One of the most difficult dynamics of the holiday season is family expectations. Because we have built up the holidays to be all about family (and for many people, this is not the reality), we carry a mental ideal: time spent with loved ones, with lots of good food, stellar gifts, and nothing going wrong. Logistically, we are already set up for failure, because when you try to involve more than two or three people in one event, something always goes wrong.
And because we get so stressed over making everything perfect, we’re more brittle emotionally. How many arguments and misunderstandings erupt this time of year? How many of us arrive at Grandma’s house or the annual party flustered and full of knots?
And once we’re all in the same room for more than a little while, the familiar conflicts surface. Adult children must deal all over again with parental approval or disapproval. Parents of new babies must somehow accommodate everyone who wants time with the newborn, even if that means unreasonable hours spent traveling from house to house. And if there is true dysfunction, it likely won’t go away just because it’s Christmas.
The only way to deal with family expectations is to simply refuse to give them so much power. How about this: the entire DDF community gives you permission to let go of expectations and to use your own fine judgment. Release yourself from the expectations others have for you—and let go of the expectations you have for others. If you can’t see that grandbaby on Christmas, then plan a less-stressful time in the new year when you won’t be competing with six other appointments. If you can’t host the family dinner this year, relax and enjoy not being so responsible for once.
And, just maybe, you don’t really need to spend so much money on gifts and so many hours going from store to store. Put some limits on the jobs you give yourself. Enjoy the season of looking forward to God’s love revisited, again and again.