Monday, March 28, 2016

Time to Switch Up Holiday Traditions?


My extended family is big on my side-really big. With  nine siblings ranging in age from 68 to 48, all with families of our own, most of us (not me and younger sister) with grandchildren, the big holidays have gone more to open house style.The host gets a count, and divvy's up the food prep amongst the siblings she knows are coming. It works well, but even with this less formal no sit down dinner gathering, it's a ton of work for whoever is hosting.  The hostess usually is doing an additional holiday of some sort with their immediate family, at least for Christmas, maybe not Easter or Thanksgiving. We usually just stop by for Thanksgiving desert, or for a pre-brunch coffee on Easter but this year, decided to just do DH's.

While smaller on DH's side, holidays have gotten hectic and strained as well. My sister-in-law that I have friction with, does do an every other year rotation with her husbands family and only does one or the other. While it makes sense for them, the years switch up randomly, and none of us are ever really sure what year their doing what. She hosted DH's family, with a few extra guests, two years in a row, but not this year, it was the other side of her family. My other sister in law decided to host, but invited her whole family, as well. Then, her husband, my husbands brother got sick. She couldn't very well host Easter with a sick person in the house, so switched the venue to her mothers. At the risk of sounding very anti social, ungrateful, and petty, Easter was odd this year. We felt like we were crashing some other families Easter.

I didn't know she had extended the invitation to her family as I wasn't on the original e-mail group because she mistyped my address. Of course it makes sense for her. If you're going through the work of hosting a big dinner, why not have both sides and see everyone at one time. When I got caught up, I just got date, time, and a request to bring my potatoes. Only when I learned the venue change, and by then it would have been rude to say, "well, maybe we'll just have Easter with my own family." Now our Easter became my-sister- in law and her four kids, her parents, her sister, brother-in-law and two kids, her aunt, uncle, and cousin, DH's second cousin and his wife, my mother-in-law, and DH, the two DD's, and me. Her family was nice, but holidays can be awkward enough with people you know, but now throw in conversations in which either half the group knows nothing about what the other group are referencing, or staying on such benign topics everyone is bored. Still, in spite of the awkwardness, it was a more enjoyable day than last year when the other sister-in- law orchestrated  an over the top, micro managed, scripted sit down dinner and conversation. I told you I would sound ungrateful.

 It was gracious of the mother to step in and host last minute, I met a nice family, and there was wine. Still, it was another holiday that was taken out of my comfort zone. As holiday's seem to be my biggest anxiety trigger, and believe me, despite my optimism post yesterday, I had one doozy of an anxiety attack Saturday night when all the changes I wasn't aware of came to light, I need to think through how we will celebrate the rest of 2016. Is it time to focus on just my nuclear family, but with extra seats at the table if anyone doesn't have a place to go? Do I not worry about keeping the peace in either family and spread ourselves thinner than what makes holidays enjoyable? Has anyone ever said or even hinted my family needs to be at the extended versions? Is it just trying to hold onto old traditions from childhood that no longer fit our life? I think, perhaps, it is, and it's time for me to make my own for my family, even if the tradition is a calm stress free day of relaxation. 
An Easter walk in a park would have been lovely even with the rain.

8 comments:

  1. Well first off I had enough sense to be born into a small family. lolz
    While you can't go back and "redo" that part you can make holidays more comfortable for yourself and I highly suggest that you do!
    What is the point of a holiday if it becomes just an anxiety inducing event? I'd take the needs of your immediate family into consideration first and foremost. Afterall, once your own grandchildren come you'll just want to concentrate on your own family and gkids.....too bad you don't have any now and can use that as the excuse to the extended family for not attending the massive feeds? ;-)

    Another way to bow out of many of these sort of uncomfortable gatherings is to move far enough away to have an excuse(distance)for not attending but that's rather extreme a change in your life to make just to avoid having guilt over not going to them.

    I'd say to really plan ahead what you want to do/how to handle these large family gatherings and plan what you want now. Before you know it July 4th/Thanksgiving/Christmas/pick your holiday will be here.
    IIWM(if it were me)I'd have a immediate family only and then if you feel sociable enough, attend one of the massives for dessert only. It keeps the guilt from not making an appearance/not being amenible to your family or DH's family at bay and if you are only going to attend at the tail end you know it's only for a short while. Also, if these gathering tend to devolve into fights as they go on maybe show up early for drinks/apps instead and bow out before Uncle Roger starts drinking and gets belligerent and shoves Cousin Mike into the fireplace(or whatever action tends to happen at your version).
    Good luck navigating the "joys" of family!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Much of it is just my own issues-no fights, just a lot of annoyance!I'm already the "odd one" in DH's family, so our absence will be part of my peculiarity I guess. With my family, I think it is the trying to hold on to relationships after my parents died and that is why the big celebrations haven't stopped, but I think everyone is moving on and ready to put an end.With DH's family, because there are still younger kids in the siblings homes, and now with my MIL alone, there is more expectations. Thanks for your perspective-it helps to know I have options-Just need to exercise them.

      Delete
  2. Family=stress. That's all there is to it. I'm sorry to say, my dear, but I don't think that you are going to escape family get togetheers. I think that you should set a time limit, like pop over and then leave. Bring your potatoes in a disposable dish, so you don't have to retrieve it, and then go home and celebrate with your family. That way if things get tense you have already said that you weren't going to stay. I don't have any family so my side isn't a problem. LOL. But there are a few on Den's side that I would love never to see again. I just change rooms when one of the idiots gets under my skin. I try and focus on something/somebody else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holidays are supposed to be joy, and mine have not been,but other than Christmas, no real arguments-just overwhelming. As i said to Sluggy, I just have to fully own my peculiarity, and decide what works for us. I'll bring my kids into the discussion as well-they have lives of their own as well, and don't want the expectation put on them either.

      Delete
  3. I'm ready to celebrate with just my immediate family, but it sucks having my MIL live with us and everyone sees our house as the holiday house. .. So I feel your pain. I can't tell you how many times I've done the dishes over the weekend. I almost am glad for Monday so I can sit at my desk and work. Said no one except me after a holiday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems someone else could appreciate what you do and take the holiday off your plate. We don't have that but now that its just MIL and she lived in same town we're kind of expected to drive but then she wsnts to linger. I insisted on two cars yesterday.

      Delete
  4. Since our parents died my siblings and I don't get together (all of us) for any of the holidays. Distance is a major factor with one sister up north and one sister out east. It feels a little sad but I don't miss the chaos. I had two great pot luck dinners over the long weekend, both with good friends. My two brothers live in my city but we don't see each other too much. I don't think there has to be one set way in doing things but what we choose to do should be based on what makes us happy :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just got done reading about your weekend and shopping. I love the idea of casual weekends, but maybe s little something special for holiday.

      Delete

Join the conversation. Your respectful comments are welcome. Spam and advertising products or services without permission will be deleted, as will anything deemed hurtful to others. A change, I moderate comments older than three days to be sure I read them all and stay ahead of the spam. If you're a blogger, feel free to include your blog URL.