When you think of the upcoming holiday, are you filled with dread or delight? For some of us, the source of dread has to do with making the meal. The shopping, the chopping, the cooking, and the baking— the very thought exhausts us. For others, preparing the meal is a source of delight, a chance to show our loved ones our talents and give each of them the gift of our caring.
If for you, this aspect of the holiday is misery, either hire a caterer or announce to the family that you love them dearly and do not want to ruin your time with them by fretting about the meal. Ask each of them to bring their favorite dish or, if they come from afar, to plan to cook with you.
Maybe the source of your dread is the disparate food preferences of your guests. Some are vegetarian, some love meat, some require gluten-free, others are kosher. Instead of going crazy trying to accommodate to everyone’s needs, invite your guests to bring their own food and let them know that you will provide a warm and friendly environment.
You may relish the thought of seeing your siblings, but hate the animals they insist on bringing with them. You may love your nieces and nephews but despise the way their parents discipline them. In your house, you do have the right to set rules, but do so in advance. Explain that while you understand their dogs are very important to them, because of allergies or fears you would prefer that they leave their animal outside. As for the children, none of us know the best way to bring up children. Perhaps a bit of tolerance for differences in parenting styles is in order.
For others of us, the tension is based on our dislike or fear of a particular family member and his or her behavior. Maybe your father-in-law criticizes everything you do. We can accept the criticisms or we can ignore them. If they are particularly insulting, we can blunt their force with a witty remark or with a comment that chooses to do things in a different manner. Many families avoid contentious conversations by watching the football game or talking about the weather.
Or, perhaps Uncle Ben is an arch-conservative and you are a die-hard liberal. We can choose to obsess about the awfulness of imagined conversations or we can focus on what we can learn from another point of view.
The symphony orchestras of Boston and St. Louis give us yet another model of interacting with those who on the surface are quite different from us. In this video, the long hairs focused on what they had in common with the jocks and baseball fans and added to the joy of rivalry.
None of us is in high school anymore. We don’t have to judge each other on what we wear or our interests. We need to just get along for a few hours and focus on what each of us brings to the table, literally or figuratively. Dread or delight, it’s all a matter of attitude. Each of us has the power to change ourselves and our thoughts. In the spirit of the pilgrims and the Indians, let’s just make peace and focus on what we give to each other by being family. Happy Thanksgiving!