The Holidays: To Blend or to Break-Part 1: Remember the Goal, and Say Something
21 Nov 2017
By, Lisa….Veteran of many holiday seasons
If you are like me, I get super excited months in advance to plan and prepare for the holidays with family. I often come up with wild ideas (pie contests ) with idyllic visions the perfect family gathering; making memories and I usually think I have a LOT more time than I have, and then the “Christmas vacation” music comes to a halt. I think of our Blended Family vacations a lot more like the movie Christmas Vacation: there is always some strange dynamic; there is something that will go wrong; feelings will get hurt; and in the end it’s up to you to decide if you Blend or if you Break.
Let me be clear: the holidays are tough on traditional families. They are VERY tough on Blended families. Often we have “custody” handoffs in the middle of a family holiday. For those of you who don’t know what I mean, imagine having to fly your kids across the country on Christmas Day to get back to their other home by 2 pm to make a “deadline”. Sounds selfish to do so? Well, in that circumstance, we had to so they could see a dying grandfather who couldn’t travel to see them…but they had to “be back on time”. And in any case, it is stressful for everyone involved. There are family members who don’t get how much you want to just have a nice, cohesive time with your family, and have fun. And sadly, in many cases, there are family members from the other family who will constantly interject themselves into your family time with texts, calls, etc., to be disruptive. It is up to you to stand up for your family, your kids, and protect the memories you are making together. Hopefully you don’t encounter the “dead lightbulbs in the middle of the strand”, or “the rogue squirrel that seems to pop up at the worst time to light your tree on fire”. However, you may very well feel like the other family is doing a great job impersonating Uncle Eddie standing in the street in his robe pumping the RV commode into your sewer as he proclaims, “Sh*tter’s full!”. Here is my Part 1 attempt at a survival guide.
- Remember, like Clark Griswold, the end goal is making family memories. It is crucial for your family to make your own traditions and memories independent of the past. Yes, kids should be allowed to transition, but for your family to be a functioning family unit, healthy for the kids and all involved, you must make your own, unique traditions. Do not be deterred by people telling you that they used to “make Montana Meatballs” for every holiday. Listen and be polite. Offer to make that yummy recipe next weekend. But do not allow that to set you off of the course your new family has planned. If you start allowing the past to dictate the future, your family will not have its own identity, and that can lead to fragmentation, manipulation, and long term dismay. It may look messy at first (remember Clark trying to get the lights to light????), but don’t give up…..the lights WILL come on.
- Mom and Dad need to support one another. Regardless of whose family you are with, there may be some inadvertent actions and comments that can cause the mood to sour if no one says anything to defend the family. Here’s an example: My husband’s ex family was unsolicited mailing his parents pictures of them with the kids, even though they had not been married for many years. Those photos would show up right around the time we would for Thanksgiving. While, it is great to share the growing of the kids, my husband and I are NO stranger to the photo kiosk at CVS. Trust me, our family had PLENTY of pictures of the kids. It felt a lot more intrusive and a little like an attempt at a grenade during our family bonding time. My husband had a conversation with his parents to share with them that this was not appropriate as a family was growing its own traditions and cohesiveness within THAT larger family unit. To continue to allow other adults from the past to interject themselves when not invited can be harmful to the family unit developing their own memories. AND it causes the children to think they cannot be ok with the new family unit, which is nonsense. It makes about as much sense as Aunt Bethany singing the National Anthem at Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s disjointed, out of place, and confusing to people…..but it IS funny. So stand up for your family and say something. If it doesn’t feel supportive of your family, say something. Just make sure you don’t allow her present to sit unopened for too long…
However you get there, it is important, imperative that you make your own family memories-those that are so great you would spend all afternoon, stuck in the attic in your grandmas clothes to stay warm, watching them over and over with a smile on your face because you know that it was good for you, your kids, and above all-that beautiful blended family you made.