I’m writing this post in response to a request from Christine. She asked this:
‘How do I find a Positive Spin when there are unspoken expectations/disappointments between the generations and amongst siblings?‘
Imagine the scene. (This was me, a few years ago) …
It’s nearly the end of September. Leaves are turning, some are even falling. The clocks ‘go back’ soon and the winter darkness will begin. My stomach begins to churn. Butterflies, no, great big moths are revving up their wings as I spot the first Christmas cards in the shops.
There’s nowhere to hide. I try to pretend it’s not happening. I do distracting things. I sit outside on rare warm days, my face lifted to the sun and pretend that summer’s still here. I refuse to notice the displays of enormous tins of Quality Street in Sainsbury’s and scurry past the shelves stacked with Christmas Crackers. But the day comes when I have to face it. I have to ‘deal’ with Christmas.
I don’t think I was alone in worrying about how to manage a family Christmas. It can be far from ‘peaceful’. I still have a bit of a problem with it but it gets easier!
Here’s my Positive Spin on
A Happy Family Christmas? Impossible. Or Is It?
1. It’s fake.
It’s an artificial situation. In most families the generations don’t live together all the time. Each generation gets to live their lives according to their needs and wants and these are very different. But at Christmas everyone is expected to get on with everyone else and even, (whisper this) spend a whole day together. Add the ‘booze’ factor and it’s doomed…
Each generation will have quite different ideas about how to spend Christmas.
Entertainment? TV? Games? Gifts? Real or artificial tree? Turkey or beef ? Meal at home or in a restaurant? And so it goes on…. and on….
Each generation and each branch of the family will have established traditions, and siblings will expect these to continue. It starts about the beginning of November…
- ‘But we always have a real tree….’
- ‘Why do we have to watch what grandma wants?
- ‘I want to have my friends over!’
I’m sure you get my drift.
So…what can you do?
2. You must make a plan and … stick to it.
Sit down with your OH and decide what you want to do, what you will and won’t accept from the rest of the family. Then (this isn’t easy, I know!) you must tell the rest of the family what you’ve decided. (Pause while you sigh and say you just can’t…)
Because you don’t like confrontations. No-one does! You want everyone to ‘get on’, to fall in with the plans.
Believe me, that isn’t going to happen! Why should it? They have their views on the matter, you have yours and that’s that. So you have to accept that someone is going to get upset. It’s just the way it is.
3. Compromise is the key.
- The whole family needs to realise that ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. Perhaps it could be agreed that Christmas will be organised their way next year, or that you’ll celebrate separately!
- It’s important to make your plans clear ASAP and face up any arguments from the start. You could even have a family discussion about it but perhaps that’s a ‘step too far’!
- If you have to share the children, due to divorce, put their needs first. Whatever you do, don’t pass them from family to family like a parcel, driving miles to deliver them to the other parent, or grandparent. It’s not fair on anyone. Find out what they want and forget using them as weapons to blackmail the other parent. And don’t compete for who gives them the ‘best’ present. I know it happens. Hey! You could even buy a joint gift! OK, sounds impossible but not if you think about the children and put them first…
- Tell yourself it’s only 1 day out of 365! We used to keep Boxing Day for ourselves but entertain others on Christmas Day, the way we knew they wanted it. My elderly mother loved ‘soaps’ as she was lonely. She always expected to watch them on Christmas Day in our house and I hated it. But… I just had to let it go and look forward to the next day when we could do our own thing.
To sum up:
- This whole family Christmas idyll is Fake. It’s not a ‘normal’ situation.
- Make your plan…. and stick to it. You can be sure that someone will get upset.
- Compromise is the key.
Remember, this is only my view.
You will have different opinions and that’s how it should be.
I hope you will add your advice and thoughts in the comments for Christine and any other readers who are having butterflies (or moths) about Christmas with the family.
Come on now! Help me out here!
Do have a look at my new ‘This is me’ page. I felt I wanted to introduce myself so you know who you’re ‘talking to’ here.
Header image by cursedthing, post image by aaronjwebb on Flickr.