As we charge head first, at high-speed towards the silliest of seasons, I plead with you all to please read between the lines a little bit this Christmas.
Families, old wounds, alcohol and food comas can be a disastrous mix, resulting in severely crossed lines. Add to that, families that don’t see each other very often and a rug that is filled to overflowing, with the remnants of Christmas past, that have been swept underneath, and you have got the perfect storm.
What I’m asking (begging) you to do this year is to stop and think “What do they really mean?” before you respond in a less than positive way.
For example, you turn up at your mum’s place and you are 20 minutes late. You cop the “Why are you late, everyone’s here, we are waiting on you”. You instantly get your back up, have 3 quick drinks (10.30am) and spend the rest of the day being just a little bit pissed off.
But what if……
When you got the door 20 mins late and your mum had a go at you, you stopped and you thought, “What does she really mean?”
Of course you are actually 20 mins late so she means that. But why is she reacting so badly to something that happens all the time?
What she really means is “I miss you, I’m so happy you’re here and when you are late I worry that you are not as looking forward to seeing me as I am to seeing you”.
If we stop and think before we react our reactions would be very different. You would probably have given your mum a hug, apologised for being late and had a really good day.
Or there is the grandmother who wants to cook her desert that no-one really likes. Let her cook the dessert. What it really means is-
“My mum used to make this for me at Christmas. My childhood memories are fading and this is my way of connecting with her and them.”
Have a spoonful of the desert!
It’s the present your Aunt buys you that would suit a 15 year old. You cringe every year and then throw it away when you get home. What it really means is-
“This present represents the last time I got you something that made you smile and I felt like we really connected.”
Say a gracious thank you and then donate the gift to charity, so your Aunt can make someone smile again.
I have learnt over the years that when people react negatively at first it’s usually fear based. I’ve had to stop myself from doing it with my own kids as they have grown up.
The first time my daughter came home and told me she was travelling overseas on her own, my first reaction was to try to talk her out of it, until she could find someone to travel with. But that was my own fear coming to the surface. I was proud of myself for sharing in her excitement instead and letting her know how brave I thought she was.
As a parent it is sometimes a hard thing to do, to catch yourself before you give a reaction that may bring conversation to a standstill. You want so badly to protect and yet you have to let go.
It’s bloody tough.
My eldest daughter recently moved out of home for the first time. I’ve struggled with gaining a balance between not letting her know how much I will miss her because I don’t want to dampen her experience or expressing all of the emotions at once.
I’m torn between attaching myself to her leg to stop her from walking out the door and packing up her stuff with joy as I envisage my new meditation space.
Being so conflicted made it hard to approach things in a calm and non emotional way so I went with –
“Come over and clean out your old room, it’s a pig stye and I’m sick of this stuff lying around.”
Of course what I really meant was –
“I really need to move forward and embrace the new situation. But when your room looks like you are coming home at any minute it makes me feel like I’m in limbo. Let’s clean out the space together so we can process the changes that are happening.”
She will wake up this Christmas morning in her new place, without us. We are happy for her, but still a bit sad for ourselves.
I will however not be having a go at her for not being at home on Christmas morning. Instead I am taking my own advice (for once) and letting her know that I am proud of her for being independent, I will miss her bed hair and sleepy eyes around the Christmas tree in the morning and she is always welcome to watch Love Actually and drink Bailey’s on Christmas eve.
I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t get it right all of the time but I am gaining a better understanding of the feelings you get when you are no longer the most important part of someone’s life. There is a delicate balancing act going on at all times between your logic and your emotions.
I will be a more understanding towards other people in my life, who may not have the words or be comfortable enough to say them.
Let’s make the effort at this crazy time of the year to say what we mean, in a thoughtful and sensitive way. Easy!!