Ah, it’s finally cold in Texas (72 degrees). Time to break out your parka and scarf, light your fireplace, and wear fleece pajamas. Soon, the sound of laughter will fill your home as the kids are off from school. It will be a time of relaxation; curling up with the family to watch holiday movies and drink hot chocolate. Extended family will gather around a juicy, perfectly cooked turkey as the first cut is made. Dinner will be served as voices happily chirp back and forth talking about the latest goings on in everyones lives. No matter how many times you prepped Uncle Jim for this dinner, telling him to absolutely under no circumstances bring up the election, he does. Voices raise, forks are thrown, mashed potatoes line your walls, the holidays are ruined.
Sometimes we can’t un-invite uncle Jim. Hopes of a peaceful holiday, falling asleep on the couch with stomachs full of stuffing may be dashed by your cousin who has to sleep on an air mattress in your living room. There may be a family member at every turn waiting to judge your parenting and your cooking. To survive the holidays with relatives, you have to channel your inner Katniss Everdeen and Martha Stewart (when she was in prison).
Here is your survival guide. Prepare for every possible disaster.
Neutral Topics Only
If your family was in a social media war over the election, you might want to hang a sign on your door that says “Neutral Zone: Politics Keep Out.” The election has taken a toll on everyone, especially on families with opposing views. As hard as it can be to shield your own opinion, never mind the opinions of your really annoying distant cousin who thinks she knows everything, leave political conversation for social media. If a family member insists on election talk politely say “I would love to discuss this with you after the holidays,” give them your best fake smile, and pour yourself another glass of wine.
Create Your Own Safety Zone
I love being around family but I know when I’m reaching my limit. When a differing opinion about what movie we’ll see the day after thanksgiving sets me off, I know it’s time to put myself on time out. I let my husband know ahead of time that I may have to excuse myself because I feel “sick.” He will likely announce to everyone that I’ll be spending a long time on the “chair” as we call it in our house, but it’s worth it for my sanity. I’ll be watching Netflix and eating desert upstairs.
You’re Not in This Alone
As the holiday host there is pressure to do everything yourself. When people offer to help you’re supposed to say “Oh no, don’t worry about it, I’m totally fine!” as you drip with sweat from being too close to the hot oven and your back aches from days of preparing. Following a big dinner party, I often look back and can count my interactions with others on one hand because I’ve spent the whole time in the kitchen rather than actually enjoying my guests. This year, I urge you to say “yes” when someone asks to help, your back and sanity will thank you.
Proceed With Grace
And by this I mean, gracefully exiting conversations. There are a million excuses to get out of a conversation you don’t want to be in, especially if you’re hosting. If you’re at a relatives home, there are a million ways to exit the party. Kids are the best excuse ever. If you feel your eyes start to roll uncontrollably, it’s time to politely say you need a drink of water–or a glass of wine–or 5.
The End is in Sight
Keep your eyes on the prize; an empty house and the relief that it’s all over until next year. Though the holidays can be stressful, I always feel a ping of sadness when the last of our leftovers have been eaten, the last candle lit on the menorah, and our sad looking Christmas tree is picked up from the side of the road. I am always eager to put up our decorations and enjoy the twinkling lights around our home, but I feel overwhelmed when it’s filled to the brim with people.
This year, I’ll tell myself it will all be over soon and we have to enjoy the spirit while it’s here; the all-day affair of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, the potato latkes my family finishes before I can get a bite, the overpriced Christmas PJs and all. Sometimes, in the hot Texas summer, I’ll put on my Dolly Parton Christmas album think of all the warm and fuzzies the season brings.