Staying Grounded When Visiting Relatives Over the Holidays – With the holidays swiftly approaching, you probably fall into one of three camps when it comes to visiting relatives. Either you look forward to it, dread it, or avoid making the trip altogether (oh, you conveniently have the flu? So sorry to hear that!).
Whenever I visit my parents for the holidays, I show up with a small basketball team (my seven children) in tow. As you can imagine, we make quite an entrance. To further complete this bull-in-a-china-shop picture you probably already have in your head, add in the fact that my mother is an interior decorator and has carefully crafted a home that could fit within the pages of Architectural Digest.
It’s more a museum than a dwelling, but it suits my parents’ lifestyle well. My pack of rambunctious little puppies, however? Not so much. Fingerprints wind up all over glossy surfaces, dishes get piled in the sink, and the scent of mom’s oil diffuser is inevitably replaced by Eau de teenager.
There is no question that we love each other and bask in the quality time we get to spend together. Still, I think there is a collective sigh of relief from everyone involved when it’s time to go home. So how do you make the most of the holidays when you feel like you’re holding your breath waiting for the other shoe to drop?
I am used to planning activities for a group of individuals who each have different interests, preferences, and desires. Sometimes they can be fickle… one day, they might eat two loaves of bread in the form of French toast and, by the next, have decided that French toast is disgusting. To me, it’s like a constant science experiment where my hypothesis might be proven wrong.
I’ve learned to embrace and even appreciate the chaos. For people like my mother, who is used to marching to the beat of her own drum, it can be quite frustrating to keep up with the ever-changing habits of my crowd. She loves to cook and provide healthy meals that everyone will enjoy, so I need to remind her in advance that it’s impossible to bat a thousand with this group. Having 50% of the people happy 50% of the time is still a big win.
Carve out your own time and space.
It’s a LOT to go from living 24/7 in separate households to suddenly being all up in each other’s business. Whether you’re cohabitating with family for a short time or an extended period, be diligent about protecting time for yourself to recharge. On a recent two-week trip I took to visit my parents in Michigan, I set clear boundaries about when I wouldn’t be engaging with the rest of the group.
While I loved chatting with my mom while helping out with the dishes, I told her in advance that I would be taking a solo walk after we had finished. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to spend time with the family, I explained. It was just that I needed to have a bit of “introvert time” sprinkled in here and there. Holding tight to your own time and space isn’t selfish – it’s actually one of the best tools you have to help things stay harmonious.
This is the meditation
It’s much easier to have zen-like thoughts when no one is bothering us. But the practice of meditation doesn’t have to be relegated to the ten minutes when you first wake up or as you’re laying in savasana at the end of your yoga practice. When a family member does something that makes you grit your teeth in frustration, think to yourself, “This is the meditation.” This simple mantra has been helpful in reminding me to pause and breathe rather than jumping straight into reaction mode. Instead, I take a moment to allow the trigger to dissipate before I engage.
Share the load
When you get together with family, there’s often a lot of pressure (typically felt most acutely by the host) to keep everyone happy and occupied with activities. Relying on one person, or even one household, to handle everything is a surefire way to cause stress that can ruin their holiday and infuse tension into the environment. Instead, try assigning everyone a different task. For instance, we run a family fishing tournament that takes quite a bit of effort to orchestrate. Poles need to be strung, worms bought, and backup equipment ready in case anything snaps while reeling in a big one.
Designating one household to handle this project and another to oversee dinner or perhaps a post-dinner family game helps ensure that everyone has a place to contribute and no one becomes resentful for having to do all the work.
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