others just look really silly when making an attempt.

Not everyone can lick their elbow but most wouldn't attempt to do so in public.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Taylor Swift praises 'gem' of a friend Beyoncé in a powerful display of female friendship

Swift was named Time's 2023 Person of the Year and used it to lift up other women.

photo by J.ébey/Wikipedia, photo by Angela George/Wikipedia

Tyalor Swift was recently names TIME's Person of the Year

On December 6, 2023, Taylor Swift was named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, not only for her achievements as an entertainer, but as a changemaker.

In an exclusive interview with TIME, Swift spoke on a range of topics, including overcoming challenges in her career, navigating being “raised up and down the flagpole of public opinion” and key relationships that made her who she is today—one being her friendship with Beyoncé.
Keep ReadingShow less

The grandmother was suspicious.

A grandmother always felt her middle granddaughter Lindsay, 15, looked slightly different from the rest of the family because she had blonde, curly hair, while the rest of her siblings’ hair was dark “I thought genetics was being weird and I love her,” she wrote on Reddit’s AITA forum.

But things became serious after Linday’s parents “banned” her from taking things a step further and getting a DNA test. If the family was sure their daughter was theirs, why would they forbid her from seeking clarity in the situation? After the parents laid down the law, the situation started to seem a little suspicious.

“I told my son and [daughter-in-law] that there was something fishy around her birth she needed to know. They denied it and told me to leave it alone,” the grandma wrote.

Keep ReadingShow less
MART Productions|Canva

Wife shares brilliant reason her dad should see husband's colonoscopy

Becoming a couple means you're taking on another family, especially if you're married or in a long-term relationship. An additional family means you're learning people's personalities and quirks as they learn yours. There are plenty of people that luck out and get in-laws that are the epitome of kindness, love and boundaries

Then there are those that get the in-laws that live up to every stereotype there is about in-laws. Trying to set a boundary with those in-laws feels a lot like trying to teach a goldfish to walk on a leash. But when your partner starts to wain on holding boundaries alongside you, it can make for some uncomfortable conversations.

One woman took to Reddit about her own overbearing mother-in-law and the proposition she gave her husband in an effort to reinforce his support for the boundary she set. The woman is pregnant with presumably her first child and her mother-in-law is insisting that she attend the the actual birth.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo from Facebook.

Anna Trupiano educates on passing gas in public.

Anna Trupiano is a first-grade teacher at a school that serves deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students from birth through eighth grade.

In addition to teaching the usual subjects, Trupiano is charged with helping her students thrive in a society that doesn't do enough to cater to the needs of the hard-of-hearing.

Keep ReadingShow less

New baby and a happy dad.


When San Francisco photographer Lisa Robinson was about to have her second child, she was both excited and nervous.

Sure, those are the feelings most moms-to-be experience before giving birth, but Lisa's nerves were tied to something different.

She and her husband already had a 9-year-old son but desperately wanted another baby. They spent years trying to get pregnant again, but after countless failed attempts and two miscarriages, they decided to stop trying.

Keep ReadingShow less