Already its approaching. The holidays. The holidays can be an exercise in endurance for many folks, a circle of Hell that Dante ignored.
So, here’s my tip sheet on how to survive the holidays:
But, it’s TRADITION! – This seems to be the bugle call for guilt trips and manipulation. Throw in, “But, Granny’s 803 years old, this could be her last (fill in the holiday here).” Or, “If you miss this, you’ll break Grandma’s heart, and she’ll DIIIIEEEEEE!” Well, I have a few objections to this. One, nobody knows how many holidays they have left. Two, nobody ever died because someone else missed a dinner. Honest. Unless of course, the person who missed is a medical professional and someone suddenly needed a medical professional and couldn’t wait until 911 showed up. So, if you’re in the medical field, you can either show up to every dinner ever held, JUST IN CASE, or risk it. (Risk it. RISK IT!) Nobody’s obit or headstone ever said, “Eugenia died due to a lack of holiday dinner guests.” Three, just because your mother or mother-in-law chose to do things a certain way does NOT obligate you to do the same. Since you’re now the Wife/Husband/Mom/Dad, you get to choose what your family is going to do. If you and your spouse (if applicable) choose to do your own thing, whatever that may be, that’s completely your choice to make. Be it staying home, heading to a cabin in the woods, digging a survival shelter in the back yard with teaspoons, you do get to choose. Holidays should NOT be miserable. If they are, fill you with stress and anxiety, and require a schedule such as NASA engineers would feel woozy looking at, its time to change things up. Talk to your spouse/partner, and figure out what they want to do. NOT what they feel they should do, but what they want to do. Leave other folks wants, demands, and expectations out of the process. You’re not responsible for any of that stuff, only for your own wants, needs, and expectations. And, if you’re single, the decision-making is even easier, since you get the only vote.
Expectations are NOT obligations – One woman I knew had FIVE different gatherings her family was expected to attend. There was one for extended family on her side, a couple of weeks before Christmas, then both her parents and her husband’s parents were divorced and remarried. All the parents expected them to show up Christmas day. Now, if you enjoy packing up the kids and travelling all holiday like a demented pinball, then hats off to you! But, just because folks let you know its expected doesn’t mean you’re obligated. You get to choose. “But we HAVE to…” has nothing to do with your holiday planning any more. You’re FREE!
Dump the fair – Seriously, ditch the idea of what’s fair. That way lies madness. Keeping an anxious eye on the clock to ensure that each family gathering gets equal amounts of time is incredibly stressful, and no way to spend the holidays. Your family is not a time share, nor is it a toy for others to take turns with. Figure out what you can do, with good humour, and do that.
Change is ok – Just because you’ve done something other years, doesn’t mean that it will work for you again this year. Especially when kids are involved. It doesn’t mean everyone’s going to like it, but whats important is doing what is best for your immediate family…you, your spouse, your kids.
They’ll be sooooo upset! – Yeah, you know what? Folks don’t like change, as a general rule. They just don’t. But, life IS change. And you are not in charge of anyone else’s feelings. Seriously. You don’t have that kind of control over another person, now or ever. You cannot and should not be held hostage to someone else’s emotional reactions. If Grandma is going to scream, cry, wail and gnash her teeth? That’s Grandma’s choice. And Grandma is a serious emotional manipulator who has the emotional age of a toddler. If someone wants to throw a crying, shrieking hissy fit, remember that 1) You don’t have to provide them with an audience, and 2) Enabling bad behaviour just means more bad behaviour, because you’re proving to them that it works.
Figuring out what is best for your family can be a challenge. But, remember: you’re adults now, with your own family. While other folks may not like the changes you’re making, may be upset about them, suffering through the holidays isn’t what the holidays are meant to be about. Just as extended family, such as parents and parent-in-laws made the choices for themselves and their children growing up, you have the same right to do so.
So, make this holiday season a happy one, rather than one filled with endurance, obligation, and resentment. You’ll be happier, your spouse will be happier, and so will any kids involved.