Grandfamilies: How Happy Are Your Holidays?

christmas commotion 2008Christmas, 2008. L-R: Elaine, Cadence, Rachael (with beautiful hair), Ayden, Kevin, Carly. 

Ah, Christmas. After a splendid dinner of prime rib roast, all your loved ones gather around a crackling fireplace, sipping hot chocolate. Auntie is at the piano, playing O Holy Night. Snow falls outside, adding to the hush of Christmastide. The tree glitters with perfectly arranged lights and delightful ornaments crafted and collected over the years. Rosy-cheeked grandchildren sit quietly and eye the stacks of color-coordinated packages as they await their turn to open a gift.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, me neither. Unfortunately, for most of us, the holidays entail some level of stress as we try to squeeze in shopping and baking and writing cards and wrapping gifts and cookie swaps and holiday pageants and maybe even some travel. All that preparation can wear us down. And sometimes, working out who will celebrate with whom requires finesse, diplomacy, establishing boundaries, and something like peace talks–though I don’t recommend you pound the table with your shoe. 

When it comes to scheduling family time over the holidays, advance planning can spread itself like oil over the troubled waters of schedule-wrangling. Here are some tips that may help:

  • First, discuss the upcoming holiday with your spouse. Make sure the two of you understand each other’s priorities and commit yourselves to honoring them.
  • Next, spend a moment discussing what needs to happen for each of you to go to bed in contentment on Christmas night.
  • Consider any previous or perennial trouble spots and develop workarounds. If Auntie has a history of being hard at the punch bowl on Christmas Eve, plan your visit for another day.
  • If you have little ones, think about their limits and plan accordingly. If you have grandlittles, offer to be flexible about your Christmas celebration. Offer to host a Boxing Day brunch and instantly become a superhero to the parents struggling to fit everyone into their Christmas schedule.
  • Ask the other people in your family what matters most to them. You might discover that Grandma X would rather take her grandchildren to see The Nutcracker a few days before or after Christmas than have you stop by on Christmas day.
  • If you’re blessed with a really big family, consider spreading the celebration out across Advent or beyond Christmas through to Twelfthnight.
  • Especially if your family is blended, be ready to think of new solutions. Rich and I become itinerant grandparents on Christmas day, driving to his daughter’s household, then to our daughter-in-law’s household, then to my sister’s house. When my daughter and her family lived in Southern California, we also visited them on Christmas day. Some years this plan meant we caught up with our kids while they were visiting their children’s other grandparents, where we have always been welcomed graciously. Since we don’t have to pack up diapers and formula and a change of clothes and a favorite lovey, we figure we’re more portable than the little ones.

Of course, it only takes one case of stomach flu to undermine your careful planning, so I suggest you hold on to your itinerary with an open hand.

How about you? What tips do you rely on to navigate holiday visits?

rabbit conga

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). The conversation began on January sixth and we’ll continue until we run out of things to say. Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear from each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.

Please join us.

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