When Your Family Doesn’t Get Along for the Holidays

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Growing up cutting my teeth on the unrealistic expectations of Cinderella, I spent years looking for a cute boy to come and save me from my chores, waltz with me, and look at me with big moony eyes every second of every day for happily ever after. While I do finally have my cute boy for ever after, that’s pretty much where the similarities in Cindy’s and my story ends.
We are very much happy, and we also dance together often, but our life is not how the book read.
Marriage is a big beautiful garden bed that requires work and hard choices and doing right things and the only magic I’ve ever seen worked on a pumpkin was turning it into a plain good pie.
My cute boy and I just had our first real-live, straight-outta-fairytale, horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas last Christmas. Finally. After fifteen years together. We believe our driver was three sheets to the wind (maybe even four or five) and he made the horses drive too fast and we were at our destination faster than the speed of sound.
We laughed so hard at what we thought it would be versus how messed up it was…but there was still that beauty in being together.
I would take my real-life, jacked-up and slightly scary carriage ride whizzing through the crooked downtown brick streets of life sitting next to the one I love over the fantasy any second of the day.
But I find we are fed the same fairy tale-expectations regarding family.
Especially in the holiday season.
That truly most wonderful time of the year for many families?
Is also a time of heartache and dread for many others.
Family isn’t often perfect because of the humans that make up the core of it.
Some families have a long history of building high dams of offense with pebbles of real (and assumed) insult over all the years. It just takes the proximity of two good holidays within one month of each other to breach the wall and sweep everyone within earshot away in a damaging flood of piled-up emotion.
Some families are just in an untimely spat during the Most Wonderful Time. Feelings don’t take breaks for holidays, do they?
William Shakespeare said that expectation is the root of all heartache.
Not to put words in the man’s mouth, but what I think he really meant to say was ‘Expecting fairytale for the holidays is a root of heartache.’
We can’t expect perfect. But I think there are some things we could keep in mind as we get together to make it less of a scary ride.

Things to remember heading into the holidays:
*If it’s not one thing…it’s the other. When my kids get into the little squabs where the root cause is mostly just living with other humans, I ask them a question that has one answer or the other…and no explanations are allowed to accompany either:
‘Are you promoting peace or are you stirring it up?’
They have 100% grudgingly declared the truth of their actions every single time.
*Is my being right more important than you knowing I love you? I’ll just be real honest right here: this is 1) something I know the right answer for and 2) some days I could grow wings and fly away before I act on this truth. Some days I could even say it’s true and tack on a ‘but’ just to dig the elbow of my point solidly against your ribs. This question is of the same sort as before: if we are adulting, there is only one right answer and there is no explanation.
*It’s up to you. Romans 12:18 says, ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (emphasis mine) It really does depend on us, doesn’t it? For two main reasons: 1) it’s near impossible to argue with someone who won’t argue back and 2):  (see below)
*Pick your battles.

FullSizeRender*Preparation is key. How you show up will determine the outcome. Are you coming with your sword and armed for defense? Showing up at a celebration in your armor instead of your party clothes is always obvious to every single person in the room. Or maybe you’re prepared and looking for offense? You will most certainly find it. Remember humans? So what do you prepare when you know you will be heading into sticky territory where you don’t know from which direction the grenade might be coming?
Your heart.
Ask God about your heart. Ask Him to see the other person with His eyes, to love others as He does, to find supernatural forgiveness. Find out what your part is. Are you a keeper of the peace? Have you forgiven? Tell Him that, too. This Jesus thing is no joke: He is asking us to do all of things He says…most especially the hard ones.

Sadly, sometimes no matter what you do, there are people who actively wound at every opportunity. I personally believe in:

*Good fences and all of that. Recently, the Blair people enjoyed a crispy cold and beautiful afternoon at a drive- and walk-through safari in Northwest Arkansas. At one point, Gavin and I stopped at one particular cage that housed what I would call a teenaged lion. Our other people got bored quickly and moved on to the monkey show, but we were mesmerized by this wild creature. ‘Mom, look how big his paws are!’
They were that…I could plainly see they were big as dinner plates. We watched him as he watched us. At one point, he got down real low while watching us, switching just so subtly back and forth on his dinner-plate paws. We felt the look in his eyes like a cold tickle down our spines and we followed our people to the monkey house shortly after.
He looked like he wanted to eat our livers.
I breathed a new-to-me prayer, ‘Thank You, Lord, for strong, high fences.’
What’s the point here?
Some of us have relatives like that lion…out for blood for pretty much all of the time. While we can do our part of the hard work of forgiveness and choosing to love, it doesn’t mean we have to keep putting our livers on a plate and then hand them the napkin and the fork with which to finish us off neatly.
Sometimes strong, high fences are necessary in order for us to keep ourselves in one whole piece.

Hang in there, Friends.
This could be the year you get your carriage ride.
Merriest Christmas to you and your people.

 

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I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Scott | 15th Dec 15

    The ones of us that went on to the monkey cage are the ones that did not want to play around with the big cat. You and Gavin are the wild ones of the fam….Was the fence high enough at the “privately” owned safari? I’m skeptical, but I also erect fences that are too high at times to make sure no one ever gets through. May not be too healthy either??

    • melissablair09@gmail.com | 15th Dec 15

      We are a little wild, aren’t we? A good word on too-high boundaries. Want to co-write my next post with me, Cute Boy? Also, I love you. Let’s not carriage ride anytime soon?

  2. Libby | 16th Dec 15

    Melissa,
    This post blessed me! Thank you for finding the words. xoxo!

    • melissablair09@gmail.com | 18th Dec 15

      Thank you so much, Libby. I loved what you said about ‘finding words.’ Paints such a visual in my head about what writers try very hard to do. So glad to hear from you today!

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