Thursday, November 19, 2015

Get Along at Get Togethers

Who will be at your Thanksgiving table? 
  • Great Aunt Evelyn who never stops talking and generally about topics no one is interested in
  • Crotchety Uncle Harry who has made an art of finding something to grumble about
  • Your twin cousins who at 34 give new meaning to the term sibling rivalry
  • Three darling nieces and nephews who cry, spill their milk, and scatter food all over the table and on anyone within reach
  • Grandpa who  has adamant political views that are the polar opposite of his lawyer daughter
  • Your gossipy sister who tries to "figure out" the evil in everyone's life
  • Your husband who will see if he can hide in the study watching football most of the day
  • Your son who loves to play board games and your daughter who absolutely refuses to
  • Your sister-in-law who insists she is allergic to everything on the table and tries to make it a pity party for her when you know she's just on a continual diet

Sounds like a great setting for a holiday comedy movie...or a murder mystery!

I hope that even if you have one person who in your family who comes close to these descriptions, it's only one and not a table full. But every family has it's foibles and people who struggle to get along with each other. While none of the above are people I know personally, our holidays include four generations spanning from 9 months to 89 years old! You can bet we don't all want to do, talk about, play, or eat the same things.

In the years since we've been back in the states and been able to have our holidays with family (after 24 years in South America) we've learned a few things to help make the holiday fun for everyone. And some of my happiest times are when all my kids are in my house enjoying being together!

Be Flexible--easier said than done for some. My husband and I are consummate planners but the younger generation not so much. So we set up a schedule but if it doesn't happen, we try to let it go. The main thing is that we all have a great time together. If that happens when the kids oversleep their nap (or the adults!) and we don't get to take that family photo. Oh well. (At least that's the attitude we aim for.)

Something for Everyone--When we first started hosting holidays, I had tons of ideas for things we should do, places we should go, people we should visit. But as I became mother-in-law I did not want to be that mother-in-law so one time I planned nothing and asked them to plan. One daughter told me, "But you are mom. You're the one with the plans and ideas!" So now I try to get ideas from everyone about what they would like to do and then we put them in the schedule. Everyone gets at least something they enjoy and that makes them happier about joining what isn't their preference. That said, no one has to do everything. Prefer not to play games? Then sit and visit, read, nap, play with the littles.

He who eats, works--For the main meal, like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, I ask everyone to pitch in. They get to choose what they want to make/bring. That makes the main meal so much easier. Then during the weekend or week that everyone's around, we all help as much as we can. Sometimes that means I get to read a book to a grandchild while others do the dishes. Sometimes I'm prepping food while someone else takes a nap. Sometimes I ask for volunteers to take on even more house cleaning. It's only fair.

Conversation "steerers"--I'm known for my conversations starters and we will be using some this Thanksgiving, but we also plan ways of steering the conversation away from touchy subjects that don't edify. My husband and I have done this for years, just trying to change the subject, look for the good in someone or something that is being criticized, or look for a new activity to join in. It's fun to see our grown kids pick up on this and toss in their own "steerers" when someone (yes, even me) starts heading the wrong way in a conversation.

A, B, C--When you are stuck together and you've used up all your ideas to keep things happy and positive, use the alphabet. When you are sitting around tell everyone that you are going to do the Alphabet Thankfuls. The first person says something they are thankful for that starts with "A", the second something that starts with "B", and so on. For added fun, make it a memory game where you have to repeat everything everyone else said before you say yours. 

And finally, always remember to count...

2, 3, 4--Philippians, that is. "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." 

I hope your Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and all your holidays will be filled with love, laughter, and good memories!

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  1. I love these great ideas. I'll be remembering the concept of conversation "steerers" as a way to be a peacemaker!

    1. I love the word "peacemaker" here. Wish I'd thought of using it! If you get any specific "steerers" to share let me know!

  2. I love these ideas, Sharon! Thanks! Since I'm not usually the best of cooks, I usually bring along snacks/treats for the kids. Also, try to think of fun, creative activities or crafts that the kids might like to do. There are gingerbread turkeys out this year that can be put together like the gingerbread houses. Kids like to try their hand at it and even some of the older ones too. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Great tips - I'm going to have to try some. I learned a while ago about being flexible to avoid conflicts but I'm keep to get everyone to pitch in - seems Hubby and I are run off our feet doing and providing everything for the big Christmas get together as well as catering to the numerous grand kid requests.

  4. I like conversation starters. Great idea.



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