You Can’t Go Home (for the Holidays) Again

September 11, 2015 | By

by Daniel Seigel

It’s that magical time of year again, when everyone’s hearts are filled with good tidings of joy and love. It’s also that magical time of year when suddenly your calendar fills up with holiday parties, family events, and church services. You might start to ask: the holidays are supposed to be relaxing, aren’t they? Then why do I feel so anxious?

It’s a magical time for family, but it’s hard to go home again. As an adult, I find that phrase odd—“home for the holidays.” What is home? Where my parents live? I’ve made a home for myself, filled with adult things and adult relationships. It’s very easy to confuse “home” with “where I grew up.” Often, your family of origin’s home brings with it the baggage and patterns of childhood and adolescence. Think about your family; do you have that family member that everyone hopes just forgets to show? Every time you go home, do you find yourself stuck in the same old arguments, the same old routines? I had a good friend who, until a few years ago, sat at the kids’ table at his parents’ house for Thanksgiving or Christmas. He was well over 50, but always the youngest of many siblings. The patterns sometimes hold us in place, and make it ever so hard to leave home.

If you’re married or dating, you’ve created a new family. Hopefully that new family has new patterns, new ideas, and new ways of relating that are closer to what you’ve always wanted. Genesis and Matthew both mention that a man must leave his father and mother and become one with his wife—but so often, we don’t really leave. We find ourselves wrapped up in the same old ways that hold us captive and make the best days of the year so stressful. In your new family, you have the chance to create new boundaries. You have the chance to hold fast to the beliefs and values you now have, not the ones you used to have when you lived with mom and dad.

Some tips for making Home for the Holidays a little more manageable:

  • Bring the gifts, but don’t forget your sense of humor — When your partner pokes fun at your dad’s long-winded stories, do you feel the need to defend him? What about that aunt who drinks a little too much, but you must point out how hard life’s been when your spouse giggles at her slurred speech? One quick way to sabotage your relationship is to forget that you can be objective when it comes to your family. Remember how crazy they can make you. Enjoy the scene together. Of course, don’t stand for mockery, but remember your spouse is there, dealing with all of that, too! You just might be able to use a laugh.
  • Enjoy your wiggle room — What’s that thing you don’t bring up at the dinner table? What would happen if you forget to play the family games the way they want? Our emotional space is ours to defend, and at stressful times of the year, we need to clearly defend it! You can feel free to pull out of the game and gain a little space for yourself this year. Take a walk with your partner, or lead the conversation down a new path that’s not so touchy.
  • Be a good sport — I once dated someone who loved to use the term “Forced Family Fun.” Her family would get together and play games or ceremoniously hold forth at the dinner table. Everyone would look like they were ready to bolt, except for the few of us who caught each others’ glances. We knew there was nothing to do for it; there’s no changing the pattern. You’re not “home” to fix anyone or win the battles you always fight. So enjoy your Forced Family Fun or whatever games you play, and then leave home and go home.
  • Draw a few more lines — Scheduling is always hard, especially in those families that are split apart by divorce, distance, or both. You can draw the line, though. If you’re facing undue hardship, remember that your home is wherever you are. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t fly around the world like Santa and deliver everything. Sit down with your spouse or your partner and figure out those priorities. Hold tight to that relationship, and work hard to figure out what y’all will do this year, not what you should do. (That’s proper Southern for you, no?)

This isn’t rocket science, nor is it just blind guesswork. With a little effort and the realization that you may already be home, you can navigate your Holidays and maybe even enjoy that turkey and dressing a little more this year.

Filed in: Family, Library

Comments are closed.