Gallagher, the watermelon-smashing comedian, has a great line about the holidays. “Why,” he asked, “do we put Christmas right in the middle of the holidays when everyone is so busy?” What’s intended to be a day of joy and celebration too many times ends up being a day of anger and frustration. Everyone has expectations of what the perfect Christmas should look like. Of course, most of these expectations are contradictory, if not impossible, to begin with.
After too many holidays, many of us are pulling our hair out and swearing to ourselves “That next year will be different.” But then, we never make decisions or plans for things to be different and when “next year” comes, we’re sucked back into the same dysfunctional family systems that made us so unhappy the year before.
Things don’t have to be this way. They can be different. You can even enjoy the holidays. All it takes is a little courage and a little responsibility.
1. Plan your holiday schedule in a way that works best for YOUR family. Everybody wants to see you and everybody wants to see you on the same day. That’s impossible. What’s best for you? Your children? Decide together as a family how things will be done as a family and then, communicate your plans to your extended families TOGETHER. The key phrase is, “This is what works best for us.” You have 365 days to see your family. You don’t have to see everyone in the same week.
2. Rotate between grandparents. If one gets this year, then the other gets next year. If you’re in the same hometown, plan sharing time carefully. Make sure the time required doesn’t exhaust you or your family. Better yet, have the grandparents come to your house. When you have the grandchildren, you have the upper hand in negotiating Christmas time.
3. Have a code phrase. When you get a little frustrated and need to talk to your spouse away from in-laws, say the code word. Ours was “Honey, can you come here just a second?” That was code for “Get back here and talk to me NOW!”
4. You won’t remember the presents. You will never forget the people you love. Focus on your family and the love you have for each other. The most precious gift you can give them is your time and you can’t buy that at any store.
5. Adjust your expectations. Your dad is your dad and your mom is your mom. Barring a lightning bolt from God, they aren’t going to change. Stop expecting to do something they’re not going to do or be someone they aren’t going to be. Adjust your expectations to avoid a lot of disappointment.
6. Mind your budget. January is hard enough without being neck deep in debt. It’s really not worth it.
7. Keep Christ in Christmas. Make sure worship is part of your Christmas celebration for you and your family.
Yes, your parents will be disappointed. Yes, some family might be angry. They’ll get over it. Your family is the priority now—your husband, your wife, and your children. Everyone else comes in a distant second. Make Christmas memorable for all the right reasons. You can, but you have to decide to do so now.