With the holidays approaching, I am dreading family dinner. Between my sister who is still holding on to past issues (I am married to the man who used to be her high school sweetheart), to my in-laws who wish their son was married to my sister, to a mother I can never seem to please, a 14 year old who works my last nerve, and not enough time in the day to get everything done, I am dreading this year’s family dinner more than usual. Please tell me how do I get through the holidays without it turning into a complete disaster?
Holiday Horror Show
Hi Holiday Horror Show (Wow!),
No one should dread spending time with family, especially during the holidays. What is supposed to be a time of cheer and happiness can quickly turn into conflict and discord if steps are taken to ease the tension.
The first option is to handle the things you have control over. Your sister still harboring ill will or your in-laws dwelling on what they wish would have been are beyond your scope. The one thing you can do is go to each of them and express how it has and continues to make you feel. Explain to your sister that you understand why she may feel as she does and that regardless of what took place, she is still your sister and that relationship is important to you. Not knowing how you came to marry you sister’s high school sweetheart, it is plausible that a mix of emotions surround the circumstances. Nonetheless, that was the past and this is the present. There is a way to move forward, rebuild and reestablish that sisterly bond if both of you are willing to try.
Your in-laws, that is a different approach altogether. How they feel is less important than if they respect you and your marriage. It is time that boundaries and understanding are established. Their son, your husband, chose to marry you and as such, they need to come to terms with that and get on board. What they may have wanted for their son, what they envisioned, what they hoped for, was their whimsical wishes and obviously he had other plans. It is time for them to accept that and it may take a heart-to-heart that includes them and the backing of your husband for them to let go of what could have been and what actually exists. This conversation albeit tough, can and should be handled with love and respect. Remember, they are still you husband’s parents, your daughter’s grandparents, and your extended family. As much as you may want to Bewitch them and make them disappear, it is just not that simple.
Your daughter… that appears to be teenage angst. I can imagine like most of us, you too worked your parents nerves every now and then. One of the simplest ways to find common ground is to work on common objectives. As much as she may fight against your every effort, building traditions and memories opens lines of communication and begins to build a rapport that leads to understanding and less conflict. The holidays are a great time to start family traditions and mend broken fences. Do not let another opportunity pass to build a better relationship with your daughter.
Last, but certainly not least, do not over-stress or put undue pressure on yourself to please everyone. That is an impossible task and the true essence and purpose of the holidays is to come together, family and friends and share holiday cheer. The sensationalization and obsessive shopping has clouded and degraded what the holidays were meant for. It was never about the biggest or shiniest gift, but all about gathering together to celebrate the blessings of the season. If you focus on that, what the holiday season really represents, I guarantee you will delight in the holiday spirit.
This year, build a new family tradition. Instead of shopping to you drop, volunteer as a family spreading love and happiness to those less fortunate. Adopt another family and help them experience holiday cheer and some of the magic of the season. Start rebuilding the cohesiveness of your family by coming together, starting anew, and sharing joy and yule tidings to one and all.