My parents, two siblings and I haven’t eaten Thanksgiving dinner together since I was in elementary school, about three decades ago. The dysfunction in our family is deep and old.
I’d like my family holidays to be easy. But this late in the game, I’m not holding my breath. However, even if easy isn’t possible, simple is. I can simplify the choices I make about family during the holidays and feel whole no matter what my circumstances.
Take this year. My parents floated some ideas about Thanksgiving that I’m sure they hoped we’d all enjoy. But considering their idea, I got knots in my stomach. I worried the change would only deepen the divides that make holidays hard for the five of us.
I didn’t know how to tell my parents, so I talked to my husband and therapist about my choices. Then, I asked if my parents and I could discuss the change together. I felt shaky before our conversation, but incredibly grateful when it went well. They understood my reservations and agreed the idea wouldn’t work.
But even if they hadn’t responded as I’d hoped, I knew I had at least dealt with the problem forthrightly, behaved with kindness, and created a path forward that had integrity. I knew I’d done my best to love my family well.
Having the conversation with my parents wasn’t easy. But it was the simplest route to keeping our relationship healthy and our holiday whole.
Every year, I navigate how to enjoy the holidays with less-than-ideal family relationships. I wonder when to bring up problems, and when to let slights go. Sometimes, I agonize about choosing between my sanity and family togetherness.
I’ve learned a few simple questions help me cut through the tangle of emotions, guilt, anger, and love to find a path that feels whole and sane…
I’m so pleased to be over at No Sidebar today, whittling away at my holiday family stress. Won’t you join me?