It’s that special time of year! Time to visit with extended family and commence the bickering over feasting. Are you ready for it?
I myself may possibly be more ready than I’ve ever been. Ha!
If you read my last post, Memories That Light You Up, you already know my husband and I are happy to buck tradition. Any time, any holiday. In fact, the mere idea that we “have to” put on appearances can be the driving factor to send us in the opposite direction. It’s a fun little game we like to play sometimes.
This year we will visit my mom and sisters as we did the year before and many years prior. But there was one year that we didn’t make the trip (no, it wasn’t the same year that we ditched the Christmas decorations – we do like to balance).
I think it was our first year in Texas. We had only been settled in our new home for a few months and were over the idea of traveling, so we stayed home. I’m all about the Friendsgiving option, but we didn’t really know anyone well enough yet and honestly didn’t feel like making a big deal out of the day.
What did we have for Thanksgiving? Steak and potatoes.
It was perfection.
My husband and I reminisced just the other day about how stressed our neighbor was about it all that same year. Jen went on a rant about how hard she worked, for the entire day, to present the perfect spread to her family. A meal that was over in less than an hour. She didn’t spend time visiting with anyone. She just lived in the kitchen from pre-dawn until that evening. Because of course, when the feasting was over, there was so much to clean up.
We listened sympathetically and then divulged what we had done for dinner. She loved it. She wondered why it hadn’t occurred to her that she could have just done a single meal of steak and potatoes and called it a day.
Why didn’t it occur to her? Tradition.
I’m not entirely sure where the tradition factor comes in to play with my own family. We haven’t exactly been consistent over the years. But for some reason, I’ve learned it’s of paramount importance to my sisters.
Mom sent me a text a couple of weeks back that indicated her wishes that we just have a “low key” time. Let’s just plan out enough for one meal, it said. We threw out so much food last year, it said. How could we plan to just not have leftovers?
Now, I will admit that my initial reaction was something like dismay. I mean, leftovers seem almost essential, regardless of what the meal is. But I resigned myself to hear her out and called her a couple of days later.
When she explained her position, it made sense to me. She didn’t want to spend a lot of money on food that wouldn’t be consumed. I really didn’t have a counter argument to this. While my youngest sister had said very little food was left in Mom’s refrigerator, Mom didn’t share that recollection. She was also concerned about what the kids would eat. I pushed back on this one because my kid will eat just about anything, but admitted that I had no frame of reference for the other kids who would be there.
And really, she wanted our time together to be about our time together, not everyone off in separate kitchens, cooking all day like Jen had done, only to converge upon Mom’s house for about an hour and then leave.
I’m not a huge fan of turkey, anyway. I refuse to eat chicken, so turkey once per year is somewhat of an exception for me. Who even decided that this meal is supposed to be turkey, dressing, potatoes, and cranberries? Who made those rules that everyone is supposed to play by?
My brain went to work on alternatives and I came up with what I just knew was the perfect option. We could make personal pizzas! Boom. The kids could make cheese and pepperoni, I was envisioning my veggie pizza with fresh basil; just so many options. The best part would be that we could all hang out together while we put our own pizzas together. There would be limited leftovers. Win, win, win.
Later that evening with my new mission ready to present, I got on a three-way phone call with my two younger sisters.
I was upbeat and positive. Simplifying this whole things would reduce the cost, the gluttony, the hassle, and place the focus just on being together. How cool would that be?
They. Lost. Their. Shit.
I didn’t even get to paint the picture that I wanted to. All of the ingredients spread out buffet-style, everyone picking what they want, chatting it up, enjoying themselves. Nope.
All I got out was, “I was thinking we could make pizzas….”
“Oh, HELL no!” my middle sister cut me off in mid-sentence. “I am not driving all that way for freaking PIZZA!”
“Sis, I get a 20-pound turkey for free from work,” the youngest said. “We’re eating that bird.”
“And if we’re having the turkey, we might as well have all of the other stuff that goes with it,” the pizza party loather chimed in. “It’s Thanksgiving!”
Well, okay then. Indeed it is. And that means we will have the standard meal. No deviations. Period.
Everyone will be off in their own kitchens, cooking and baking all day long. It will be exhausting. We will all meet up for the meal for an hour or two before everyone scatters in different directions. But hey, there will be cranberries.
I offered to make salad. No one wants that but me. So here we are, everyone making a bunch of food that won’t be eaten.
This silly little incident was a very important reminder for me.
Our loved ones will never behave the way that we want them to.
I honestly wanted my sisters to listen to what I felt was a reasonable request and to embrace it for its simplicity and heartfelt intent.
They reminded me (in rapid fashion) that they will do what they want to do and will be who they want to be.
Every. Damn. Time.
We are not entitled to have those we love agree with us all of the time. In fact, if we are lucky, it might happen half of the time. And when it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean anything about us.
My idea wasn’t stupid or crazy to me. Perhaps it was to them, but that’s about their thoughts and their stories, not mine.
This is a very simple example. Many of our family dynamics aren’t simple.
There will be discomfort and discord for many families if politics is a topic of conversation on any level.
Your crazy uncle will ramble for hours in a drunken stupor about the good old days.
Your mom will probably yell.
Your sister might get pissed at you.
Your dad will check out on football games that he doesn’t really care about, but finds a happy little escape until it’s time to carve that 20 pound turkey.
Here’s what you do. Just let them all be who they are. Don’t try to change them. Don’t try to sway their opinions. Don’t drown in a bottle to remove yourself from the drama.
Just sit back and observe all of the crazy from a place of curiosity and adoration. Be thankful that you have them in your life, because you are learning so much from each and every one of them.
Whenever you feel that tinge of anxiety creep up, just find the love that you have for that family member. Unconditional love.
No matter what they believe, the politics they support, who they love, how they choose to live, or what traditions they are determined to follow without the slightest deviation.
Honor them for who they are, know that nothing they do or say can change who you are, and just send your love like the beacon of light that it is.
That’s something to be thankful for.
Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Book a free consultation with me here.