I’d like to call for a huddle before we kick off the holiday seasons. Calling all the women in the family, please. Can we huddle up for a moment?
Now, please don’t call me coach. I’m really not in a position to be coaching anyone on these matters. So far, I only have experience in telling my children exactly what is expected of them on holidays. I don’t know what it’s like to have empty seats at my Thanksgiving table. And I haven’t experienced Christmas morning with one of my children missing.
But here’s what I do know. There are some ladies out there who are feeling very frustrated, hurt, or exasperated because of their–or their husband’s–mom. In the last few weeks, I’ve had coffee or lunch or casual conversations with no less than seven women who are STRESSED OUT–not because of the extra tasks they will need to accomplish over the next six weeks, but because of the churning emotions associated with the matriarch of the family, and her rule over those calendar days marked in red. I can’t help but think these ladies represent a large percentage of daughters and daughter-in-laws.
Now, at age 41, I’m not a grandma yet. If I were, I’ll bet I’d be having coffee with other STRESSED OUT grandmas, who have a whole other set of complaints and struggles that I know nothing about. I know, I know… there are always two sides to a story.
But regardless of where your branch is on the family tree, I’d like to offer some gentle suggestions. These are for women of ALL generations to consider, as we step into the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ with our families. You don’t need to bristle. Nobody’s judging you. Everybody wants peace. Just skim them and see if any are helpful:
- It can be perfect without being perfect. I think women allow their expectations to get way out of hand in regard to the food, the table, the decorations, and gifts. Ask yourself: What is the goal? To be a blessing or to be a smashing, photo-op success? The two might just be mutually exclusive.
- Be flexible. The people who share your genes or your last name are not your property. True hospitality considers the needs and preferences of others. Ask what dinner time will work best in the baby’s schedule. Or ask if they’d rather come over on the weekend, since they’ll be with your daughter-in-law’s family most of the day on Thanksgiving. Turkey tastes just as good on Saturday as it does on Thursday–seriously!! Don’t expect your parents to make a ten hour trip (which takes fifteen in Thanksgiving traffic). Be delighted if they do, but not offended if they don’t. Stop making demands or assumptions. It’s rude.
- Traditions are not obligations. Sometimes, the most gracious, sensitive thing to do is to break a tradition. Or at least set it aside for a while. Maybe this year your son will want his kids to wake up in their own house on Christmas morning. Or maybe this is the year that Christmas brunch becomes Christmas munch… on leftovers. Every year, your family changes a little bit. Ask whether you’re holding more tightly to your traditions or your loved ones.
- For goodness’ sake, remember to help. Holidays are a lot of work, and one person shouldn’t do it all. Share the planning, the cost, the kitchen prep, and cleanup. And then, gratefully accept the help that others give! If your daughter-in-law shows up with a dish, take a generous helping and compliment her culinary efforts! If your mom is kind enough to clean her house from top to bottom so that your kids can reverse her efforts in a matter of minutes, the least you can do is give her a hug and say, ‘Thanks, Mom.” Bottom line: “Be ye kind, one to another“–especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas!
- … You better not cry. You better not pout; I’m telling you why: Because you are the mom or the grandma now, and you are too old to be doing that. Ask yourself why you’re sulking or complaining or being sullen. Is it because you’re not getting what you want? If so, you are welcome to borrow the following slogan from the preschoolers: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” (It works just as well for grown-ups.) If you’ll choose to focus on serving others instead of yourself, you’ll have your frown turned upside down in no time.
Let’s be like Jesus to our family this season. Let’s allow his Spirit fill our hearts and our homes with love, hope, and peace.
update 11/17: I should have mentioned that my mom is one of the most gracious, servant-hearted hostesses I know. You won’t find any suggestions for her on my list–but there are quite a few for me! And my mother-in-law is struggling so with cancer, weakened lungs and heart–it’s hard to see her unable to do what she once loved to. A reminder for all of us to redeem the fleeting moments we have to serve our families–they truly are a blessing.