Does Family Drive You Crazy?

It was Professor Albus Dumbledore who said a very wise thing in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince:

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

In addition to referring to facing death and torture from Lord Voldemort, I believe Dumbledore was also touching on how we conduct ourselves with family over the holidays.

Thanksgiving is this week, and I was thinking a lot about the inevitable frustration that comes with family dynamics, forced to come to a head over the holiday season. And often that doesn’t even count the fight that happened about who would host Thanksgiving this year…

Come Thursday, we all have to start coping with not only the underlying issues, differences and awkwardness that can come up over a family meal (aka the big pink elephant in the dining room), but also the way in which we handle ourselves during those moments.

Do we need to always get heatedly involved in the political conversation at dinner with our in-laws, or can we “go high” and just play dead via stuffing our face in our stuffing?

Should we be the defensive, sensitive (and therefore easy) target for the critical, teasing aunt or mother, or should we laugh along and just move on?

Is it really worth it to call out the grandparent that says highly politically incorrect things, or should we just realize… they’re old. They’re not going to change now.

Is it necessary to roll one’s eyes openly at the college cousin back from his or her semester abroad, whose newfound pastime is making statements about the fallacy of America? Or should we just take a breath, nod and smile?

And what about the aunt, uncle and grandma (the list goes on) who ask if we’re married yet or dating yet or “seeing anyone special?” Do we let it get to us, or do we let it roll off our backs? Some of you may have lived through this for a while now; what’s one more year?

It’s funny when you think about how so much of practicing successful family holiday dynamics is the way you react and respond. Should you do what’s right or what’s easy?

Just like an equation, there’s one constant – the way other family members have always been. You’re the variable; you can change. As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So why when it comes to dealing with family, do we all seem to be clinically insane?

Maybe it’s time you (and I) alter the way we handle ourselves in the face of the warring parties. Even though they may be wrong, chances are they won’t change. We, on the other hand, can. And then we may just find our holiday-sanity restored.

Because when Gandolf the Grey in Lord of The Rings said: “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you,” he wasn’t referring to Frodo’s mission to destroy the Ring Of Power, but rather Christmas vacation with Frodo’s in-laws.

14 thoughts on “Does Family Drive You Crazy?

  1. Family dynamics …I’d say we have a few…going to take the high road……ignore, ignore, and ignore. Have a Happy Thanksgiving….

  2. As a psychotherapist I see firsthand how my clients often experience increased anxiety as holidays draw near. They speak of stressful family dynamics and seek my help in negotiating them. This is an excellent article. It affirms using strategies that I support. Well done!

  3. If I can’t sit down and have a civilized meal with family members, then I would suddenly come down with the flu or get called into work unexpectedly. (I work in healthcare.) I don’t play their games.

  4. I always thought you had the perfect family, Laura, when I’d visit for your piano lessons and Danielle’s. You were all the very essence of chic and bubbling creativity….and I expect you still are! Happy Thanksgiving from The Musk’s.

  5. Brilliant….thanks for the reminder. Especially loved the Albert Einstein quote. Must remind myself that things will never change…can never change because you are working with the same cast of characters.

  6. A family gathering is like a mine field. Knowing where to step in a conversation and where not to step is an art. It’s also one best passed on to the younger generations, particularly those graduating from the kiddie table to the adult table. Spare everyone if at all possible.

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