Many of our family members live in Houston. We are headed that direction for Christmas family festivities. My husband and I planned to be alone for Thanksgiving; however, we accepted an invitation from friends in Dallas who annually invite their huge family and friends. Everyone brought a dish to share with joy of food, friendship and thankfulness.
The kitchen counters were covered with 20 plus pans of appetizers, turkey, bar-b-que, vegetables, salad, and yummy rolls. Not only did we share dishes I had never tasted (collard greens and strange dressing) but we met their relatives and visited with their neighbors during the event. The teenagers rushed to go first so they would be eligible for second helpings before other guests. Obviously they had attended the feast in prior years.
Now we face Christmas with our family in Houston, looking for the joy and fulfillment of Thanksgiving. In thinking about the diversity of our own family, I’m writing some guidelines for myself. Maybe you need these as much as I do.
Don’t Talk Much
Our adult children run the gamut of strong opinions. My views are rarely appreciated. Their children have electronic devices attached in their faces, except for the three month old. I hereby promise not to announce, “Put the darned devices away for an hour, will you?” I will ignore the whining and complaints as I will be the mousy listener in the room.
If arguments start, I promise to remove myself from the situation rather than enhancing the opportunity for raised voices with a rebuttal. Maybe I can insert, “Let’s leave that for another time.” Humor is not always appropriate, but might be an option.
I’ll try to talk individually with each person briefly, except for the baby. The effort may elicit fascinating facts about hair products, piano lessons, soccer, basketball and job challenges. I’m not sure the grandchildren will want me to interfere with their devotion to devices, but I will try. I hope to listen enthusiastically as they explain what they are watching. Last time I asked one of kids why the river on the video game was red, I was told it was blood.
One Question Only
Let your family members pose the questions and listen carefully for friendly conversations to join. Do not render suggestions unless asked. Your adult children do not want your advice any more than you wanted your parents repeated harassment. I hated hearing my mother’s rants about how thin my sons looked in elementary school.
Since kitchen processes often differ from family to family, I will watch the body language to discern the necessary method for loading dishes or washing pans. The only acceptable question is, “How can I be helpful?” I will ask that, and only that, as the adults know who and what needs to be done.
Call a Friend
One idea I recently read suggests setting a date to call a friend within 48 hours after the family meal to “download” idiosyncrasies from your festivities. Your frustration may dissolve as quickly as the dishwater in the drain as you vent.
Your adult children want your presence, participation and patience with their lifestyles. I want my Christmas festivities as joyful as Thanksgiving.
If you know me, you must be laughing like a circus clown, thinking I can accomplish this. I’m going to try!