So much drama over holiday commitments and family events. Well, I did ASK if people wanted help with maintaining harmony and sanity for holiday gatherings. I had no idea that the questions would be so . . . loaded.
Questions loaded with shattered expectations, resentments, and dread! More than anything, lots of people with so much unnecessary drama and angst.
So, From Gladtobemom, some ROUGH LOVE:
- If you are planning on giving a party, don’t ASSUME. This one small thing will save your family (and you) mountains of angst and drama. Send out invites, and plan your feast or event based on the acceptance replies. Make sure you give the date, time, location, duration, and attire. If you say, “come as you are” then you’d better MEAN IT. I suggest listing attire as “party casual” if it’s family.Be polite, reasonable, and a little flexible. Try to make sure that the diet restricted have the food groups covered too–take them up on offered casseroles, etc. The first year they might giggle a little.
- If you are attending an event, treat holiday meals like any other party. Get an invitation . . . reply promptly (RSVP), then STICK to what your commitment!If you are bringing a “plus one” then make sure your host/hostess knows about it. If the “plus one” is a “plus three” because two of them are his/her kids. . . make sure that information is in your response.If there are REAL dietary restrictions (as in you will get SICK or go into Anaphylactic shock) then put that the requirements in your RSVP. For instance, if you are violently allergic to shellfish or walnuts or somesuch. If you are a vegetarian or have some restriction-by-choice. . . mention it and offer to bring a dish.
- Even though I say, “never assume,” don’t be unkind. If your are pretty sure that you are expected somewhere (like your mom’s or grandmother’s) then make sure you get things straight with them well in advance. Send them a note. You can ease them into YOUR adulthood by being scrupulously polite, yourself.
- Show up on time with your party manners ON! A hostess gift is always a good idea–something consumable is good. Stay until the meal is over and offer to help. Be personable and friendly; it’s only a few hours, surely you can survive that.
- Send a thank you note. YES, I really said that, put three lines on a card and send it with a STAMP. Try this:
Dear (whoever invited me),
I wanted to write a note to thank you for the
wonderful meal. The dinner was outstanding.
I am very grateful for this holiday memory.
Love, [or Sincerely, if it's not to family]
- Dress appropriately. If the invite was “party casual” that means nice unrumpled. It means long pants (in good shape) and collar shirts or nice sweater for guys; it means that a nice outfit or dress for girls. If you are under 25, then expect to sit on the floor at some point.Unless your invitation says “Fetish Attire Okay,” don’t show up in a cod piece or with your thong hanging out above your ripped-off waistband jeans! Sweatsuits, boob shirts, hot pants, butt-ripped jeans, and muscle shirts are not holiday party attire . . . ever.Don’t dress to seduce, shock, impress, or repulse. Remember, if you show up dressed to attract attention and comments. So don’t act defensive and insulted if you ignore this advice.
- Behave! EVERYBODY. Be friendly, patient, kind, and generous.
Don’t pull out subjects from the past that have caused arguments. If you feel something working its way out . . . stick some food in your mouth and CHEW.
- Come on people . . . give ‘em a chance to adjust. Don’t just push them all together and light the fuse! Don’t make unexpected announcements, holiday gatherings are just NOT a good time, trust me. Here are just a few announcements that people wrote in about.
–Parents are getting a divorce.
–Grandparents are getting a divorce.
–Grandpa is marrying the new woman that nobody’s ever met.
–Mom’s marrying the Next door neighbor (next door neighbor’s wife left him).
–Sister’s left college to accept a job at the “Bunny Ranch” in Nevada.
–Daughter’s getting married to new guy and converting to some other religion.
–Dad’s marrying the pregnant babysitter, the divorce was final 4 days ago, the wedding’s on New Year’s.
Now for some specifics:
- No, your Aunt Frieda was NOT being rude when she asked you to lift your shirt to show her the rest of the tattoo. You came showing half of it . . . she was just curious and it is on your back. Come on. . . she’s an old lady, give her a thrill.
- Your grandfather was NOT trying to insult you. Accept it for that. He didn’t say you looked like an Ihop roof. . . he said, “I like your blue hair.” Now go apologize to him for dumping the soup in his lap . . . that was NOT nice.
- Your dad is never going to be comfortable with his daughter dressed like that. Be honest, you dressed to shock them and you DID. Mission accomplished, if your mission was to become the butt of the joke that will get told every year for decades. “Oh my gosh, do you remember that year you wore . . . “
- Did you really think it was fair to show up with someone they’d never met without any warning at all? It was unfair to your girlfriend and unfair to your family. Your girlfriend was in tears because she had no idea what was going on. Last they heard you were engaged to a DIFFERENT young lady . . . they didn’t have a chance to adjust. You were surprised when the were lest than graceful? This is NOT their fault, it’s YOURS.
- Your grown, independent, children have every right to make other plans for Thanksgiving. They DID invite you to Christmas Eve open house, midnight Mass, and to stay for Christmas day. Quit trying to make them feel guilty . . . it will not prove endearing.Call your church, your friends, have a quiet day with a pile of videos and some yummy food. Volunteer at the homeless shelter or at a women’s shelter. PLAN something of your own.
- If you show up with a new hole in your face . . . well, they are going to say something. I can totally see how a 10 year old would wonder if your food would come out the hole in your lip. He was curious . . . so answer him and move on. Don’t turn it into a big thing. Yes it’s YOU that turned it into a big thing. If you didn’t want them to say something, you could have left out the ring for the event.
- Green IS an unusual hair color. Why is it wrong for your mom to say that out loud? She didn’t say it was awful; she just said it was new and unusual. I think, as blurts go, this one shows restraint.
- When your grandmother told you to be careful of piercers and tattooists . . . that you have to watch out and make sure you don’t get Hepatitis, I imagine she was talking based on reading or seeing something on TV. She sounded curious and kind of kitschy to me. Maybe you could get her opinion on the artwork?
- If you have had a life change and are not ready to talk about it. Don’t! Don’t titillate bored people with little bits, then shut them down. That’s not nice. Look at it this way, they’re old, bored, and want to know about stuff. They will grab onto the tiniest tip of juicy news and chew it right out of you.
- This is the first time you’ve not gone to your mom’s for a holiday. Of course she’s disappointed. You did it right, two weeks in advance. Don’t give in and let her guilt you. Send her an IN WRITING invite for a nice lunch with you for another time. BOUNDARIES . . . hug her, explain, but stick to your boundaries. Your wife’s family DESERVES a holiday once in a while. (This is the first time in six years of marriage that they were going to the wife’s family.
- When your son-in-law says, “I’m fine,” it means he does not want any more of whatever it is. He doesn’t want to change anything at all.
“I’m fine,” does not mean that he wants to be dragged out to see the bee hives and get his manhood tested. Truth be told, even Clint Eastwood would scream like a girl if bees were crawling on him.
- Dear holiday cook, you are not the Captain of the Food Police or the Chairman of the Clean Plate Club. Keep your mouth off people’s choices or what they leave behind on their plates.
If you must, stick to this sentence, “I hope everyone can try a bite of everything. Enjoy your meal.” Don’t push food onto people’s plates–you’ll then feel bad because they leave it behind. Just don’t do that to yourself.
This is only a small subset. Reading thise was a real eye opener.
OVERWHELMINGLY, these included rants by 15-25 year olds. Most of them involved “springing” something on their family. A new guy, tattoos, piercings, fetish clothing, dropped out, dropped in, change of career, change of mate, etc. Some of them came with pictures of outfits.
The rest mostly involved parents that just assume their children are coming without ever inviting them. Or whining parents/grandparents that feel abandoned because their kids have married and they’ve “lost” half of the holidays.
Enjoy the holidays . . . and don’t forget the Thank You Notes.