I recently heard someone say that his goal at the holidays is to put the fun in dysfunctional family. Families and holidays are stress points for many of us. We have a wealth of TV Christmas programs to watch this season. But most of our families and holiday events don’t live up to the Hallmark moments.
Maybe our expectations? In Christmas Vacation, Ellen Griswald warns Clark about setting such a high of an expectation for their holiday that no family could meet his expectations.
What are your expectations?
- find the perfect gifts for your family that they appreciate and together delighting in the joy the gifts brings them
- decorate the house and cook a meal that would put Martha Steward to shame, have everyone enjoy the meal, show their appreciation by cleaning up while you sit with your feet up on the sofa
- have the family all together enjoying days of fun and happy family unity
- spend quality time sharing emotional moments just you and your husband
Or are they …
- spending Christmas vacation sleeping all day
- watching hours of football with no interruptions from family members.
- hours of hunting in the new tree stand
- days of quiet fishing all alone
How about …
- spending all day playing on Xbox or Wii without your parents complaining
- no homework for the holidays
- your brother or sister spending the entire holiday at friends
- unlimited usage of the phone
Feel free to add your expectations for the fantasy perfect holiday.
But why don’t the holidays meet your expectations?
Are your expectations reasonable? Have you created a movie in your mind of the season and then reality causes you to end up full of sadness, anger, and great disappointment? Are you trying to create the Waltons’ Christmas? Remember, Hollywood is creating the illusion that we want to see. The illusion of a perfectly happy, well-adjusted family or the family where all problems are resolved by the end of the show makes for great watching but is not a reflection of reality.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about the holidays.
Do you have the time and energy to accomplish your expectations? Martha Stewart has a whole team of people who help her create those perfect dinners and decorations. When planning this holiday seasons do try to be realistic. Also, think about the worst-case scenarios so that you’re prepared for them. And if they don’t happen, enjoy that!
Are your expectations of the perfect holiday different than your family’s? Remember this is a family event and not everyone will have the same expectations.
Have you allowed time for yourself? Don’t skimp on your quiet time. Jesus repeatedly left the crowds to have a quiet time; don’t forget the power of prayer. Take an hour to emotionally decompress and then go for a walk, window-shop, take the dog out, have a bubble bath.
Have you set meaningful boundaries with your family and have you accepted their boundaries? No matter how old we are, our parents will think of us as their children and we can revert to feeling like we’re about 10 years old. Don’t fight it, remind yourself that you are not a child; you are a grown-up and have choices. And remember, if you are the parent, your children aren’t 10 anymore.
And lastly, remember that holidays aren’t meant to be an endurance test; they can be fun. It is important to keep a positive attitude and remember to be playful and to not take stuff too seriously.
Peace to you and yours this Christmas and all of next year!
© Copyright 2010 by Dennis Gowin, MA, therapist in Farmville, Virginia. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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