The holiday seasons are at our doorstep where mom tries to gather all her children home for Christmas. The air is thick with anxiety to near max and conversations with your family start off subtle, but end up in a downward spiral of awkward. Trying to talk to the brother you haven’t spoken with for half a dozen months. Or the sister that you honestly can’t stand. Much like Johnathan Franzen’s novel The Correction’s, (pictured above) which came out Sept. 1, 2001, to acclaimed success by exploring the lives of the Lamberts, a traditional, Midwestern family who are trying to make the holidays work. The story shifts back and forth depicting the personal growth and mistakes of each family member beginning with Alfred. Enid, Alfred’s wife of 50 years, wants to let loose, but because Alfred has a debilitating disease which hinders the idea of traveling, she must become content with her situation and put the thought of enjoyment in the back of her mind. Even though the children have grown up and moved away, they have their family disasters to manage. However, Enid’s dream, in her selfish-motherly way, set her heart on bringing the whole family together, despite her children not getting along, for one last, perfect Christmas dinner home.
To many, the conversations that take place at the dinner table set a feeling of dread. Once those conversations have arrived, they are usually awkward. You practice the answers to the questions you might be asked such as: “How come you’re not married, yet?” “No children? If you don’t have them soon, you’ll be too old.” Or the inevitable small talk about religion and politics that turn into a full-on debate. “Trump is doing a fine job,” one might say, or, “I think it’s a good idea for churches to be involved in politics.” These are all too familiar to many of us. So like Enid, many want to be home for the holidays but are wary of the small talk. Here is a compiled list of ideas to avoid those conversations altogether or how to push through them with your head held high.
Be the one who controls the conversations and where it goes. Lead it to what appeases you without putting anyone else on guard.
Adjust your expectations. Not everyone will be on your same wavelength of thinking socially, politically or religiously. Also, emotions are always higher during the holiday season, so people will either be overly approving or upsetting.
“Have a few meaningful questions ready to ask that have nothing to do with politics, such as: What was your favorite thing about this year? Ask family members to share some of the most meaningful holiday memories. What are they looking forward to most of next year? What is your spirit animal?” Maria Blevins, professor of communications studies, said.
Know your triggers and be prepared for the topics that might be sensitive to you or anyone else and have a game plan for those topics that might come up.
Have a few generic answers to popular questions. If you have answers prepared, then no one will get upset over your response because you won’t have to think very hard to answer them.
Humor is always a tension breaker. If the funny bone skipped over you that’s OK too, bring a puppy instead, no one has not been happy holding a puppy. Lastly, while stuffing your face with turkey and mashed potatoes, just keep feeding your gullet. That way, when an awkward question comes up, your mouth will be too full to answer.
We all understand our mother’s instinctual persistence on gathering all the siblings home for a holiday, just to have the postcard moment. So, whether you are religious or political or neither, remember that the holiday is about having a good time and enjoying yourself while surrounded by those you love and those you dislike, so make the best of it.