Hax joins The Daily Circuit Monday to share stories and answer your family holiday questions.
Spending holidays with 'loved ones' who aren't very nice to you (Huffington Post)
Easing family tension during the holiday season (PDF, University of Washington)
Tips for coping with stress, depression and the holidays
Advice columnist Carolyn Hax joined Kerri this morning.
We want to hear your stories of holiday strife, but also how you successfully manage the season.
From a column of Carolyn's that grabbed Kerri last week:
If I don't, it won't get done and Noel will sulk and hide until I cave. Noel refuses to celebrate with family without me and maintains that it's only one day a year, I should suck it up, I can handle one church service, etc. (I'm an atheist.) This is a very rare instance of Noel's not budging but I don't know how NOT to feel pressure and an insane amount of resentment. Please advise! -- Do ... Not ... Want!
My significant other loves Christmas but I don't. Unfortunately, I have to drive the bus of Noel's Annual Holiday Expectations, i.e., do all the decorating, baking, shopping, etc. BY MYSELF.
(Follow the link to read her answer)
Holy moely - - you have reminded me of the WORST Xmas that I ever spent in my life. My ex-mother-in-law and her Mom (my ex-grandmother-in-law) got into a screaming match one year over how to make gravy. They called each other EVERY filthy, name in the book. A sailor would have been blushing! And these two (2) old broads thought nothing of this display in front of family and small grandchildren. It was brutal!!!
@KerriMPR Being form MN, if i am in the tropics, it's not Christmas, it's just happy Tuesday, Friends not family - My best Holidays ever!
@KerriMPR 2 years ago my 22 year old nephew talked nonstop. Dtr timed the pauses, which averaged 17 seconds between lengthy paragraphs.
When people overreact during the holidays, it is often 'pain' relief. You miss your adult kids and only see them once a year, so you nag. Or your daughter-in-law doesn't like you so you criticize her.
It takes a strong person to say that 'this holiday does this to me'" and so you decide to have healthier responses and not drink, or yell, or mope.
@KerriMPR My family is eschewing the uncomfortable, false-feeling XMas w/ extended family, and escaping to Lutsen - just the 6 of us. Aah...
"We all need to embrace our inner misanthrope."
A caller who says that is how he manages holidays.
"Banish all expectations."
"That makes it easier. When you walk in with all these expectations. You can control that."
But you can't control any of the people in the room, or how they make gravy.
"I go to my family gatherings as if I am an anthropologist."
Advice someone once passed onto Carolyn Hax.
@KerriMPR new challenge motherinlaw who wants to host but cant handle the stress of meal prep due to declining mental acuity. Anon please
A willingness to be the bad guy is very powerful.
- Carolyn Hax
My drink of choice used to be scotch and water. One Christmas I followed my brother-in-law's lead and switched to straight scotch. Much better!
When I was 21, I left town to travel across country for three weeks with a woman I just met, days before Christmas. I had a wonderful time, but I think leaving before Christmas caused ongoing stress between my mom and the woman who I married within a couple of years.
I determined we as adult children, have a twenty four hour window of good adult behavior. After that, the clock starts turning backwards. I arrive at my current age of 52, after 24 hours, I am 25, 15, 12...and everyone around me including my brothers, start to go backwards as well. Next thing I know, someone is calling me a dork and I am eating cheese whiz. Twenty four hours people, then you need to "get out."
@KerriMPR inviting non-family members is a recipe for disaster. We'll fight regardless, and that just adds collateral.
My mother in law sends a Christmas letter to friends and relatives, only she doesn't write the letter but asks that the three children and their families contribute a paragraph, which is then edited by one of the children, the ghostwriter of the letter.
What my husband and I (English majors) object to is the corny and conventional tone of the letter. We don't want to write it and when we do our style and choices are edited to fit in with the rest of the mush.
When we strongly objected last year and asked at least not to be edited we got a huge backlash which has left me bitter to this day (I am of course an in-law). It is time for the Christmas letter again and once again we feel bullied to submit this corny little sum-up of our year.
How can we get out of it and not hurt or shock everybody all over again? They truly don't understand what our big objections are all about.
As annoying as some of the events at my family's gatherings were in past years, now that my parents have died, I now have no family who wants or thinks it is important to include me in their holiday gatherings. My siblings do not invite me, and although I have asked, no one will venture from Michigan or Chicago to visit me in Minnesota, holiday or otherwise.
Which is worse, having annoying family members, or none? I'm not sure.
@anonymous feels your pain. She is a writer and understands what it is like to be edited.
You can't control people, only what you do.
You risk having her make it up if you don't write it.
Or you can just let it be and let the letter go on as is. Accept that people might think that that mush writing reflects your life. Learn to be OK with the people who get the letter thinking you approve of pap.
Hax leans towards the second option.
@KerriMPR one Christmas my parents accidentally left me home alone and I had to defend my house from 2 criminals.
(What a rascal you are...)
You have to be strong and make a decision to be by yourself. She created a new world for herself in MN after being from the South. Avoids the holidays.
@bkratz and Kerri, I believe bkratz is referencing an actual movie....Ever hear of Home Alone? That was too funny hearing you say that on air...
That diabetic, so vocal about his problems, may be trying to educate a family he sees at risk for the disease?
What about when your struggling child ends up being the topic of conversation and criticism, I opt out of get togethers because of their sharp tongues.
I feel the last caller, my girlfriend and I moved to MN 5 years ago and our families still ask when we're "coming home". We say we are home. We spent last Christmas and this year in MN and just got back from Mexico over Thanksgiving. It's much less stressful being away from them.
A therapist reminded me and my intellectual partner, that during the holidays with family "shallow is hallo".
I wrote that letter a year ago after the holidays had become really tough for me (my family situation is painful, and the holidays only depress and anger me because of it).
Carolyn's answer helped. My SO isn't a demanding person - yes, SO always had those wonderful holidays with family and had certain expectations, but I was actively resisting doing anything to make the holidays even pleasant. SO and I talked as per Carolyn's suggestions and my SO is now much more involved, I'm steering clear of my own negativity issues, there's no pressure or resistance from either side.
I feel lucky that my family is relatively normal, cordial, and cohesive. My only concern before getting together is with me. I always make a mental list of 'hot button' topics to avoid. I also understand that the conversations will be lively and thus I resist interjecting too much.
From an email I received:
As a single, childless person, I find the holidays to be very isolating. When my immediate family gathers, 90 percent of the focus is on the children. Spouses sharing gifts with each other reminds me that I have no one to who cherishes me. Perhaps that’s why you’ll often find me cleaning up, doing the dishes or otherwise detaching. I’m with my family, who I dearly love, but I’m also trying to manage my emotional pain.
I am still chuckling over bkratz. Made my day.
@ray I was once rick-rolled on the air. Someone actually tricked me into saying the lyrics of "Never Gonna Give You Up" on the air.
I was mortified.
@Stephanie Curtis: That is fantastic. Maybe not for you...but as a listener I love it. Nothing like something to lighten up a story about holiday strife this morning though :)
I am 60 years old and have a stepdaughter age 37 & 2 granddaughters ages 6 &11. Last evening at dinner my stepdaughter announced that they have bought a kitten. Knowing that I am allergi to cats. However, now it's a life threatening allergy.
@Noel's Significant Other
Thanks for writing in. It was great to hear how the story ended. Happy holidays!