By Madison Frederick
I know you must be thinking that this article will be about all the wonderful opportunities we have to give to those less fortunate during the upcoming holidays. This is the time of year when our hearts are the softest. We are touched by holiday magic and we love to give.
But this article is about another type of giving…. the giving of time. No, not to volunteer in our communities or churches, but the giving of time to our children’s relatives, aka the in-laws. The “giving” up of time with our children and grandchildren is NOT heartwarming for us. The “giving” up of treasured traditions because the family has expanded is NOT our idea of holiday fun!
I think everyone has either gone through these circumstances, or has listened to a close friend lament while going through them. The in-laws quickly become the outlaws during a holiday season. Everyone can play nicely with each other until November and December roll around. Then it is subtle (or, sometimes, not so subtle) warfare.
In some situations, this is complicated by distance. However, even if one family lives nearby the children, and the other side of the family lives a great distance away, things still get tense when holiday plans are made. Why is it so difficult during the holidays?
Most children are taught to share with their very first toy grab. We try to model that behavior in our lives as we raise them. But at Christmas, we are grabbers! We want to grab as many special moments as we can for ourselves. We go to great lengths to make plans ahead of time and get on “their” calendar so we can be assured of sharing special events and getting our time with them.
This is a nightmare for our adult children. Most often they love the family’s traditions. Or if they don’t, you already know the ones they hate, way before grandkids come along! If your son is in a committed relationship, he must honor his partner’s feelings. If your daughter is in a committed relationship, she must honor her partner’s feelings. As with the Biblical character of Ruth, our child chooses to become a member of another family. Most of us understand and appreciate that, but wait a minute. When does he (or she) stand up for our side of the family?! See how quickly that feeling creeps in? It is an emotionally-charged struggle to share holiday times and traditions with in-laws and extended families.
“It’s only because we love them so much and we never get to see them.” That is the battle cry of mothers and mothers-in-law. But we must remember not to make it a battle. Because if we do, the casualties, most often, are loving familial relationships.
And the wounded…. our children.
Just as when they were toddlers, we must model sharing behaviors. But this time, it is much harder. That is why we have a lifetime of strengthening experiences to help us accomplish it. We mustn’t grab; we must give. We are mature enough to see the big picture, aren’t we? Yes, try to maintain your long-range perspective. If it helps, don’t even think about “the other family,” just concentrate on YOUR time with the kids. Think of it as something you are doing for your child. You are “giving” to him/her the gift of a stress-free, no-tension family holiday. That is truly a gift he will cherish.
It is the “gift” that keeps on giving since he/she is learning to once again model a behavior. So even your grandchildren, or future grandchildren, will thank you for setting a pattern of holiday giving and sharing.
Practice peace with love, and joy will follow!