Tag Archives: family

Bring Peace to The Holiday Tug of War

Note – Over the years, I’ve written dozens of articles. This is the only one that earned a paycheck (written under my former “Elliott”).  

Do you argue with any family members about whose house/where/when during the holiday season? Then this article is for you. 

The Holiday Tug of War

Holidays of yore

When I was in my twenties and a new mom, I spent many holiday hours on the road. First, an hour in the car driving to my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas Day, my husband and I would pack up the car and the toddler and drive to my mom’s house in the morning and on to my sister-in-law’s house in the afternoon. 

Not the holiday I dreamed of

After the holiday, I was wiped out and angry. Every year I vowed the next year would be different. I was not having the Christmas I truly wanted, and I was frustrated. But, I didn’t know how to talk to my spouse about my holiday dreams – I wanted to start our own traditions, in our own home. 

Why do we run?

Why do we run-run-run during the holidays? According to Kim Leatherdale, a licensed counselor and therapist in Oldwick, New Jersey, women are naturally pleasers. We want everyone to be happy; we want everything to run smoothly. As a result, we rarely get to relax and enjoy the holiday as we want. And we rarely have the opportunity to form our own family traditions. Many of us have not had the Thanksgiving or Christmas we dreamed about since we started our own family and succumbed to all the family pressure. 

The holidays are coming! 

Talking about holiday dreams and preferences is not something most couples discuss before a relationship develops or even after you say the “I do’s.” But as the holidays approach, you hear little snippets about what others continue to take for granted. Your mother-in-law might hint about the menu for her Thanksgiving brunch, or you might overhear your mom on the phone with your sister planning the Christmas Eve dinner. 

Talk now

If you hope to put your own stamp on the holidays, now is the time to discuss plans with your spouse or partner. Decide on a time to sit down and talk about it – just the two of you – before the invitations and expectations start to pile up. 

Communicate – As Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Wexford, PA, says, don’t imagine that your spouse is a mind reader. Sit down and talk about what you liked and did not like about last year’s holiday, what’s important and not important. Be willing to listen and compromise. Be open to each other’s ideas of how to handle the holidays, from demanding relatives to demanding schedules. 

Start your own traditions – When you are living at home with mom and dad (or a parent and partner), that’s your “bubble.” Once you are married, that should be the most important relationship. You need to move your bubble to surround you and your spouse or significant other. If you want to start new traditions in your own home with your partner, do it.  

Tune in to the kids – Be aware of your children’s needs and desires, within reason. If your teen daughter wants to see her BFF on Christmas Day, allow an opportunity for that to happen. Invite the BFF to visit on Christmas Day, and talk to his/her parents ahead of time. 

Be aware of feelings – Kim Leatherdale suggests you be aware of others’ feelings but don’t feel responsible for them. Understand that your mother-in-law may be upset with this new plan, but you are not responsible for making her happy – she is. And once you and your spouse/partner decide on a plan, sit down with the families and discuss it together. 

Take turns – Has the holiday schedule of visiting been a little lopsided? More time with one family or the other? Decide to take turns – this year we go to your mom’s house for Christmas Eve, next year we go to my mom’s for Christmas Eve. And every year we spend Christmas Day at home.

De-stress the day – Wake up, grab the mug of coffee, relax and open gifts, and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Instruct visitors to drop in after 12:00 p.m. (or at a time designated by you), and ask them to bring a covered dish like a brunch casserole, a crock pot of chili, or a pan of lasagna or enchiladas. And why not use paper plates? You are de-stressing your holiday – don’t ratchet it back up by having to cook and clean all day. If you must cook the big turkey, do just that and ask everyone else to bring the extras.

Lost income adjustment – Are you feeling the pinch from a lost income? Perhaps it’s time to start a tradition of having a family gift-giving pool or purchase gifts just for family members under a certain age. Or use this time to teach children compassion – collect the money usually used for gifts and make a contribution to a local charity. Or collect the kids’ old toys no longer used and give them to a homeless or women’s shelter. 

Have a sourpuss? 

I polled about 30 people – young and old, parents and children, husbands and wives. Fifty percent of the responders to my survey said they felt pressure from a partner more than anyone else. I found a handful of responders had family members who sulked because they weren’t getting their own way. Again – you are not responsible for that person’s feelings. If it’s necessary to spend part of a day with that sulky person, have an out – plan to go for a walk or to the park for an hour or plan a visit to the local science center or museum (check ahead for holiday hours!). 

Complications from divorce 

After a divorce, you need to be even more flexible, especially where children are concerned. Add to that a new blended family or additional in-laws, and you need to learn to bend before you break. Over the decades, I celebrated many holidays and birthdays a week before or a few days after the actual date on the calendar. I would remind myself that it’s not the date that’s important, it’s the people I spend time with. Don’t push and pull your parents or children into knots just so you can have the same Christmas morning that you’ve had for the last twenty years. 

Communication and a little forethought are all you need to plan a dream holiday. 

And may all your holiday dreams come true. 

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Filed under Personal Articles, Special Events

The spirit of Christmas glides home on a Flexible Flyer

flex flyerTwo young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their rubber snow boots.

Mother stands over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, passed the mint and white Chrysler with its push-button start, into the snow drifts. These children are on a mission!

They trudged a couple hundred yards – past the monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then round the back to the dumpsters.

The Christmas tree adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary School. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.flex close up

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue the tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past the weed-choked fence where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit into the rec room.

They set the tree in a teeny, dented tree stand.  They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Delicate, paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.

early christmas - Copy

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Filed under Special Events

The spirit of Christmas glides home on a Flexible Flyer

early christmasTwo young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their rubber snow boots.

Mother stands over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, passed the mint and white Chrysler with its push button start, into the snow drifts.

They trudged a few hundred yards – past the monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then round the back to the dumpsters.

The Christmas tree had adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary School. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue the tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past the weed-choked fence where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit into the rec room.

They set the tree in a teeny, dented tree stand.  They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Delicate, paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.

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Filed under Prose & Poetry, Special Events

Holidays and kids are picture perfect

Stacy Van Dyck 1Stacy VanDyck is an Air Force wife, mom, and photographer (husband Geoffrey was featured yesterday) and works out of her home at the Minot Air Force Base.

Stacy Van Dyck 2

Stacy VanDyck Photography is a member of the Pictures of Hope Foundation. The Pictures of Hope Foundation is a charitable organization of professional photographers who provide complimentary photography sessions to babies in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit who are not quite ready to come home.

Stacy Van Dyck 3

Connect with Stacy at her website or on Facebook.

Stacy Van Dyck 4

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers