It’s that time of year when everyone begins to make lists. Lists of food to buy for the holidays, lists of recipes needed, gift lists, Christmas card lists. It goes on and on. I even have a friend who makes a list of all her lists. Lists are meant to keep us organized, focused and on task.
My family has a rather unique list. The list of topics not to be discussed at the aforementioned holidays. Truly I thought most families had something like this but as I ask around, I find that’s not the case. You may logically be asking why would a family need a “do not mention even in passing” list? Because we’re trying to head off World War 3. In the past, we thought perhaps if we had these discussions before alcohol was poured, logic and wisdom would prevail. Wrong. The discussions (as my father calls them, never arguments) only get louder and cruder with alcohol. Ironically enough I’m sure someone in my family has a list of all the alcohol to buy.
What subjects are on the “do not mention” list? Politics and religion. With this being an election year, there is sure to be gloating from one side, which will escalate. Before long, it will sound like Bill O’Reilly and James Carville have joined us for dinner after they’ve knocked back several bourbons. Words will be bandied about like, “fiscal cliff,” “Obamacare,” “binders of women,” “abortion,” “Supreme Court justices,” and “gay marriage.” The list is endless. Why can’t we sit down and discuss our views like grown ups? Because each side feels so strongly that their opinion is right they can’t listen without jumping in and interjecting their own (polar opposite) opinion. Because of everyone’s deeply held convictions, I’m convinced no one will be swayed into changing their minds. Perhaps if we could just open our minds though….
I’m all for a lively debate but my family often takes it too far. Feelings get hurt, tears have been shed, people leave the table never to come back for dinner. My brother has been known to literally leave the house and not show up for any further family meals. I won’t see him until the next holiday or family get together, which can be months in the future. We need to agree to disagree as clearly ‘communicating’ is not working.
It’s equally bad when someone brings up religion. We are a family divided among Christians, agnostics and atheists. Everyone in my extended family knows that my family will go to church on Christmas Eve. Almost all other family members—siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews abstain and that’s perfectly fine. I never pressure anyone to go to church with us but it has cut into festivities before (oh, geez, they have to leave to go to church, can’t you skip it this year?) Actually, no, we can’t because that’s part of celebrating Christmas, which to us means celebrating the birth of Christ. But we’ll be back before midnight for a good night toast so don’t worry about the 90 minutes we duck out.
Because I wanted my children to be raised with faith, my husband and I chose his sister and her husband to raise our children in the event of our untimely deaths. They’re wonderful people with a beautiful faith in God. Explaining to my own sister that we did not choose her to be our children’s guardian was painful. I love my sister and her husband dearly but while she believes in God, her husband does not. My sister handled it well but I know she was hurt.
The irony is that when my brother and his wife had to choose a guardian for their three children, they chose my sister and her husband for the exact opposite reason—because they wouldn’t be subjected to Christianity. They do not believe in God and don’t want their children forced into religion.
You can see how this could get awkward if someone brings up religion. We purposely avoid the subject until it somehow gets brought up, as in “Mitt Romney is a Mormon.” Well now we’ve just thrown the list out the window and ignited an inferno. Either jump in or run from the room.
What I adore about my family is their passion. We’re all strong willed, opinionated (and not afraid to share that opinion), assertive personalities. There are no wallflowers here, except for a few easy going personalities who have married into the family like my own husband. I’m sure he could be a voice of reason if only he could get a word in edgewise.
So this holiday season, I feel blessed to have such a crazy, loud, opinionated family with a list. Now if we can only stick to the list, we may enjoy the holidays in peace.