I think for the majority of students, Christmas is one of the best times of the year. By and large, it represents a chance to take a break from the stresses of exams and studying, to get to see family you’ve been missing and to pig out on ridiculous amounts of good food and home cooking. Unfortunately, not everyone feels such festive joy. This can be for many reasons: perhaps they’re going back to a bad home environment, or maybe they’re apart from family, friends, or a partner they miss abroad. For me, it was getting home to find out things had changed a lot since I’d left.
I’d been home a few times throughout my first semester at uni, staying overnight twice, so Christmas was my first extended period of time staying at home. I arrived to find my room drowning in boxes and other assorted crap my parents had “stored”. My desk was covered in overflow from my brother’s National 5 studies, and the pool table in the garage I wasted most of my summer on had become a dumping ground for my dad’s work equipment.
The apparent shunning wasn’t just in my space, though. It seemed, with one half of her children out of the house, my mum’s social life had really taken off. I was home three hours before a party was in full swing; in every corner of the house there were middle-aged women drinking a bit too much prosecco and asking me the same two questions about uni. The next week (Christmas itself included) was non-stop obliged visits from family, friends, and other acquaintances, all of whom my family seemed to have far more time for with me gone. It wasn’t until December 29 I was able to spend a day just relaxing and properly catching up with my immediate family.
It’s not as if I wasn’t trying – I approached my parents countless times asking about what had been going on at home (I’m from a fairly small town, so gossiping had always been a favourite pastime), or telling them interesting bits and bobs from uni (my parents definitely border on clingy, so I figured willingly giving them updates on my life for once would go down well). On every occasion though I was ignored, told to pick up a hoover and help get ready for Mr. & Mrs. so-and-so, or shushed as my chat wasn’t as important as batch number 492 of sausage rolls for a big family dinner.
Even my brother, who used to spend a lot of time around me in one way or another (it varied from just chatting to being a pest), didn’t seem to fancy giving me the time of day. During the 10 weeks of semester one, without an older brother to dilute our parents and keep him in check, he’d transformed into a full-blown teenager who spent as little time at home as possible and didn’t really go for anything family-orientated. I’d left behind a 15-year-old kid who spent the majority of his free time playing Fortnite, so it was definitely a change.
I’ve never been one of those people who has a super-close relationship with their parents. In fact, they were often pretty overbearing and intense. That being said, I’d always assumed that smothering came from a place of loving and caring, just in a misguided way. Coming home to what I was anticipating to be an unwelcome break from the freedom of uni, only to discover a whole new kind of familial disappointment, fazed me quite a bit. Seeing how easily I’d been forgotten and replaced with mum’s friends, gatherings of aunts and uncles and, in my brother’s case, just getting out the house, was pretty depressing to say the least. I’m not exactly hyped for summer at this point.
So next Christmas, by all means, enjoy everything you’re able to – the turkey, the reunions, your own comfy bed. But spare a thought for those of us who feel as though they have been sidelined in our own homes, and everyone else who, for whatever reason, don’t feel so much festive cheer.