Over the River, Through the Woods, and Into Dysfunction? No, Thank You, Not Me!

Several years ago, I started telling my family that I’d made other plans for Thanksgiving. It was true. My plans were to avoid my family on the holidays. I simply could not abide the squabbles, the nagging, the insults, the disrespect, the lack of boundaries.

Suffice it to say that my family takes all the fun out of dysfunctional!

And then a few years later, my children told me they wanted to spend holidays with their aunts, uncles and cousins. Really? Yup. So what was a sensible, emotionally intelligent woman to do?

I thought about it for a long time & finally came up with an idea. I invited all to our house. I said there would be a lovely dinner and each of my siblings (or sib’s spouse) could bring one favorite traditional holiday dish. I am delighted to roast a turkey, and I make one that’s moist by stuffing the cavity with fruit & fat (yes, butter). As long as I’m reminded at the proper time, I’ll even make gravy. But I will not serve a meal with five different types of starch. And I declared a truce before anyone stepped foot in the door.

“There will be only comfort and joy in my home. This is the holiday tradition I want my children to remember.”

I was saying that I would absolutely insist we all say only kind things to one another (well, at least NOT to say anything mean-spirited; silence IS golden, after all). I didn’t want anyone exhausted before we sat down to eat.  And I did not care if the football game was watched during dinner.  Uness a niece or nephew was being harmful to self or others, we would let them be (they never have learned how to swing from the chandeliers and I’m childish enough that I have a lot of cool toys in the house). I found some pass-times (mad-libs continues to be a favorite) to give us group tasks.

Mind you, my brothers still need to jibe at one another a bit. Pazens go for the joke at any expense. Sarcasm was taught to us by my parents, at early ages. The “hairy eyeball”, as my husband calls THAT look, and a bit of re-direction can usually cajole them to a kinder, gentler way of interacting.

The only war involves pie crust; it’s over whose is best.

It takes careful planning on my part. The turkey starts to be brined on Tuesday (in the largest cooler I ever found). By the time I go to bed the night before Thanksgiving, the tables are set for dinner, anything that can be cooked ahead and still be tasty is complete.

AND, I always keep looking until I can find people who are not part of our birth family and likely unknown, so that brothers and sister and in-laws alike will feel as if they are in public. It’s amazing how well it works.  I also assign one non-family member to each family member about whom I’m most worried.

I don’t make them tell me for what they’re giving thanks this year. The meal is not perfect nor is my family, but by the time the dishes are done by the teen-agers (Yessir, that’s what I’m talking about!) everyone is relaxed and ready to nap or head home.

If you don’t have time to try this for Thanksgiving this year, you may also try it on Christmas, Easter, and any day you recall as most troublesome.  And let me know how it works for you. And if it doesn’t, either your family is not like mine or you should call me and we’ll make better plans for the next time.

Interestingly, I AM grateful for my family — each member — along with a home, heat, enough to eat, freedom and dogs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Live Inspired: think boldly; love unconditionally; behave respectfully; act deliberately, kindly, justly, mercifully and humbly; forgive easily; laugh frequently!

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6 Responses to Over the River, Through the Woods, and Into Dysfunction? No, Thank You, Not Me!

  1. Keyuri Joshi says:

    Got a good chuckle and a hearty dose of reality from this post Melissa. If you can’t outrun ’em, join ’em… but with a solid strategy! You’ve got great strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jean Stone says:

    Oh that we would all heed your sage advice! Relaxing unrealistic standards, lowering expectations to an achievable level, and preparing in advance make for a much more relaxed holiday meal, with or without a large family. I love your ability and willingness to declare a truce before a single foot stepped through the door. Thanks for reminding us that love and peace are possible for families who are not perfect, just normal.

  3. Ann Soutter says:

    Wonderful! I still don’t want to host, though….Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

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