She was excited about her boyfriend meeting her family for the first time. After going home earlier in the week, she anxiously awaited his arrival.
She answered the doorbell - and there he was in his blue jeans and flannel shirt. She never imagined that he wouldn't be dressed for the occasion. Her stress level skyrocketed as she imagined the conversation after he left.
Being true to form, he was his fun self during dinner, pretending to bend heirloom silver, telling jokes and sharing funny antics. After he left, nobody said anything about his clothing or anything else for that matter.
Fast forward to mid-December. Mom calls and asks if her boyfriend will be coming for Christmas dinner. Her boyfriend said he was planning to be there. Then mom asked, “Will he be dressed appropriately?”
A mischievous grin came across his face as he overheard the question, and he replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” After the call, his girlfriend inquired about his attire. He told her not to worry.
When the mom answered the door on Christmas day, the boyfriend stood there in a huge Santa suit and big mirrored sunglasses. As the mother laughed, the boyfriend said, “Well, I guess some people know how to dress appropriately for the occasion and some don’t.” Thus began an ongoing back and forth between the boyfriend and his future mother-in-law.
The holidays are quickly approaching. Whether you are nervous because that special someone will meet your family or the annual extended family dinner makes you want to skip the holidays altogether, there are ways to take the edge off.
Before jumping into holiday celebrations, consider these suggestions:
Make sure your expectations are realistic for your family situation. Adjustments may help us move from the Norman Rockwell picture of family to something more reasonable.
Think outside the box. Maybe a shorter time together could offer more chances for successful interaction. Carefully planned activities provide less time for bringing up negative family history repeatedly.
Set boundaries ahead of time. You don’t have to go all out, even if other family members choose to do so. Plan how you will spend your time, energy and money now, before the momentum of the holidays fully kicks in.
Don’t try to control or change others; this only leads to frustration and disappointment. Allow extended family members to celebrate the holidays in their own way. If your family chooses not to participate, it is okay.
Don’t take on more than you can comfortably handle. Let other family members help prepare for the celebration. Even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you would like…so what? Adapt, adjust and make the best of it.
Finally, if that special someone will meet your family at a holiday celebration, remember to tell them about dressing appropriately and any other information that would help make the occasion less stressful.
At holiday gatherings you can have the best of everything, but a glaring absence of real gratitude for each other misses the mark. Value your time together as a family this year so there will be fewer regrets in the future.